Reshuffle to follow Songkran
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Reshuffle to follow Songkran

PM to hold meetings with coalition

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin greets cabinet ministers in their first meeting in September last year. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin greets cabinet ministers in their first meeting in September last year. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

Discussions among coalition parties over whether it is time for this cabinet's first shake-up will take place after the Songkran holiday, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Monday, despite previously brushing aside rumours that a change was on the cards.

The PM's vehement denial of the rumoured reshuffle at the weekend was, however, followed by hints dropped the same day by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as a de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party.

"Some things can wait, while others can't," said Thaksin, when asked about the possibility of changes to the cabinet after seven months in office.

And despite insisting Mr Srettha would be the one to make the decision, Thaksin also hinted that it would be better to put the right man in the right job.

"I've already made it clear [about the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle taking place soon as rumoured]. And if there really is to be a reshuffle, talks with several sides will come first," Mr Srettha said when asked again on Monday about the likelihood of changes.

Among the "sides" he was referring to were the secretary-general to the prime minister, leaders of all parties in the coalition and the leader of the ruling party, he said.

Pressed further whether the talks he mentioned would actually come immediately after the long holiday, Mr Srettha said: "Exactly".

"If there will be a cabinet reshuffle, discussions will come first to ensure respect for all sides involved," Mr Srettha said.

The prime minister also left the door open to his taking on the defence minister's position from Sutin Klungsang,

"Anything that puts the right man on the right job is possible," said the PM.

He declined to comment on whether it will be a major or minor cabinet reshuffle, saying that is something that will be discussed at the forthcoming meetings.

"While many cabinet ministers will possibly need more time to continue working and prove themselves, if [the first] reshuffle is to come, it won't be the last and more are to follow," he said.

"There won't be any conflicts or tensions, more changes will follow. After all, I'm not saying a reshuffle will certainly take place," he said when asked if he was ever concerned about any negative reaction to the move.

According to a Pheu Thai source, the reshuffle will come immediately after Songkran and among the important changes is the appointment of Pichai Chunhavajira, the PM's adviser and chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, as new finance minister replacing Mr Srettha.

Mr Pichai as well as Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit will also take up a deputy prime minister's position, said the source.

In addition to Mr Sutin, who will lose his defence minister's post, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew will also lose his cabinet portfolio, according to the source.

Instead, they will both be assigned to oversee the ruling party's parliamentarian affairs and strategies.

In other important changes, Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsutin will emerge as the new public health minister, while Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol will swap her position with Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanich.

Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chaiya Promma will also likely lose his job, said the source.

Visuth Chainaroon, a Pheu Thai list-MP and government chief whip, said on Monday he personally believed next month would be a good time for a cabinet reshuffle, eight months after this cabinet was sworn in and a full year after the past general election.

In related news, Thaksin, who was in Chiang Mai for the Songkran holiday and on Monday met many former and current Pheu Thai MPs and executives at a Songkran celebration event, expressed his optimistic view that Thailand's economy will begin picking up next year when the Srettha administration's economic-stimulating policies begin paying off.

Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on, meanwhile, dismissed rumours that his party is likely to join the Pheu Thai-led coalition soon, saying no formal discussion had been conducted within the party.

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