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Cablegate: Suprise Move: Ministers Swap Jobs to Quell Trt

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

UNCLAS BANGKOK 006852

SIPDIS

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH
SUBJECT: SUPRISE MOVE: MINISTERS SWAP JOBS TO QUELL TRT
IN-FIGHTING

REF: BANGKOK 6462

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In a surprise move, Thailand,s Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra promoted recently-resigned Public
Health Minister, Dr. Suchai Charoenratakul to the position of
Deputy Prime Minister, while moving the incumbent Deputy PM
Phinit Charusombat into the slot previously held by Dr.
Suchai. The move demonstrates that the Prime Minister is
serious about keeping relations smooth in his inner circle *
in particular keeping his wife and Dr. Suchai happy*and will
not change the policy making or execution of health
initiatives in Thailand. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Dr. Suchai resigned from his position as the
Public Health Minister earlier last month because he felt he
lacked the power to restructure key positions in his Ministry
(reftel). Dr. Suchai, who has been the long-time personal
physician to Thaksin,s wife, was at odds with Dr. Suchai,s
predecessor and embroiled in a struggle with Ministry
bureaucrats over personnel transfers. The surprise
resignation showed internal rifts within the TRT, which
Thaksin has been anxious to downplay. Suchai's new Deputy PM
position oversees the Health, Science, and Information and
Communication Technology Ministries but is largely ceremonial
in nature.

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3. (SBU) Although Phinit has not publicly commented
about taking a step down from Deputy PM to Cabinet Minister,
analysts say he should be happy because the latter position
actually exercises more direct authority than the Deputy PM
post. It is believed that Phinit was picked to go there
because he is well-respected by both parties involved in last
month,s problems. Phinit is more of a politician and not a
health expert, but he has a very capable staff. The switch
in positions is unlikely to change Thailand,s policies in
preparing for and responding to the Avian Influenza threat.

4. (SBU) Comment. Thaksin dodged another bullet by
quelling this controversy quickly and apparently to the
satisfaction of everyone involved. At a time when the TRT is
facing a good deal of internal strife, Thaksin showed his
political savvy and prevented a relatively minor issue from
becoming a major catalyst for dissent in his party. The
change in positions should not affect Health policy in any
noteworthy manner. End Comment.
BOYCE

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