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PM Abhisit's new cabinet draws criticism

Latest update : 2008-12-20

Thailand's new prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva unveiled his cabinet on Saturday in the hope of building reconciliation and reviving the economy. Business leaders criticised several ministers for their alleged lack of experience.

REUTERS - New Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva unveiled a cabinet on Saturday including several ministers criticised for lack of experience and a foreign minister closely tied to this year's street protests.

Democrat party leader Abhisit, 44, chose former investment banker Korn Chatikavanij as finance minister but was forced to bow to demands of his coalition partners by filling some economic portfolios with little known figures from smaller parties.

While Korn's appointment was widely welcomed by the business community, other choices, such as the foreign minister, are unlikely to go down as well.

Kasit Piromya, a former ambassador to the United States, gave prominent support to the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) street campaign that occupied Government House for three months and Bangkok's main airports for over a week.

His appointment has raised questions about Abhisit's commitment to reaching out to supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now convicted of corruption and living in exile but still popular among the rural masses.

Kasit told reporters on Friday he would not be influenced by his connection to the PAD and planned to pursue a foreign policy untainted by the personal business interests that Thaksin was accused of allowing to creep into his government.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006, has denied the persistent conflict of interest allegations.

Abhisit's 36-member cabinet was endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Saturday.

His Democrat Party formed a seven-party coalition with a slim majority in parliament this week after a court sacked former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's ex brother- in-law, for electoral fraud.

Board of Trade chairman Pramon Sutivong, who represents the country's manufacturing and trading sectors, told reporters after a meeting with Abhisit on Friday that he was upset at names reported in the media as heads of key economic ministries.

"People who will be handling economic ministries must be professionally accepted. They must not be rookies," Pramon said.

The Commerce and Information and Communications Technology portfolios are particular causes for concern, with the respective ministers more versed in cocktail lounge management and nursing respectively.

Abhisit defended his decisions on Friday, saying the cabinet reflected efforts to balance the coalition.

"Any minister from any party or group must work under government policy. As government leader, I'll see to it that everybody works for the country," Abhisit said.

Most analysts do not expect it to hold together through 2009 as economic growth stutters to zero or worse.

Police are also bracing for thousands of supporters of Thaksin trying to prevent Abhisit's maiden parliamentary address on Dec. 29, as anti-Thaksin supporters successfully did on Oct. 7.
 

Date created : 2008-12-20

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