Prayut quashes talk of reshuffle

Prayut quashes talk of reshuffle

Kanokwan's case is personal, party says

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arrives at the Defence Ministry on Monday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha arrives at the Defence Ministry on Monday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Monday assured there will not be a cabinet reshuffle while a deputy minister faces legal action over forest encroachment.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission concluded on Tuesday there were sufficient grounds to launch legal action against Deputy Education Minister Kanokwan Vilawan, her father Soonthorn and eight other individuals for illegally occupying 150 rai in Prachin Buri's Khao Yai National Park.

Ms Kanokwan is also a deputy secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, while her father is the head of the Prachin Buri Provincial Administrative Organisation.

"Bhumjaithai has not proposed a cabinet reshuffle yet," Gen Prayut said, adding a court will decide if Ms Kanokwan should be suspended from her duties pending a trial.

Deputy Prime Minister and Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul said that the constitution stipulated that if a court accepts the case, the minister will be suspended from duty.

"This has nothing to do with Bhumjaithai. Ms Kanokwan must look for her own evidence and present it to the court. This is a personal matter, and one must take responsibility for one's actions," said Mr Anutin, who also serves as Public Health Minister.

He also dismissed a rumour that Ms Kanokwan had tendered her resignation from the post.

Supachai Jaisamut, a Bhumjaithai list MP and party registrar, said that the party will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide Ms Kanokwan's fate.

"If she is found to have violated the party's regulations, she must leave the party. But even if she did not breach [the regulations], ethics will still have to be considered," Mr Supachai said.

"But right now, she is considered innocent until proven otherwise," he said.

Meanwhile, the police are stepping up their search for Ms Soonthorn's father, who they believe had gone on the run after being charged with forest encroachment.

The ten suspects accused of illegally occupying land in the national park were required to present themselves in court last Thursday.

However, four of them, including Mr Soonthorn, failed to comply, leading to the court issuing warrants for their arrest.

Mr Soonthorn, who faces multiple charges including acting in a way which causes damage to a government agency, is still on the run, according to the Central Investigation Bureau.

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