New Thai cabinet sworn in by king

Other News Materials 5 August 2008 17:32 (UTC +04:00)

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Tuesday swore in a reshuffled Thai cabinet almost six months after the first one came to office, reported dpa.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundarevej and 11 new cabinet ministers appeared before the 80-year-old king at his summer palace in Hua Hin resort, 140 kilometres south of Bangkok, to be officially sworn in, palace sources confirmed.

Samak, leader of the People Power Party (PPP), was forced to reshuffle his cabinet after he lost three ministers to resignations and court rulings over the past two months.

Former minister to the prime minister's office Jakrapob Penkair was forced to resign in June to face lese-majeste charges, while in July the then health minister, Chaiya Sasomsap, was found guilty of asset concealment and forced to resign.

Ex-foreign minister Noppadon Pattama quit his job last month after being accused of breaching the constitution in his controversial move to support Cambodia's proposal to list Preah Vieher, an 11th century Hindu temple on the Thai-Cambodian border, as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO.

The listing has led to a tense border spat between the two countries.

Noppadon, whose main qualification as foreign minister was his close ties to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra - deemed the power behind the PPP - has been replaced by veteran diplomat Tej Bunnag.

While the appointment of Tej, a senior bureaucrat at the foreign ministry, has been applauded, the remainder of the new cabinet members have failed to impress most political observers and the business community.

"The new line-up has landed the government back where it started before the reshuffle, with its credibility in question and its stability under threat," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst, in a commentary that appeared in the Bangkok Post.

Former Police Chief Kowit Watana, Thailand's new Interior Minister, has been sentenced to a suspended one-year jail term for malfeasance, raising questions about his eligibility for the post.

The current coalition government, which came to power after the December 23, 2007, general election, has been unusually vulnerable to the Thai judiciary.

Court rulings have already claimed the jobs of three ministers and that of former House Speaker Yongyudh Tiyapairat.

Even the prime minister job is on the line.

On Tuesday, the Constituion Court agreed to proceed with a case against Samak that he violated the constitution by hosting two television cooking shows while keeping his day job, the premiership.

Since coming to power, Samak's government has been called a "nominee" cabinet for coup-ousted prime minister Thakisn, a billionaire businessman who dominated Thai politics between 2001 to 2006 during his two premierships.

Thaksin, toppled by a coup on September 19, 2006, on charges of corruption, is facing his own legal problems.

Last week, the Bangkok Criminal court found his wife Pojaman guilty of tax evasion and sentenced her and two accomplices to three years in jail.

She has appealed the case. Thaksin himself faces at least three corruption or abuse of power charges.