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Bailed ‘Red Shirt’ leader joins Thai cabinet

BANGKOK – A Thai “Red Shirt” leader on terrorism charges became the first from the protest movement to become a minister in the current government under a cabinet reshuffle on Wednesday.

In the reshuffle, details of which were sent to AFP by a government spokesman, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra promoted senior Red Shirt Nattawut Saikuar to the post of deputy agriculture minister.

Nattawut was released on bail along with others leaders of the movement in February last year, having spent nine months in detention on terrorism charges in relation to their role in mass rallies in Bangkok in 2010.

He was elected in July’s election last year, which propelled the Red Shirt-allied Puea Thai party to victory under the leadership of Yingluck, the sister of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Several Red Shirt leaders were elected as lawmakers with the party, but were thought to miss out on cabinet appointments because they could have angered Thaksin’s foes in military, government and palace circles.

More than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed and nearly 1,900 were wounded in 2010 during the two months of rallies against the previous government, which drew about 100,000 Red Shirts, many of whom support Thaksin.

Other notable changes in the new cabinet line-up were new finance minister Kittirat Na-Ranong, who retains the post of deputy prime minister, and new defence minister Sukumpol Suwanatat, previously transport minister.

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Written by Kham

18/01/2012 at 8:22 pm

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