Thai PM defends cabinet shake-up

2012-01-19 09:39

Bangkok - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday defended her choices in a cabinet reshuffle widely seen as a move to repay political favours.

The reshuffle, involving 10 new appointments and six portfolio swaps, would enhance the efficiency of her government, Yingluck said.

She said there was "no problem" over the appointment of Nalinee Taveesin as a Prime Minister's Office minister. Nalinee is blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for alleged business dealings with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, a charge she denied.

"I've asked the Foreign Ministry to recheck this matter," Yingluck said.

Another controversial appointment was the deputy agriculture minister, Nattawut Saikua, who gained fame as a fiery orator during "red shirt" demonstrations against the then-government in 2010.

His appointment was seen as compensation for helping to bring the Yingluck government to power.

He is also seen as a loyalist to Yingluck's brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a coup in 2006 and fled the country to escape a criminal conviction for abuse of power.

Many analysts saw Thaksin's hand in the cabinet reshuffle with several of his loyalists due to take office.

The previous prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, took aim at the newly appointed defence minister, Sukumpol Suwanatat, a close friend of Thaksin, who replaced Itthiporn Subhawong, who took over after the 2006 coup.

"The former defence minister was the right person to deal with the army, but the new one might have problems with them," Abhisit said. "We'll wait to hear Yingluck's explanation."

The new cabinet ministers were scheduled to swear oaths of allegiance to King Bhumibol Adulyadej Thursday evening, making the appointments official.