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Kasit under fire as foreign ministerDemocrats unhappy about his PAD links

Post reporters-The Democrat-led government is under criticism from its members over its plan to appoint former career diplomat Kasit Piromya as foreign minister. Democrat MPs have raised concern about Mr Kasit’s suitability to serve in the Abhisit cabinet, a senior party source said.

Given his close affiliation with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), the former diplomat could be more of a liability than an asset, the source said. The source said the Democrats would be compelled to answer questions about Mr Kasit’s role in the PAD street protests.

Despite opposition within the party, Democrat leader and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva favours Mr Kasit. He told party members he needed a foreign minister who could start work immediately he takes office.

Mr Kasit appeared as a regular guest speaker at PAD rallies which demanded the removal of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. More worrying for some Democrats was his recent speech about the PAD’s takeover of Suvarnabhumi airport.

Mr Kasit hailed the shutdown of the capital’s city’s international airport, which left over 200,000 passengers stranded, as a “new innovation for public protests”. Foreign Ministry officials also disagreed with Mr Kasit holding the portfolio. They warned his hardline political stance could damage the prime minister’s efforts to heal the nation.

They were also upset by Mr Kasit’s criticism of the ministry’s handling of the Preah Vihear issue. He joined other PAD speakers in accusing the ministry of helping Cambodia get the ancient (Khmer)Hindu temple listed as a World Heritage site.

The ministry said it tried to protect Thai interests by making sure the listing would not affect Thai territory. Another potential cabinet member facing criticism is Vithoon Nambutr, who is being touted for the social development and human security portfolio.

The cabinet lineup under the Democrat quota has been approved by the party’s executives and a meeting of its members. But a party source said any cabinet hopefuls opposed by the public could still be changed.

Cabinet seats for all coalition parties were settled but for those allocated to the Puea Pandin party, which was still negotiating with the Democrats for another seat, the source added.

Democrat secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said a complete cabinet list was expected to be submitted for royal endorsement today. The Democrats have decided to give cabinet seats to two outsiders.

One is former army chief Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who is tipped to be defence minister.

Senior Democrat members visited Gen Prawit at his home to ask him to join the new government.

Gen Prawit said he needed some time to consider the offer, but noted that he was impressed by the speech Mr Abhisit made after receiving his royal appointment as prime minister. He denied that army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda was behind his nomination for the defence job. “I make my own decisions. I am considering if I should work with the Democrat-led government,” he said.

According to the source, Mr Abhisit has given the party’s cabinet members three to six months to prove themselves. Today the prime minister will go to Government House to take part in a merit-making ceremony and observe the progress of the clean-up. Government House staff are continuing to tidy the premises, which were occupied by PAD demonstrators for several months.

Meanwhile, the Puea Thai party is considering Chalerm Yubamrung for the job of opposition leader, Nakhon Ratchasima MP Somchai Petprasert said. The party’s leader, Yongyuth Wichaidith, is not an MP.

He said the party had agreed the opposition leader must be a seasoned politician and Mr Chalerm, a list-MP, is a potential candidate. Mr Somchai said the party will give the government a three-month breathing space before filing a no-confidence motion.

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Written by Kham

19/12/2008 at 8:42 am

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