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Bitter Chalerm makes mockery of Cabinet reshuffle

Jun 30. 2013
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By The Nation

Unhappy about his 'impending' demotion, deputy PM gives political insights into functioning of the govt
In one characteristic outburst, Chalerm Yoobamrung may have given more insight into the state of Thai politics than a political scientist can ever tell his students in three lectures combined. In universities, democracy may be more cherished than it really deserves, or so Chalerm has made us all believe. He has all but given an affirmation that the ideal is for the young and the naive to have faith in, but reality is for him and the likes to create.
 Facing intense speculation that he would be “demoted” in a Cabinet reshuffle, Chalerm painted a gloomy political system where the most powerful pulled all the strings, ministerial appointees are clueless about their assigned jobs but have to accept them anyway, and government politicians won’t talk about massive corruption or major state policies in danger of breaking the laws until they are kicked out of key posts.
Chalerm, who over the past two years has been in charge of national security issues, voiced anger on Friday at an event at the Royal Thai Police headquarters, blaming his imminent transfer to conflicts with Southern Border Provinces Administration Centre chief Tawee Sodsong. 
The alleged problems both men have had make us wonder why Chalerm kept it to himself for so long, as bombs exploded and people got killed on virtually a daily basis in the restive deep South. If Chalerm and Tawee had absolutely no respect for each other as claimed by the former, it was puzzling they remained two of the most senior officials tasked with tackling the deep South crisis over the past two years. 
Chalerm suggested he was losing his job because Tawee was stabbing him in the back, but if Chalerm’s allegations were true, it was the Thai people’s backs that have been stabbed. Most of all, if we had resigned to the fact that government policies are mostly lukewarm and laden with childish politics, we had hope there would be a good degree of seriousness, determination and sincerity when the enormity of the situation in the deep South was concerned.
 Chalerm said he was once given the post of public health minister, a job he practically had no clue about. “I didn't know why [then PM Somchai Wongsawat] put me there, because all I saw was syringes and needles,” he said in a tell-tale remark about how politicians got their ministerial posts and approached the assigned tasks. Public health is supposed to be extraordinarily important, and this is the mentality of the powers-that-be toward the issue.
 Chalerm all but admitted that the government’s controversial rice price-pledging scheme was “rotten”, and that the water management mega-plan, whose implementation is facing legal problems, could in fact have legitimacy issues. Again, why now? If Chalerm really believed those serious troubles existed, didn’t he owe it to the Thai public to speak out and tell the truth?
 He was noticeably bitter on Friday. The man usually taunted government opponents but on this occasion he portrayed them as a big threat against a weak administration on the verge of a serious crisis. 
Problems in the government were opening doors to a fresh conspiracy to overthrow it, he said, and it was not impossible that Thaksin Shinawatra’s political party would be dissolved again.
 How much credit should the man get? On one hand, it’s typical of Chalerm when he’s upset about his bosses and not getting what he wants. 
On the other hand, this typical Chalerm tends to inadvertently give accurate accounts of what goes on behind the political scene. Is he happy with his new job? A much bigger question is, with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra insisting that the Cabinet reshuffle is in the country’s best interests, “Should the Thai public believe her or Chalerm and should we be happy about it?
It doesn’t matter what Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has tried to say about the Cabinet revamp. Chalerm has given us clearer information about the motives and sincerity of everybody involved. 
He left no doubt that he was upset about having to leave his current, powerful job, so much for Yingluck’s claims that changes in the Cabinet are for the greater good. It seems that Cabinet formation and rotation nowadays are all about putting men on jobs that don’t want them and who don’t want the jobs, either.

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