Suspension of transport minister won’t impede government, PM says
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday that he did not expect the court-ordered suspension of Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob to have an impact on his government's performance.
General Prayut said his Cabinet members generally followed government policies and suggested that a ministry can function without one.
“Even though the minister is not in charge, the permanent secretary is still there,” Prayut said. He suggested that the deputy prime minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also public health minister, could also lend a hand.
Anutin leads the ruling coalition’s Bhumjaithai Party. Saksayam is its secretary general.
“I am aware of the verdict. This is a matter for the Constitutional Court. As far as I know, there will be a further trial and the minister will be allowed to explain himself. We have to wait and see,” the prime minister said after the court’s verdict.
Earlier on Friday, the court voted unanimously to immediately suspend the transport minister after accepting for trial a petition accusing him of violating the Constitution.
The suspension will continue until the court makes its final verdict in the case.
A group of 54 opposition MPs recently filed a petition against the minister to the court, accusing him of using a nominee to hold shares in construction company Burijarearn Construction Limited Partnership, which won many contracts from his ministry.
The MPs asked the court to rule on whether Saksayam had violated the Constitution’s prohibition banning ministers from holding shares in companies.
Saksayam on Friday expressed confidence that he had enough evidence to prove his innocence and would submit his documents within the 15-day deadline set by the court.
He said he had sold all his shares in the company before he became transport minister.
Saksayam said that Anutin, in his capacity as deputy prime minister in charge of the ministry, would perform the duties on his behalf.
Saksayam canceled all of his scheduled public appearances on Friday, including those where he was to appear jointly with Anutin.
At a no-confidence debate in July last year, opposition MPs accused Saksayam of concealing his shares in Burijarearn Construction by using an employee as a nominee to hold shares for him.
Opposition MPs said the Chidchob family owned 80% of the company, which was founded in 1996. Saksayam sold his shares when he entered politics in 1997.
However, Saksayam became a major shareholder in the company again in 2015 when it increased its registered capital to 120 million baht. Before the 2019 general election, he transferred his shares worth 119.4 million baht to his nominee, the opposition claimed.