However, one of them, Prime Minister’s Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn, appears to be in hot water as a group of 24 senators has petitioned the Constitution Court against his appointment, challenging his eligibility as a person formerly convicted of malfeasance in office.Leader of the senatorial group, Prasarn Marukapithak, said Mr Varathep might not be qualified to hold ministerial post because he was given a two-year suspended jail sentence by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders for Political Positions in connection with the two- and three-digit lottery while serving as deputy finance minister in the Thaksin Shinawatra government.He cited Section 174 (5) of the constitution -- which states that a cabinet member must not have been sentenced to imprisonment and he must not be appointed a minister within five years after serving a sentence.
However, the Pheu Thai Party’s legal team insisted that Mr Varathep is qualified, pointing out that he has not actually served a jail term even though he was sentenced to two years imprisonment. The sentence was suspended for two years.Missing out from the new cabinet lineup is red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, who appeared embittered even though he publicly said he was not disappointed and preferred to work for the red-shirt movement to protect the government.
However, many red-shirt supporters who are to visit Tachilek township on the border in Myanmar this weekend to see former prime minister Thaksin will certainly raise the Jatuporn issue with their de facto leader.Ms Yingluck's new cabinet has a total of six deputy prime ministers, all male -- Kittirat Na-Ranong, Chalerm Yubamrung, Chumpol Silpa-archa, Surapong Tovichakchaikul (who is also foreign minister), Pongthep Thepkanchana (also education minister) and Plodprasop Suraswadi.Division of responsibilities between the six deputies is yet to be announced by Prime Minister Yingluck. However, security experts and observers were closely watching to see who among them will be assigned to oversee the problems in the restless deep South and replace Gen Yutthasak Sasiprapa, who was dropped from the cabinet lineup. Gen Yutthasak does, however, still have a role in the deep South, as an adviser to the prime minister.Mr Chalerm was earlier tipped to take over the job from Gen Yutthasak but said Thursday in the parliament that it was unnecessary for a deputy prime minister to oversee the problem as the job was the responsibility of Defence Minister Sukhampol Suwannatat. His statement is a clear indication that he is not interested in the job.If the prime minister insists that there must be a deputy prime minister overseeing southern policy then a likely alternative to Mr Chalerm is Mr Surapong, a Chiang Mai MPwho has no background in security affairs. Nor he is familiar with the situation in the deep South.Regardless, a new administrative structure is to be introduced which will place non-military activities, including development under the responsibility of the Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre, and military activities to deal with the insurgency all under the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) and the army.
Since the prime minister is the ex-officio director of Isoc, the burden will be on the deputy director, who is army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.Pheu Thai on Tuesday voted Charupong Ruangsuwan the new leader of the rulkoing government party, succeeding Yongyuth Wichaidit who resigned on Sept 30. A new 19-member executive board was also elected. Most prominent among the new executives is Poomtham Vechyachai, who is also the party secretary-general.Mr Charupong said the government would proceed with amending the constitution and with the reconciliation bill through public forums and a referendum, with the Interior Ministry being responsible for staging public forums.Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm was named chair of a committee to follow up the recommendations of the now defunct Truth for Reconciliation Commission, whose recommendations included public forums to gauge public opinions about reconciliation. There seems to be confusion about who is to be in charge of the public forums, Mr Chalerm or Mr Charupong.
But any attempt to rush the charter amendment bill or the reconciliation bill through the parliament will likely provoke stiff opposition from anti-Thaksin political groups which view the bills as an attempt to whitewash Thaksin.The Southern Border Provinces Watch Centre of Prince of Songkhla University on Friday released a report on the unrestin the deep South for the month of October:A total of 65 people, 30 Buddhists and 35 Muslims, were killed and 67 injured in 111 violent incidents which occurred throughout the month in the three southernmost provinces and parts of Songkhla.Of the 65 fatalities, six were police, three defence volunteers, three education officials, one local politician and the rest normal civilians.The 111 incidents were broken down into 60 shootings, 10 bombings, five clashes between security forces and insurgents, two robberies and three cases of arson.