King swears in new cabinet

His Majesty the King on Sunday granted a royal audience to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the 18 newly appointed cabinet members who took their oaths before the monarch and will now officially assume their duties.

His Majesty the King receives the newly appointed cabinet members to be sworn in at Siriraj Hospital Sunday. (Photo Courtesy of the Royal Household Bureau)

Shortly after learning of the royal audience, Ms Yingluck cut short her two-day visit to Yasothon and Mukdahan to abruptly fly back to Bangkok. The new cabinet members gathered at Government House for a group photo at 5pm.

All were present except for Chalerm Yubamrung, the new labour minister.

The group then left for Siriraj Hospital, where they had an audience with the King at 6pm.

It is believed Mr Chalerm skipped the group picture at Government House after venting his frustration on Friday about the new cabinet line-up.

His anger was directed in particular at Pol Col Thawee Sodsong, secretary-general of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, whom Mr Chalerm said was behind his transfer.

Mr Chalerm, who had overseen national security, has been moved to the post of labour minister in the latest reshuffle.

Justice Minister Pol Gen Pracha Promnok is expected to take over his current duties.

At the group photo the prime minister told her new cabinet that Mr Chalerm would meet them at Siriraj Hospital.

Ms Yingluck will chair a cabinet meeting tomorrow to allocate responsibilities to the new ministers.

In the new cabinet line-up endorsed by the King Sunday, Plodprasop Suraswadi stays on as deputy prime minister, despite speculation he would be sacked.

Tanusak Lek-uthai stays on as deputy finance minister, also defying rumours that he was going to be axed.

Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan, who will take up the commerce minister's post, is also appointed a deputy prime minister. Mr Niwatthamrong was a minister attached to the PM's Office in the previous cabinet.

Mr Niwatthamrong said after the swearing-in ceremony that he will work for the benefit of farmers and will suppress all forms of corruption.

"I am confident I will be able to make use of my business background to administer the Commerce Ministry well," he said.

Varathep Rattanakorn, a PM's Office minister and a newly-appointed deputy agricultural and cooperatives minister, said he will oversee rice matters at the ministry.

Meanwhile, a Suan Dusit Poll revealed Sunday many respondents do not believe the cabinet reshuffle will help improve the government's popularity.

The poll was conducted from last Thursday to Saturday among 1,416 people nationwide.

Asked whether they think the reshuffle will help, 58% of respondents said they believed it would not help, as the reshuffle was aimed only at reducing political and social conflicts; 26.7% thought it would, thanks to some of the new faces joining the lineup, while 15.2% believed the government's popularity would even decline because many problems such as those concerning the rice pledging scheme, water and flood management and corruption still remain unsolved.

When asked to compare the new cabinet with the past one, 55.3% said it was about the same because it still comprises politicians from the same group; 28.1% said the new one would be better judging by the abilities and experiences of the new members; and 16.5% believed the new one would be worse.

Asked who they like most among the new members who have joined the lineup, Ms Paveena Hongsakul, who takes on the job of social development and human security minister, came first with 82.3% support, followed by 80.3% for Chaturon Chaisaeng who is to be education minister, 77.8% for Ms Yingluck Shinawatra who will concurrently hold the post of defence minister, and 70.1% for Mr Chalerm who is to be labour minister.

Anyone seen Chalerm? When the new ministers posed for photos at Government House before the royal ceremony, just one cabinet member was missing. (Post Today photo)

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