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Thaksin loyalists form Thai cabinet
New PM appoints miinisters loyal to expelled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2008 15:19 GMT
Samak admitted before the December elections that he was a proxy for Thaksin [AFP]
A new Thai cabinet filled with loyalists of Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed leader, has been named by Samak Sundaravej, the prime minister.
 
King Bhumibol Adulyadej swore in the government in his Bangkok palace on Wednesday evening.
It finalised the return to power of conservative aides, confidents and relatives of Thaksin, 16 months after being overthrown in a military coup.
 
The naming of the first elected government in the country since the 2006 coup is bitter news for the generals who removed Thaksin from power.
Samak admitted before the December 23 poll that he was a proxy for Thaksin, the billionaire who is in self-imposed exile in the UK and Hong Kong. Corruption charges have been drawn up against him in Thailand.
 
Senior cabinet posts were given to officials from the People Power party (PPP), the successor to Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party.
 
Thai Rak Thai was banned after the coup for electoral fraud.
 
Friends put in high places
 
Surapong Suebwonglee, a former Thaksin spokesman and doctor whose family owns a number of weight-loss clinics, has been appointed finance minister. Surapong is one of Thaksin's closest confidents.
 
Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's Oxford-educated lawyer, is foreign minister.
 
Samak named himself as defence minister - becoming only the third civilian in Thai history to lead the military, after army leaders had worked hard to gain a leader from their own ranks.
 
He said the move would help him communicate with the military to prevent another coup.
 
Mingkwan Sangsuwan, formerly a senior marketing executive at Toyota's Thai operations, took the commerce portfolio.
 
Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law, became one of Samak's six deputy prime ministers and is expected to be used as the main link between Thaksin and government.
 
Strings attached
 
The government has been called a "puppet cabinet" by Thaksin's opponents.
 
Suriyasai Katasila, who led street protests against Thaksin in 2005 and 2006, said: "Most cabinet decisions will be made outside of Government House - both domestically and overseas."
 
Samak has complained publicly of difficulties in making his cabinet appointments, showing Thaksin's influence.
 
The PPP won the December elections via vast rural support and despite the army attempting to discredit Thaksin.
 
The PPP gained a majority big enough to dominate the ruling six-party coalition.
 
Thaksin built his popularity on rural handouts.
Source:
Agenceis
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