PM downplays reshuffle talk

PM downplays reshuffle talk

Rumours swirl of Dems joining govt

PM downplays reshuffle talk
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Tuesday brushed aside speculation about a cabinet reshuffle after rumours spread that the Democrats were being brought in to bolster the coalition government’s House majority.

Speaking after Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Mr Srettha said that a cabinet reshuffle has not yet crossed his mind. “It is just a rumour. I don’t know where it came from. I have to be fair to all cabinet ministers,” the prime minister said.

The rumour mill went into overdrive with suggestions that a cabinet shake-up would take place after the two-day general debate, which begins today.

The general debate will be held under Section 152 of the constitution, and no censure vote will be cast.

The opposition, led by the Move Forward Party (MFP), submitted a motion on March 13 calling for the debate to grill the government for failing to implement core policies declared in parliament over six months ago.

According to sources, Mr Srettha is rumoured to want to relinquish the post of finance minister to his adviser, Pichai Chunhavajira and take over the post of defence minister currently held by Sutin Klungsang, who would focus primarily on parliamentary affairs.

The sources also said that Pheu Thai may bring the opposition Democrat Party into the government coalition to strengthen its solidarity.

A cabinet seat under Pheu Thai’s quota and another cabinet seat under the Bhumjaithai Party’s quota would be offered to the Democrats, the sources said.

The Pheu Thai-led coalition government consists of 11 parties and commands a majority of 315 MPs in the House of Representatives. If combined with 21 MPs from the Democrat Party, the number would reach 336.

However, some key Democrat figures, including former premier and House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, former Democrat leader Banyat Bantadtan, and former Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit, have made it clear they do not support any bid to join the Pheu Thai-led government.

Deputy Prime Minister Phumtham Wechayachai on Tuesday also dismissed rumours of the Democrats joining the coalition government as part of a reshuffle.

“The power to reshuffle the cabinet rests with the prime minister. But I never hear it from the prime minister,” said Mr Phumtham.

He also insisted that the 315 MPs are more than enough to bolster the House majority and there is no need to bring the Democrats into the coalition government. “No one has discussed a reshuffle yet. It is still a rumour,” he said.

Mr Sutin said on Tuesday he still enjoys working as defence minister, adding that a cabinet reshuffle is unlikely as the coalition government’s unity remains solid.

Democrat spokesman Ramet Rattanachaweng said on Tuesday that the party has been preparing for the general debate and it will carry out its role as the opposition to keep the government in check.

The opposition party will present information that shows how the government has failed in its handling of national affairs during the past seven months, he said.

Mr Ramet also dismissed claims made by former Democrat MP Nipit Intarasombat that the Democrats would be keen to join the Pheu Thai-led coalition. “The Democrat Party is not a spare part for the coalition government,” he said.

Previously, government chief whip Visuth Chainaroon warned that the opposition camp could raise issues related to paroled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra during the general debate at its own risk.

Mr Visuth said the presiding House Speaker and his deputies will enforce meeting regulations throughout the debate, including warning MPs when they make inappropriate references to political outsiders.

If they continue to mention third parties or political outsiders who cannot defend themselves, they might face legal problems, he said.