Cabinet revamp gets mixed views
Private sector backs line-up but others remain sceptical about real changes
The new cabinet line-up has received positive feedback from the private sector but politicians, academics and political activists have warned that the latest shake-up will not bring any change unless the government improves its approach.
Kalin Sarasin, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), welcomed the new cabinet, saying several newcomers are recognised by the private sector.
However, they need time to adjust and settle into their new jobs while the government must spend its remaining time in office expediting efforts to implement policies that will benefit the economy, Mr Kalin said.
The policies include infrastructure projects, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the so-called Pracharat internet scheme aimed at giving broadband to 33,965 villages, and local community development, he said.
Mr Kalin, on behalf of the TCC, expressed support for the new cabinet and said the government's key policies should remain unchanged given that all policies must be carried out in line with its 20-year national strategy.
Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand, said he did not expect any major changes to the government economic policy with Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak remaining leader of the economic team.
However, the changes at the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry should bring improvements to the agricultural sector and farm prices should be better, leading to improved purchasing power.
"We expect all economic policies to continue with no disruption with Mr Somkid remaining at the helm of the economic team," Mr Kang said.
The much-awaited cabinet reshuffle involving 18 positions has been announced with substantial changes made to the economic team.
The new line-up, endorsed by His Majesty the King and published in the Royal Gazette on Friday evening, features 10 newcomers.
Ong-art Klampaibul, deputy Democrat Party leader, said the reshuffle, particularly the changes to the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry and the Commerce Ministry, responded to public concerns about falling crop prices and economic problems.
While there is hope that the new ministers will be better able to deal with these problems, they must also adopt new ideas and working methods that are different from previous ministers.
It will be difficult for the new ministers to succeed in tackling the problems if they still apply the same approach, Mr Ong-art said.
As the government has been criticised for failing to tackle bread-and-butter problems closer to people's daily lives, there is optimism that the economy should improve after Deputy Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong was promoted to the role of commerce minister, he said.
He also noted that the reshuffle will enable the economic team under Mr Somkid to tighten its grip on economic policy with new powers to better solve problems.
The reshuffle has brought in newcomers who should work well with the government's economic team, Mr Ong-art said.
Former deputy defence minister Udomdej Sitabutr said he did not feel hurt being axed from the cabinet. The former army chief said he understood the reasons for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's decision.
Gen Udomdej said he will continue to help Gen Prayut in the NCPO.
Former PM's Office minister Ormsin Chivapruck, who is among those who lost their posts in the reshuffle, said yesterd that he did not feel upset about the change because he worked to the best of his ability as a cabinet minister. He was proud to be part of the cabinet and work with the prime minister, he said.
Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, who was also axed from the cabinet, wrote an open letter expressing what she felt about serving as a minister.
During her three-year stint as tourism and sports minister, she worked with state agencies, the civil and private sectors as well as others to improve the tourism industry.
An advocate of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's sufficiency economy principles, Wiwat Salyakamthorn, who was named deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, said he was not worried about his new cabinet post, which involves tackling pressing problems including falling crop prices, particularly in the rice and rubber sectors.
Other people were less enthusiastic about the cabinet reshuffle.
Somkid Chueakong, a former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said the new cabinet is nothing but the "same picture" of authorities serving Gen Prayut.
No matter who was removed or brought in, it is still the same government engineered by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), he said.
As many new cabinet members are either serving state officials or former civil servants, they will make up a "bureaucratic government", Mr Somkid added.
Tida Tawornseth, leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, said appointing Weerasak Kowsurat as the tourism and sports minister is a political strategy as the prime minister and his military government want to make use of Mr Weerasak to become a bridge linking them with people and political parties. Mr Weerasak is a member of the Chartthaipattana Party.
Ms Tida said that appointing Mr Wiwat as deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister came as no surprise for her as she was certain that the prime minister and his government wanted to use Mr Wiwat as a bridge to connect with the grass roots in the country.
"Mr Wiwat is an expert on the late king's sufficiency economy and is widely known among farmers and grassroots people," she said.
Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said the new list was not exciting and he did not see much difference.
However, Mr Weerasak is likely to handle the work well as he is experienced from holding this post twice, he said.