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New Thai cabinet set to be sworn in
Critics say some appointments will make it harder to unite deeply divided nation.
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2008 04:18 GMT

King Bhumibol has endorsed
Abhisit's cabinet choices [AFP]

Thailand's new cabinet is set to be sworn into office after the candidates were endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Saturday.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the country's third prime minister in four months, will lead his team to be sworn in on Monday, but even before they are officially inaugurated, Abhisit has already drawn criticism for his choices for several of the leading posts.

While the business community cheered the choice of Korn Chatikavanij, a former investment banker, as finance minister, other choices, such as Kasit Piromya as foreign minister, were criticised.

Kasit, a former ambassador to the United States, gave prominent support to the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) street campaign that occupied Government House for three months and Bangkok's main airports for over a week.

His appointment has raised questions about Abhisit's commitment to reaching out to supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister ousted in a 2006 coup and now convicted of corruption and living in exile but still popular among the rural masses.

Controversial choice

Abhisit pledged in his inaugural address to restore Thailand's tourist-friendly image, damaged by six months of political turmoil that culminated in an eight-day siege of Bangkok's airports late last month that stranded more than 300,000 travellers.

The 44-year-old's elevation to the prime minister's post came after a court dissolved the People Power party leading the previous government, which was packed with Thaksin's allies.

Korn, also 44, is a respected economist and former investment banker who headed Thailand's office of JP Morgan Chase & Co from 1999-2004.

But Kasit, 64, is a controversial choice.

The former ambassador to Japan, Germany, Indonesia and the former Soviet Union appeared several times as a guest speaker at the months-long protests led by the PAD.

He even praised the November 29-December 3 airport blockade as a "new innovation for public protests".

Another Abhisit pick has been linked to corruption.

The Democrat party's secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, 59, was appointed deputy prime minister to oversee security matters.

Suthep was accused in 1995 of distributing plots of land allotted for agricultural use by the poor to his cronies. The scandal brought down the administration of the then prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, a Democrat.

Chavarat Charnvirakul, 72, a former Thaksin supporter who defected to the Democrats, was rewarded with the interior minister's portfolio.

Chavarat was a deputy prime minister in the previous administration led by Thaksin's brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat.

Source:
Agencies
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