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Grumpy, green, yellow, old and male...and unelected

1 September 2014

Grumpy, unelected. old men. It is hard to find a better description of Thailand's junta appointed cabinet.

The new cabinet is dominated by the military junta who have 13 Ministers including the PM and control over most of the key positions ranging from PM, Defence, Education, Transport, Interior, Justice, Foreign Affairs and Commerce (only key ones they don’t have are Public Health, Finance, and Agriculture). Essentially, Prayuth and his clique dominate.

Prayuth’s former superior General Prawit Wongsuwan is deputy PM and Defence Minister, while another of his ex-superiors, General Anupong Paochinda, is Interior Minister.

Four of the premier’s former classmates have portfolios. General Dapong Ratanasuwan was appointed Natural Resources and Environment Minister, General Tanasak Patimapragorn is deputy PM and Foreign Minister, Gen Chatchai Sarikalya was named Commerce Minister, and permanent secretary for defence General Surasak Kanjanarat is the Labour Minister.

Prayuth’s ‘junior’ friends from pre-cadet school days, Navy chief ADM Narong Pipatanasai and Air Force chief ACM Prajin Juntong, were appointed Education Minister and Transport Minister respectively.

The Navy Chief as Education Minister will oversee a curriculum that goes back to traditional Thai values - ie know your place; rather than develops critical talents for a globalised world.

The premier’s subordinates from the armed forces who will help him administer the country include deputy Army chief General Udomdej Sitabutr, the Deputy Defence Minister, and assistant Army chief General Paiboon Koomchaya, the Justice Minister.

Other posts are taken up by former bureaucrats mostly with strong yellow shirt credentials"

Don Pramudwinai (Deputy Foreign Minister) He was a career civil servant with the Foreign Ministry. His final posting was as Thai Ambassador to the UN. An experience diplomat but still number two to General Tanasak Patimapragorn; appointing a general as the Foreign Minister is hardly going to help the junta's credibility with the international community though no dount Burma and China will approve.

Sommai Phasee (Finance Minister) Was Deputy Finance Minister in the amt appointed post 2006 coup Surayud government.

In each of the Education, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Transport and Commerce ministries the junta controls the main minister position, but a current/former civil servant is the deputy.

Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is Tourism and Sports Minister and was previously. She was Chairperson of Toshiba Thailand. Strange appointment as she appears to have no relevant experience.

Wissanu Krea-Ngam is Deputy Prime Minister and was a NLA member and Constitutional Drafter of the 2007 Constitution .

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula is Deputy Prime Minister; he was spokesperson for PM’s Office under Chatchai, Deputy Minister of Commerce under the Anand and Suchina governments, BOT Governor under Thaksin, and Finance Minister in Surayud government.

There are noticeably few people from the business world. The cabinet are almost all 60+ years old and are current and former bureaucrats and those who have been in the sphere of the bureaucracy and periphery of politics. It is a very Bangkok-centric cabinet. There is no room for alternative voices.

It is basically a rubber stamp cabinet - the NCPO is in charge and that is where decisions will be made.

Thailand's military run government

31 August 2014

So Thailand has a new government with the King's endorsement of junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s new cabinet.

Military men are in charge of almost every key ministry. Not one of them has been elected.

Prayuth, who took power in a May 22 coup, placed 11 military officers in the 32-member cabinet, including as defense minister, foreign minister, interior minister, commerce minister, education minister and justice minister. The new finance minister is a civilian, Sommai Phasee, who was part of the government installed by the Thai army following Thailand’s last coup in 2006.

The appointments, which include two former army chiefs from Prayuth’s faction of the military, indicate that Prayuth will continue to rely on those close to his junta.

Even those not from the military are “at least people who are devoted to one side of the political divide and see themselves as more righteous leaders,” said Andrew Stotz, chief executive officer of A. Stotz Investment Research in Bangkok. “These people may see a rebalancing of power as a higher priority” than a rush to elections, he said.

There will be no rush to elections. Let us be clear here. There will be no election until after the next succession. And the electoral map will be rewritten such that there can only be one winner of the election....and that will not be the red shirts, Thaksin or anyone affiliated to them.

The junta and its appointed bodies have to write a new constitution and enact unspecified measures to “reform” Thai politics and society.

Several members of Prayuth’s new cabinet were also members of the government appointed after the 2006 coup. Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former Bank of Thailand governor who will serve as Prayuth’s deputy premier for the economy, was finance minister after that coup. Sommai, the new finance minister, served as Pridiyathorn’s deputy before resigning in 2007 after a court convicted him of abuse of power over suspension of state agency official three years earlier.

“Recently, Sommai Phasee has said he would focus on tax reforms and boosting the economy,” said Tim Leelahaphan, an economist at Maybank Kim Eng. “We believe it is hard to see exciting policies from him or this interim cabinet that focuses on economic reforms rather than populist policies.”

From the military, Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army chief and defense minister, will be a deputy prime minister and defense minister, Thanasak Patimaprakorn, the supreme commander of the armed forces, will be a deputy prime minister and foreign minister and Anupong Paochinda, a former army chief, will be interior minister.

Prajin Juntong, the air force chief who has overseen the economy for the junta since the coup, will be transport minister, Chatchai Sarikulya, the assistant army chief, will be commerce minister, Paibool Khumchaya, the army assistant commander-in-chief, will be justice minster, and Narong Pipathanasai, the head of the navy, will be education minister, for which he is clearly well - qualified!

The NCPO has control over the ministires that have always been considered the wealthiest for the people in power - transport, interior and finance.

The new cabinet has only two female members, Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul and Deputy Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.