ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Jarupong new ruling party, Pheu Thai’s leader
Former transport minister and newly minted Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan was picked for the post, which was vacated by then Deputy Prime Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit earlier this month, now an adviser to Pheu Thai, when he was implicated in a graft scandal.
A former civil servant, Jarupong has deep ties with Bangkok's bureaucracy. Thammasat University political science lecturer Mano Laohavanich calls him a moderate who is skilful at negotiating compromises.
"He's a 'compromiser' and an administrator. And the politics of Pheu Thai is to compromise with every party," he said.
Pheu Thai swept into power in elections in July last year, five years after a military coup ousted Thaksin from power. He has been living overseas since 2008 to avoid a jail term for violating a conflict-of-interest law while in office.
A sweeping Cabinet change over the weekend bore his imprint: Out of 23 new members, six once belonged to his Thai Rak Thai party, which was disbanded for electoral fraud in 2006. They had just finished serving five-year political bans.
Still, analysts observed that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra showed greater confidence, retaining Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong as well as Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom.
Chulalongkorn University political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak said: "This reshuffle shows that she's more in charge but Thaksin is ultimately in control."
The new leadership will face increasing pressure from political foes over the next few months. The administration's one-year-old rice pledging scheme has come under increasing fire for paying farmers 50 per cent above the market price for their rice.
The scheme has raised incomes of farmers but filled government warehouses with about 10 million tonnes of rice it cannot sell. Economists at the Thailand Development Research Institute have warned that the scheme, which they estimate costs the government 120 billion baht (US$3.91 billion) a year to run, will cause the country's public debt to balloon.
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