PM faces harsh decisions as government starts to creak 
text size

PM faces harsh decisions as government starts to creak 

The prime minister took the cabinet for swearing-in on Sept 4 of last year, and he must now set aside feelings of krengjai and force a reshuffle before it's too late. (Photo courtesy of the Royal Household Bureau)
The prime minister took the cabinet for swearing-in on Sept 4 of last year, and he must now set aside feelings of krengjai and force a reshuffle before it's too late. (Photo courtesy of the Royal Household Bureau)

Former Pheu Thai Party leader Chaturon Chaisaeng says it is now too late for a cabinet reshuffle as the country's economy has turned so bad that it is beyond repair even if a a few under-performing ministers were to be dumped.

The only way to stop the bleeding and open the chance for economic recovery is for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to be receptive to opposing opinions and to return the country to democratic rule.

Mr Chaturon may have forgotten the words of wisdom, that "it is better late than never", or "it is never too late to learn or to start anew". So, I think it is not too late for a big shakeup of the cabinet, now or in the near future. To wait until September — the widely speculated month for a reshuffle — will waste valuable time.

Critics have, rightly, pointed out that several ministers, particularly in the economic team, have not been performing to the expectations of the public. Although external factors such as the worldwide economic slump are largely to blame for declining exports and the economic malaise at home, the public expects the ministers concerned to try harder.

Until last week, when Gen Prayut indicated he might shake up his cabinet, the prime minister had been reluctant to remove any minister accused of failing to perform. The main reason for this reluctance to reshuffle the cabinet, as explained recently by Panitan Wattanayagorn, an aide to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, is that it was the prime minister who had invited these people to join his government in the first place. Therefore he feels krengjai, and would like to see them make an exit of their own free will.

Krengjai is a deeply-entrenched trait that Westerners who are not familiar with Thai culture and traditions may find hard to understand. But krengjai has proven to be a shortcoming or a weakness throughout Thai society.

For instance, a security official does not open the hand-held baggage of a passenger for a check, as required by his duty statement, because he feels krengjai as the passenger concerned is a senior government official.   

Now that the amended interim charter has opened the door for banished ministers of previous governments to return to politics, such as former deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak and former foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai, among others, I wonder how much longer the prime minister will feel krengjai before he starts to take action. 

Time is flying past, and the longer he waits, the greater the loss of opportunity. The alternative to sparing the prime minister the task of having to make undesirable decisions is for the under-performing ministers to get the hint and resign en masse to pave the way for a complete cabinet overhaul. That may be wishful thinking, but I believe it would be welcomed by the public. 

The prime minister needs to be more assertive. He needs to bite the bullet and take unpopular decisions in dealing with the water shortage problem and water consumption by the non-farming sectors such as industry, households and business.

So far, the farming sector, rice farmers in particular, are being made to bear the brunt of sacrifice for the common good alone. 

The prime minister's plea for cooperation from city dwellers and non-farming sectors — as yet unaffected by the acute water shortage — to conserve water will, I believe, not work. The other day I visited a modern trade outlet in Bang Sue and found that a particular brand of bottled drinking water, which is a few baht cheaper than other brands, has sold out, which is quite unusual.

It appears that, despite promises from producers of drinking water that their production is not being affected by the shortage in the dams, people are starting to stock up on supplies for fear the taps may be turned off should the drought worsen.   

In light of the doomsday predictions that the worst is yet to come, and the near certainty of a shortened rainy season with fewer rainfall, and with water levels in the four main dams almost at rock bottom, some restrictions should be introduced to cut back on consumption so the remaining supplies can last longer. 

Of course, households and some businesses will be affected. But at least it is better than letting tap water run dry completely within a short period of time, because people will still waste water in the absence of any restriction on use.

Besides the economic problems, the water shortage poses a real short-term challenge to the government's capability in coping with problems. A failure to do so will deal a devastating blow to its credibility. 

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

Do you like the content of this article?