Fate lies with 'big brother'
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has admitted that a cabinet reshuffle could happen any time from now following a power change in the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
The change resulted in the resignation of Uttama Savanayana, who is finance minister, from the party's top position, and his team, namely Sontirat Sontijirawong, energy minister and the party's secretary general; Suvit Maesincee, minister of higher education, science and innovations; and Kobsak Pootrakool, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister.
A decision to shake up the cabinet is the prerogative of the premier who finds the current situation a tough challenge that requires him to carefully exercise power.
Even though Mr Uttama was adamant that he and the other two ministers had no intention to leave the cabinet, observers noted their resignations are a catalyst for the reshuffle, especially the position involved with economic affairs under the supervision of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak who is close to the so-called "four super kids".
Mr Somkid also said he is ready to go if the prime minister wants him to. The past months were tough for Mr Somkid, with political pressure escalating while political factions in the party wanted to take over some cabinets seats.
Gen Prayut feels the pressure too. He admitted that politics is making the cabinet reshuffle difficult.
The cabinet positions of Mr Somkid and the three ministers are currently under his quotas but he admitted the situation might force him to review the matter. Not a PPRP member, Mr Somkid was named to the cabinet under the party quota.
His remarks imply Gen Prayut may have to return the quotas to the party as demanded by the political factions.
As prime minister, Gen Prayut can ignore such demands and choose the best people to take the economic ministerial posts. But those political factions successfully pushed for a change in PPRP leadership, with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon taking over Mr Uttama's top party position.
Gen Prawit is touted as the "big brother", well-respected by politicians and state officials. He is also the "big brother" of Gen Prayut when they served in the military.
He may be the only one in the government to whom Gen Prayut feels a sense of kreng jai, the social norm of showing respect to elders and avoiding arguments. Those PPRP politicians know that Gen Prayut may ignore them but he will definitely listen to his big brother.
As the economy goes into a nosedive with a possible double digit contraction this year, the economic ministerial team is crucial. It needs competent people who can restore public and investors' confidence and ensure a recovery.
The public expectation does not give the premier much choice. If he decides to change his economic team, the successor must be better than the old one.
But as the power game in the PPRP intensifies, Gen Prayut has limited power in choosing the new team as belligerent factions in the party are expected to urge Gen Prawit to intervene and ensure their political demands are met.
The country's fate is now in the hands of the two brothers in arms, the prime minister and Gen Prawit. They must not allow politics to compromise the country's future. Given the tough economic scenario ahead, there is no time for political compromise.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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