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Thai PM to reshuffle cabinet; reiterates amending constitution


July 12, 2008

Thai PM to reshuffle cabinet; reiterates amending constitution
Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said Sunday that he planned to conduct a major cabinet reshuffle and reiterated that his coalition government would move to amend the constitution -- especially relating to the article concerning the dissolution of a political party -- when parliament reopens.

Speaking during his weekly TV and radio address, Samak, also defence minister, said that several ministerial portfolios would be reshuffled in order to strengthen the coalition government and that the planned cabinet reshuffle would become clearer after this Friday.

Acknowledging that several competent and good-intentioned people are reluctant to join his government due to concerns that it would be unable to complete its four-year term, Samak said he would proceed to amend the present charter, prepared by experienced legal and constitution experts appointed by the senior armed forces officers who carried out the September 19 coup in 2006.

The upcoming major cabinet reshuffle comes in the wake of a series of legal battles that forced three ministers, including Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, out of office.

Stating that the present charter is, in effect, like a trap set to destroy his administration, Mr. Samak said the current political turmoil could be solved by amending the constitution, especially Article 237.

Thailand Hote

Article 237 of the charter stipulates that political party leaders and senior executive members will be banned from politics for five years if a party's candidates commit poll fraud with the complicity or knowledge of the party, and the party itself will face dissolution.

It is expected that the ruling People Power Party, led by Mr. Samak, will submit a motion calling for amending the charter after the parliament reconvenes for an ordinary session on August 1.

In another development, Pipop Thongchai, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a coalition of opponents and critics of the present government, commented that Thailand's current political problems arose because "politicians did not follow charter's rules".

Members and supporters of the PAD, now holding a marathon protest near Government House, will continue their demonstration and will ask public organisations to help prevent the charter from being amended, Mr. Pipop said.

Pipop said the PAD believed that the government would cling to power as long as possible or at least until early October to ensure that the draft government's expenditure for fiscal 2009, which starts October 1, passes through the House, and to oversee the annual military and senior civil servants reshuffle in an attempt to preserve the government's power base.

The annual military and civil servants reshuffle takes place October 1.

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