Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - Page 4 News List

New Thai PM set to appoint Cabinet

EAGERLY AWAITED Abhisit Vejjajiva submitted his proposal for royal approval as the country hoped for stability after six months of protesting left the economy in shambles

AFP , BANGKOK

Thailand was yesterday awaiting the unveiling of new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Cabinet, which he said would bring national reconciliation but which has already stirred controversy.

Abhisit has vowed to bring stability to Thailand and boost an economy battered by six months of protests against the last government, which ended on Dec. 3 after a court dissolved the ruling People Power Party (PPP).

Oxford-educated Abhisit was voted in by parliament on Monday with the help of defecting MPs, but the Democrat Party leader’s Cabinet has already hit a snag, with business leaders criticizing some ministers as inexperienced.

Local media reported that the outcry prompted a last-minute change of industry minister before the list went to the revered king for royal approval late on Friday.

“Every coalition party has sent [its] list of ministers, and the Cabinet secretary has forwarded the list to the palace,” Abhisit said on Friday.

“I am willing to listen to all criticism, but as head of government I have to find a balance. I have told ministers of that concern, so they must quickly work to create confidence and select acceptable working teams,” he said.

Since May, Thailand has been beset by increasingly disruptive protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

The PAD accused the now-defunct PPP of being disloyal to the monarchy and of running Thailand on behalf of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile abroad to avoid prosecution on corruption charges.

PAD protests reached their peak at the end of last month when thousands of supporters occupied Bangkok’s two main airports for about a week, stranding up to 350,000 passengers and causing massive economic damage.

The group only ended its siege after the PPP was dissolved over vote fraud charges related to elections that it won a year ago, allowing the Democrats to win over former PPP lawmakers and small parties to form government.

Abhisit has said that he wants to bring peace and stability back to the kingdom after the protests, and has tried to reach out to Thaksin’s supporters, but some of his reported choices for Cabinet posts have cast doubt on those promises.

Kasit Piromya, slated as the new foreign minister, was a vocal supporter of the PAD and took to the stage repeatedly during its six-month protest campaign.

The Democrat Party has already been accused of tacitly backing the PAD, while supporters of Thaksin have accused the courts and the military of staging a “silent coup” to allow the establishment-friendly Democrats to take power.

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