Gov’t Won’t Comment on Reshuffle Amid Party Strife

Members of the
Members of the "Four Sons" faction announce their resignation from Phalang Pracharath Party on July 9, 2020.

BANGKOK — Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam on Friday said there is currently “no sign” of a cabinet reshuffle, even though three of the Cabinet members resigned from the ruling Palang Pracharat Party earlier this week.

Speculation about a reshuffle rose after the resignation of finance minister Uttama Savanayana, energy minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, and science minister Suvit Maesincee from the party on Thursday amid talks of internal strife. Wissanu said the reshuffle may take place any time from now, but the exact time has to be ruled by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha himself.

“PM Prayut has not given any signal for a reshuffle,” Wissanu said. “You should hear it from the PM directly.”

Deputy sec-gen of the PM office Kobsak Pootrakool also resigned. All of the politicians who left were part of the party’s “Four Infants,” an influential faction formed by four close friends of deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak.

Sontirat said the group decided to step down because they have succeeded in their mission in supporting Prayut’s rise to premiership after last year’s general election. They will continue to perform their ministerial duties until the new cabinet is appointed, he said.

“We are not politicians,” Sontirat said. “We know since the day we formed this party that this country is going through a transition. We believe that Gen. Prayut is the most capable man to lead the country and now we have succeeded in our intention.”

But sources in the Phalang Pracharath Party indicate the mass resignation is a protest from the Four Infants, who were reportedly slated for a removal from their Cabinet posts comes the next reshuffle.

PM Prayut on Thursday said a reshuffle will be necessary, but would not say which ministers will lose their seats. He also refuted rumors that it will take place in September, when the 3.3 trillion baht budget bill is expected to be passed by the parliament.

“Did I say that it will happen in September? I never say it, you guys just make your own speculations,” Prayut said.

The resignation of the Four Infants faction also followed a change in party’s leadership last month that replaced Uttama with deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan as the party’s new leader – a move that greatly diminished Uttama’s gravitas within the ruling coalition.