After three months of political drama, Thailand finally has its prime minister, and soon voters will get a new government. Yet the cabinet line-up has shocked the public as it comprises politicians with a checkered past.
With 11 parties in the coalition, it hasn't been easy for Pheu Thai Party, which has already given up several top ministries to partners who want a share of the political cake.
As of now, the line-up is still a matter of public speculation, and last-minute changes could always happen. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will submit the line-up to the palace for royal endorsement later this week or early next week before an announcement session is scheduled for Sept 8.
While the public expects each party to nominate the best candidates for the job, the reality is they will probably be let down. The line-up as we know it at present is not impressive and needs a review.
Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob, younger brother of Newin Chidchob -- a political strategist of Bhumjaithai -- is tipped to become the education minister. If he gets the job, all three boys of the Chidchob clan of Buri Ram will have served as ministers. Saksayam -- another one of the Chidchob brothers -- served as transport minister under former PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.
However, Pol Gen Permpoon is a questionable candidate. Above all, his background as a police officer is not a tad relevant for the education portfolio.
Bhumjaithai politicians are assigned to ministries overseeing human resource development, such as education and higher education -- a vital field that is new for its politicians.
Worse, Pol Gen Permpoon has a hand in an attempt -- which was botched -- to whitewash fugitive Red Bull scion Vorayuth "Boss" Yoovidhya, the culprit in the infamous hit-and-run case back in 2012.
Vorayuth crashed and killed a police officer while speeding in the Thonglor area in the small hours of Sept 3, 2012. He was hit with three charges, but the arms of the law have never reached him as he fled the country while the charges against him face statutes of limitations, one after the other. The last charge -- reckless driving causing death -- will expire in 2027.
Pol Gen Permpoon's name is again under the spotlight now that he is to take a ministerial post. His endorsement of a decision by Nate Naksuk -- the then-high-ranking official executive of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) -- to drop all the charges against Vorayuth caused an uproar.
The new potential education minister had been probed along with almost a dozen police officers, as suggested by a committee under Vicha Mahakun, which found systematic abuse of state authority in favour of the Yoovidhya scion, allowing him to go scot-free from the beginning.
After the probe, Nate was dismissed from duty while Pol Gen Permpoon suffered no scratches as an investigation by the Royal Thai Police found him "not guilty." He retired in 2020, like other officers who had a hand in the scandalous case. In an interview with the media, Pol Gen Permpoon defended his decision, insisting his decision not to challenge the OAG was in line with the law. Few, if any, find his excuse convincing.
The hit-and-run case taints the image of state agencies and the judicial system. In the case of Pol Gen Permpoon, there is a big question about whether he is the right man for the job. The position requires a person who not only possesses a vision for the education system but also has a clean sheet so as to set an example for young people.