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Cablegate: Thaksin Considers Cabinet Changes Following

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004284

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH
SUBJECT: THAKSIN CONSIDERS CABINET CHANGES FOLLOWING
CENSURE DEBATE

REF: BANGKOK 4238

1. (U) Summary: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra appears
ready to make the first changes to his cabinet since his
re-election in February. Following an unsuccessful censure
motion against his Minister of Transportation, the move is
expected in mid-July and could likely involve the
Transportation, Finance and Foreign Ministries. The expected
moves may only be a temporary measure before a bureaucratic
reform measure takes effect in October, reducing the number
of ministries by two. As the Parliament heads into a month
long recess in July, the lower house is trying to pass next
year's budget and approve a constitutional amendment, all
before the weekend. End Summary.

2. (U) Speculation increased on June 30 in Bangkok following
the voting in Thailand's lower House of Representatives,
which resulted in the predicted unsuccessful bid to censure
the Minister of Transportation, Suriya Jungrungreangkit
(Reftel). In follow on analysis and commentary that had been
floated over the weekend prior to this week's debate and
vote, nearly all the daily Thai language and English language
newspapers speculated that Suriya would be moved to a Deputy
Prime Minister position for his inability to respond
convincingly to questions of mismanaging the purchase of
baggage scanners for Bangkok new international airport, which
is scheduled to open later this year.

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TRANSPORTATION

3. (U) Names floated for Suriya's replacement at
Transportation include Vichit Suraphongchai, Chairman of the
Board of Siam Commercial Bank President and former Finance
Minster under the Chuan administration. He has also
previously served as Transport Minister. There was also a
report that that Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan
might take job, but this appears unlikely as she has been
tasked with trying to take charge of what is seen as one of
the most corrupt ministries in the RTG. There would also not
appear to be a strong replacement at the Agriculture
Ministry. The current Minister of Commerce, Thanong Bidaya,
was also floated to take the transport portfolio. Suriya may
move to be a Deputy PM in charge of transportation issues,
likely overseeing an ambitious set of multi-million dollar
public transportation projects recently approved by the
Parliament.

FINANCE

4. (U) The current Minister of Finance, Somkid Jatusripitak,
holds the concurrent position of Deputy Prime Minister for
economic affairs. It was widely reported that Somkid wanted
to lose the Finance portfolio in March when the present
cabinet was formed by PM Thaksin could not find a credible
candidate to fill the job. Now, it appears, the PM may
appoint the former Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Virabongsa Ramangkura. Virabongsa is an economist, not an
elected Member of Parliament who in the past has been called
in to help governments in politically choppy waters.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

5. (U) Finally, The Nation reported on June 30 (and Poloffs
had heard rumors recently), that Deputy Prime Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai, will return to MFA. The Nation story
cited sources as describing current FM Kantathi Suphamongkhon
as "too passive for the job." It is unclear where FM
Kantathi would go or if he would leave RTG service. (Note:
Kantathi's appointment in March came as a complete surprise,
therefore any talk of his removal and Surkiart's return
should be taken in that light. End note.)

FROM 20 TO 18, COMING SOON

6. (U) All of these rumors of a reshuffle, however, may just
a first move before more reappointments will be made in
October when the Science Ministry is folded in to the
Information, Communications and Technology Ministry and the
Culture Ministry is folded into the Ministry of Tourism and
Sports. The current Minister of Culture, Uraiwan Thienthong,
is the wife of the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party's Wang Nam Yen
faction. After yesterday's vote, which Snoh conveniently
missed due to "illness", he was quoted as saying, "We won the
vote, but lost public opinion." It appears that Uraiwan will
be allowed to keep her portfolio until her October and the
Snoh will be allowed to stay in the party.

THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH?

7. (SBU) Comment: Political ruminations following a
controversial censure debate are all speculation. The only
known element as that no changes will take place without the
involved consent of Thaksin. It's been reported that changes
won't be announced until after the TRT's 7th anniversary
founding on July 14. Nearly all the ministries mentioned
for the shakeup are run by technocrats or economic experts
and those new faces mentioned as possible replacements are
well-know TRT economic insiders. As the PM and all of his
key economic and foreign policy advisors head for a state
visit to China on June 30, Thaksin, as he noted to the press
on June 29, has "a lot to think about." End Comment.
BOYCE

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