Sun, Jan 17, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Thai king endorses Cabinet reshuffle amid rising tensions

AFP , BANGKOK

The Thai king has endorsed a Cabinet reshuffle, a statement said yesterday after the country’s protest-hit coalition government moved to stem the fallout from a healthcare corruption scandal.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s fragile administration, which has ridden out widespread demonstrations since coming to power in December 2008, has recently suffered two resignations over alleged graft.

Thai Public Health minister Witthaya Keawparadai and his deputy, Manit Nopamornbodi, quit earlier this month over claims of negligence linked to plans for a ministry budget worth more than US$2 billion.

A report by a government committee found prices for medical equipment to be purchased by the ministry — such as heart monitoring systems and cancer treatment machinery — had been dramatically inflated.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej signed a royal warrant reshuffling five ministers, three of them from Abhisit’s coalition-leading Democrat Party and two from their key allies in the Bhumjaithai party, the statement said.

In the major appointments announced late on Friday, Democrat member Trairong Suwankhiri was appointed deputy prime minister and Jurin Laksanawisit was switched from education minister to public health minister.

Former public health minister Wittaya was named as government chief whip, although it is not a ministerial position.

The five new ministers will be sworn in by the king tomorrow at a Bangkok hospital, where he has been since September for medical treatment.

Abhisit’s shaky coalition faces renewed pressure from upcoming protests by supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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