BANGKOK, THAILAND: Cracks have begun to appear in the relationship between Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as Samak wants to have a bigger say in forming the Cabinet and hang on to his premiership over the next two to three years.
According to sources familiar with the development, Samak is now causing trouble for Thaksin because he wants to have his own way in running the government. Shortly after his appointment as prime minister, Samak decided to reshuffle the list of Cabinet members presented to him by all six coalition partners. He found several of the candidates to be unacceptable.
His interference in the formation of the Cabinet resulted in the removal of Chai Chidchob and Srimuang Charoensiri from the list of candidates for portfolios in the Office of the Prime Minister and Energy Ministry respectively. Chai is the father of Newin Chidchob from Buri Ram.
“Samak is now causing a lot of headaches for Thaksin and Newin,” said one political observer.
Political sources said Samak had reshuffled up to 12 positions in the Cabinet list presented to him.
Samak led the People Power Party, a reincarnation of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party, to election victory. Thaksin is believed to have a great deal of influence in the PPP. The members of Samak’s Cabinet, including Samak himself, had earlier been looked upon as simply Thaksin’s nominees.
But Samak now wants to have his own way in forming the Cabinet and running the government. He gave an interview last week complaining that his Cabinet looked like “ugly ducklings”.
Later he explained that he would like Wuthiphong Chaisaeng to serve as deputy finance minister rather than Ranongrat Suwanchavi, the wife of Phairoj Suwanchavi. Samak has also brought in Sahas Banditkul, his long-time aide, to help him run the administration. Sahas is earmarked to serve as deputy prime minister.
Samak is expected to complete the Cabinet list for His Majesty’s endorsement on 6 Feb.
Samak’s intention to stay in office appears to run against the wishes of Thaksin, who does not mind an ugly-duckling Cabinet, according to political sources.
Sources say the ousted prime minister thinks the new government should last only for the short term – focusing on reforming the constitution or introducing amnesty legislation for the 111 former executives of the defunct Thai Rak Thai – before dissolving Parliament.
Political sources said Samak was willing to work on constitutional reform or amnesty legislation but only after he has been premier for the next two to three years – not six months.
Sources said Thaksin was so upset with Samak that he flew from Hong Kong back to London over the weekend.
Surapong Suebwonglee, who is expected to be finance minister, tried to play down the conflict in the Cabinet formation, saying there won’t be any rift among Cabinet members, particularly among the deputy prime ministers.
He said nobody had any objection to the arrival of Sahas as deputy prime minister, since Sahas will help Samak in the transport sector, which is one of Samak’s fortes. (The Nation/ ANN)
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