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NEWS UPDATES 8 June 2010

New ministers counselled to be resolute

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His Majesty the King has called on the new ministers of the cabinet to stay strong and focus on their work as they encounter obstacles. His Majesty, in a brief speech to new members of the administration who were sworn in yesterday at Siriraj Hospital, said the cabinet ministers might stumble at obstacles but they should never be deterred.

He also reiterated the importance of honesty, unity and strong willpower among cabinet ministers to ensure the nation's prosperity and people's well-being.

"You must be steadfast in working for the public good and refrain from bickering [over power]," His Majesty said. "I wish you success [in doing] your jobs. If some people stand in your way, stay focused on your work."

The new cabinet ministers, led by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, were sworn in before the King yesterday, a day after the new line-up received royal endorsement.

Academics say the cabinet reshuffle alone, the fifth since the Democrat Party took the lead of the coalition in Decmber 2008, would not be enough to tackle people's problems.

Komsan Pothikong, a lecturer in law at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, said the new line-up did not answer the public's questions of how the majority of people would benefit. "The reshuffle apparently solves internal conflicts in the coalition government, but it has nothing to do with people's problems," Mr Komsan said.

The Democrat-led government reshuffled the cabinet in the wake of the conflict between the Bhumjaithai and Puea Pandin parties after some of the latter's MPs withheld their vote of confidence in the Bhumjaithai leader and Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul and Transport Minister Sohpon Zarum following last week's censure debate.

Three Puea Pandin ministers - Information and Communication Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee, Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungruang and Deputy Finance Minister Pruektichai Damrongrut - were stripped of their portfolios.

The Democrat executive board took the opportunity to appoint five of its party MPs as new ministers, including Ong-art Klampaibul as the PM's Office minister, Juti Krairiksh as the ICT minister and Chalermchai Sri-on as the labour minister.

Mr Komsan said the cabinet reshuffle did not answer questions of how the government would deal with alleged corruption among the coalition parties as revealed in the no-confidence debate by the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Somchai Preechasilapakul, a lecturer in law at Chiang Mai University, said the reshuffle had failed to address the problems raised in the no-confidence debate.

Mr Somchai said the government also failed to clarify why it used excessive force against the red shirts which resulted in heavy casualties.

"What is worse is that no proper investigations have yet been made [into the violence]," he said.

Mr Somchai blamed PM's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey for the violence, saying the minister exploited state media outlets as a mouthpiece to attack the red shirts.

Mr Sathit has denied failing to communicate with the public over the government's handling of the red shirt rally.

"I don't feel disappointed," Mr Sathit said after a meeting with Mr Abhisit yesterday.

Mr Sathit retains his PM's Office minister post. But the prime minister has made him overseer of works seeking solutions to poor people's problems and building national reconciliation.

Mr Ong-art takes over the job from Mr Sathit as PM's Office minister overseeing the Public Relations Department, Mcot Plc, the Office of the Consumer Protection Board and all government committees on media reform and public relations affairs.

Mr Ong-art said yesterday he was confident he would work for the benefit of all parties.


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