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Yingluck, Thaksin: Siblings at odds?…simple,eliminate both rival posts then create a consolidated new one

By Piyanart Srivalo, Asia News Network, 3 September 2012

THAILAND – An ongoing conflict between Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong and the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, Mr Pansak Vinyarat, points to a previously unthinkable situation – a rift between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her influential brother, Thaksin.

There has been a perception that Mr Pansak is trying to oust Mr Kittiratt, both as finance minister and the deputy premier in charge of the government’s economic team.

Mr Kittiratt has stubbornly refused to follow suggestions from Mr Pansak, who considers himself a key economic adviser.

One of Thaksin’s trusted aides, Mr Pansak proposed several measures for financial and monetary matters.

After Mr Kittiratt admitted to telling “white lies” about national economic- growth targets, it was rumoured that he would be replaced. However, it appeared that his posts remained stable.

Then came a new controversy.

A group of Government House reporters was recorded on video criticising Mr Kittiratt’s performance in the press room.

A copy of the video was later sent from Mr Pansak’s room to the Prime Minister’s office in the Thai Khufah Building.

The clip appeared to be intended to prove that reporters were unimpressed by Mr Kittiratt. That was the latest in a series of moves obviously targeting the finance minister.

However, the result so far has been unexpected – at least for Mr Pansak. Reporters complained about the media being used as a political tool. And Ms Yingluck became more angry at Mr Pansak.

For her, the video-clip controversy was demeaning and disrespectful. The people involved were viewed as failing to respect Ms Yingluck as government leader.

After more than one year in office as the government head, Ms Yingluck appears to be more confident in running the country, despite a number of shortcomings in the eyes of many critics and observers.

She has insisted that Mr Kittiratt remains as her economic czar. She is more comfortable working with Mr Kittiratt, who is considered her friend and trusted adviser on economic matters.

When former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala was in conflict with Mr Kittiratt, then the commerce minister, Ms Yingluck was not reluctant to oust Mr Thirachai from her Cabinet.

And, now, with the growing rift between Mr Kittiratt and Mr Pansak, the latter has seen a wider distance between him and the prime minister.

Mr Pansak has found it more difficult to reach Ms Yingluck, due to obstacles by her close aides, led by her secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva.

Mr Pansak was once a candidate to head the government’s economic team but he later had to be satisfied with the post of chief adviser to the prime minister.

Thaksin, believed to be pulling strings behind the government, did not oppose Ms Yingluck’s wish to have her trusted friend serve as chief of the economic team.

These moves have raised questions of whether Mr Pansak wants to take Mr Kittiratt’s seat, or whether his moves have been encouraged by others.

It remains to be seen if he will succeed in ousting Mr Kittiratt and if the prime minister, for the rest of her time in office, can resist the pressure for her finance minister to be replaced.

Both Mr Kittiratt and Mr Pansak have strong supporters. While Ms Yingluck has strongly defended the former, the latter has been backed by Thaksin from the beginning.

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Written by Kham

03/09/2012 at 8:29 pm

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