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Mixed response to appointments; increase in civilian ministers welcomed 

THE latest reshuffle of Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Cabinet has drawn mixed responses from politicians and scholars.

The shake-up has seen seven current members given new roles, the return of a former minister, plus four newcomers. 
The new members of the Cabinet are scheduled to have an audience with His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn tomorrow for the swearing-in ceremony, according to Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, the newly appointed Justice minister who formerly served as a PM’s Office minister.
The four new Cabinet members are Chutima Bunyapraphasara named Deputy Agriculture and Cooperative Minister, Pichit Akrathit appointed Deputy Transport Minister, Sontirat Sontijirawong to be the new Deputy Commerce Minister, plus Veerasak Futragul, who was appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister. Meanwhile, Uttama Savanayana, the former ICT minister, is back as Industry Minister. 
Pichai Naripthapan, a former Energy minister, criticised the reshuffle as ineffective. He said the reshuffle did not recruit new officers – most were current Cabinet members who were relocated. And he said some Cabinet members lacked experience related to their new positions, so they would not be able to solve ongoing problems, especially the economic crisis. 
“Even the current officers [ministers and deputy ministers] who are familiar and have expertise in the work of each ministry cannot effectively solve the problems, which has triggered criticism among the public. The new faces who are seen in the reshuffle lack experience and cannot work effectively,” the Pheu Thai politician said. 
Pichai also voiced concern over the ongoing economic “crisis”, saying the reshuffle would not help to draw foreign investment back, due to ineffective administration of the government’s economic team leader. The country, he claimed, would continue to be in crisis for years – until a return to democracy. 
Meanwhile, Varong Dejkitvikrom, a former Democrat MP for Phitsanulok, commended Chutima, 60, who he said was well qualified and deserved to be the new Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister. 
Varong said Chutima, a former permanent secretary at the Commerce Ministry, played an important role in giving crucial testimony in the rice scheme case against former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. 
“Before the 60-year-old retired, she also signed an administrative order, on behalf of Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn, to seek compensation from politicians and officers involved in the fraud-stricken scheme for causing damage to the state,” he said. 
“She is honest and effective.” 
Varong also called on the new deputy minister to launch a policy that would help strengthen farmers’ capacity to bargain after the rice price plummeted dramatically this year. 
Meanwhile, Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a noted political science expert at Chulalongkorn University, said the reshuffle was “a good sign” for the democratic transition, given the increased number of civilians drawn to join the Cabinet. 
“According to transition theory, moving toward to democracy, a military government will recruit more and more civilians to the administration. It is called a civil-military relationship,” said the scholar who declined to comment on the four new people appointed to the Cabinet. 
Chaiyan told The Nation the four new appointees were all civilians. Compared to the prime minister’s initial Cabinet, which was full of military officers, the current ratio of military and civilian showed a decrease, he said.
In a related development, new Justice Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said he had not yet heard of any urgent tasks from the premier. But he said the 12 “new” Cabinet members were due to have an audience with His Majesty the King on Monday and the first meeting of the new Cabinet would be held on Tuesday. 
Meanwhile, people in the IT sector yesterday welcomed the appointment of a new minister for the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. They also had some suggestions for the new minister.
Thanachart Numnonda, director of IMC Institute, a Thai-based technology training and research firm, and president of the Association of Thailand ICT Industry, said Pichet Durongkaveroj was a good choice as the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, as he had a good understanding of the ICT industry plus a long track record of experience in science, technology, and innovation. 
He was expected to be a proactive minister as he did a lot when he was Science and Technology minister. 
The only concern was about officials at the Digital Economy Ministry, as many lacked understanding and may not be keen on digital technology. So, that may hinder the minister’s capacity to implement policies, he said. 
“The minister needs to set up teams, maybe special teams, or integrate or collaborate with other organisations to drive the policy execution effectively. Business is confident in the Digital Economy Ministry but not confident in the team – the ministry’s officers,” Thanachart said.
Meanwhile, Pawoot Pongvitay-apanu, president of Thai E-Commerce Association and founder and chief executive officer of, said he expected that Digital Economy Minister to play a role as the chief 
technology officer overseeing the country’s technology and innovation framework, and the need to work with the other ministries and organisations.
He said Pichet had experience as a minister, plus understood technology well, as he was an expert in science and innovation. So, that might mean more collaboration with the Science and Technology Ministry, Pawoot said.
“We hope to see collaboration between the Digital Economy Ministry and other ministries to avoid duplicated tasks and investment in state entities. We hope the new minister will manipulate the country’s ICT roadmap as well,” Pawoot said.

Published : December 17, 2016

By : The Sunday Nation