By The Nation
At least 15 members of the coup-installed Cabinet handed in their notices yesterday and their resignations would go into effect today or tomorrow before the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) submits the new Senate list for royal endorsement on Friday.
Those who handed in their resignations yesterday included Justice Minister Prajin Juntong, Deputy PM Chatchai Sarikulya, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Surasak Kanjanarat, Labour Minister Adul Sangsingkeo and Education Minister Teerakiat Chaorensretsilp.
Key NCPO member and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, however, said he would continue working.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is also the NCPO chief, said that yesterday’s Cabinet meeting would be the last as they would have to leave, adding that work at the ministries whose leaders have quit will be handled by their deputies.
The 36-member Cabinet has now been reduced to 17, he said, adding that four ministers had quit previously to lead the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party.
Four NCPO members had also quit to join the party, leaving the council with just 11 members, the PM said.
Prayut also added that the Cabinet and the NCPO can still legally meet and the public should not be worried about the country’s administration.
“No matter how many of us are left, we can still run the country. The remaining ministers will take on the work, and the government always has administration plans,” he said.
Some 60 members of the NLA will also leave their office to sit in the upper house.
NLA vice president Peerasak Phochit said yesterday that he had been made a senator along with some 60 of his colleagues, including NLA president Pornpetch Vichitcholchai and vice president Surachai Liangboonlertchai.
Prayut’s brother Preecha Chan-o-cha said yesterday that he had handed in his resignation from the NLA in order to take up his new post as senator.
The remaining ministers in office are likely to hand in their notices today or tomorrow in time for the Senate list to be submitted for royal endorsement on Friday.
The process of selecting senators is opaque and the official list of persons to be named as senators has remained confidential. It has been reported that many of those chosen are close associates of the junta leaders. The 250-member Senate, handpicked by the junta, will play a critical role in underpinning the junta’s power in post-election politics. Not only will they have the power to vote for the new prime minister, they will also have the authority to scrutinise the government and ensure it follows the junta’s 20-year national strategy.
However, Peerasak said he believes politics will continue despite concerns that the junta-appointed Senate will not be able to work with the elected MPs. “The Senate will vote to endorse a prime minister, but the MPs have the right to form a majority first,” Peerasak added.
Meanwhile, NLA president Pornpetch declined to comment, saying everybody should wait for the official announcement in the Royal Gazette once the names are endorsed by the King. He also said that he does not believe there should be any problems for the controversial Senate to collaborate with elected MPs.
Separately, Prayut said at the weekly press briefing that the Senate should not be viewed as an enemy. Instead, he said, he wanted the public to consider what his government has achieved in the past five years and how the new senators will help in continuing this work in the transition period.