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Cablegate: Cabinet Reshuffle Unfolds Largely According to Plan

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UNCLAS BANGKOK 000165

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM TH
SUBJECT: CABINET RESHUFFLE UNFOLDS LARGELY ACCORDING TO PLAN

REF: A. BANGKOK 00061 (ABHISIT FORCES DEPUTY MINISTER TO
RESIGN)
B. BANGKOK 00046 (CABINET RESHUFFLE AS CENSURE
DEBATE LOOMS)

1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.

2. (U) Five new cabinet members took their oath of allegiance
to King Bhumibol on January 18, completing a long-anticipated
change to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's administration.
While the changes affecting Democrat Party portfolios were
publicly known beforehand, junior coalition partner Phumjai
Thai (PJT) surprised pundits by replacing the Deputy
Transport Minister. PJT had previewed its Deputy Health
Minister personnel move to the media earlier. Meanwhile, PM
Abhisit announced a major reshuffle could take place after
the opposition Puea Thai initiates a no-confidence debate in
parliament, most likely sometime next month.

MUSICAL DEMOCRAT CHAIRS
-----------------------

3. (U) The Democrat Party's cabinet changes unfolded as
previewed in REF B: Education Minister Jurin Laksanavisit
became Public Health Minister, replacing Witthaya
Kaewparadai, who resigned due to accusations of malfeasance.
Witthaya in turn replaced Chinnaworn Bunyakiat as chief
government whip, allowing Chinnaworn to move into Jurin's
position as Education Minister. Party deputy leader Trairong
Suwannakhiri replaced Korbsak Sapavasu as Deputy Prime
Minister for Economic Affairs, while Korbsak resigned as DPM
last week so that he could fill the vacant position of
Secretary General for PM Abhisit.

PJT SPRINGS A LAST-MINUTE SURPRISE
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) PJT was less transparent about changes to its
portfolios within the cabinet. The forced resignation of
Deputy Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodi (REF A) sparked
several days of debate within the PJT, with the position
ultimately landing in Phansiri Kulnardsiridamrong's lap.
Phansiri is the sister of Matchima faction leader Somsak
Thepsuthin. In an unexpected twist, Deputy Transport
Minister Prajak Kaewlaharn stepped down on January 14. The
PJT nominated Suchart Chokechaiwatthanakorn to replace
Prajak.
JOHN

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