Concerns Rise Over Srettha’s Selection of Cabinet Members

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin successfully assembled a cabinet that received royal endorsement on Saturday. Yet, doubts persist regarding whether he is selecting the right people for each role.

Given the scale of upcoming challenges, citizens hope for a cabinet to be filled with experienced ministers and specialists. With eleven parties in the coalition, it is tough to curate a team that matches these expectations.

The approved list closely mirrors the preliminary list shared with the media, except for the removal of one controversial figure. It also hints that the Pheu Thai Party didn’t fully dictate the cabinet’s composition, given they don’t oversee all economic sectors.

Lack of Expertise

Wanwichit Boonprong, from Rangsit University, commented that the selections underscore the Pheu Thai Party’s limited bargaining strength and indifference to critiques about its passive role.

He observed that while the Srettha-led cabinet isn’t necessarily poor in quality, it indicates certain political factions prioritize short-term benefits.

He questioned the qualifications of some ministers due to inadequate education, professional background, and historical performance for their respective roles.

Highlighting examples, he named Pol Gen Permpoon Chidchob, Pheu Thai’s Prasert Chantararuangthong, and Pheu Thai’s Phumtham Wechayachai.

“It’s not putting the right man in the right job. It’s coalition politics, and there’s a good chance of internal conflicts down the line. It doesn’t seem like a plan for enduring success,” Mr Wanwichit shared.

Although Pheu Thai Party will lead the Finance Ministry, with Mr Srettha also serving as the finance minister, they missed out on some crucial economic ministries, he added.

Departments such as the energy and agriculture and cooperatives ministries are now controlled by the United Thai Nation Party (UTN) and the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which means Pheu Thai doesn’t have full command over key economic segments.

Most tasks will likely be executed by Mr. Srettha’s deputies, particularly the ex-finance permanent secretary Krisada Chinavicharana who left his governmental role for this one.

People like PPRP’s Capt Thamanat Prompow and Pol Gen Permpoon are considered cabinet weak spots and will be under close watch.

Capt Thamanat’s influential reputation and Pol Gen Permpoon’s perceived inadequate credentials for overseeing education are points of contention.

Burapha University’s Olarn Thinbangtieo argued the cabinet’s formation seems driven by politics rather than public interest, citing that several ministers lack necessary expertise.

Mr. Olarn expressed concerns over the basis for role assignments and pointed out inconsistencies in roles given Thailand’s recognized success managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unlike ex-PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, Mr Srettha seemingly lacked influence in the cabinet selections and might not have authority over them.

Mr Olarn felt that the Pheu Thai party’s reliance on pro-military parties for government formation means concessions were inevitable. He anticipates a cabinet reshuffle in the near future.

No Honeymoon Period

Democrat heavyweight Sathit Wongnongtoey voiced concerns over the new appointments, doubting Pheu Thai Party’s ability to deliver on its economic recovery promises.

The party doesn’t control all economic portfolios, and some surprising role assignments have been made, he observed.

Mr Sathit emphasized the challenges awaiting Mr Srettha, who must merge varying coalition platforms into cohesive government policies.

The Move Forward Party (MFP) will vigilantly watch over the government, ensuring the ruling coalition won’t have a smooth journey, he noted.

Mr Sathit described the Pheu Thai-led government as a fragile coalition with powerful partners.

He anticipated that the education ministry, due to Bhumjaithai Party’s virtually non-existent education policies, will be under close watch.

MFP representative Natthawut Buaprathum acknowledged some questionable ministerial backgrounds but mentioned MFP’s anticipation for policy statements, especially regarding military reforms.

Mr Srettha’s dual role as the finance minister indicates the primacy of economic recovery for Pheu Thai, but Natthawut urged him to also consider insights from the “small people”, highlighting a recent meeting with industry leaders.