Cabinet Reshuffle Replaces 3 Members Booted by Court

A file photo of the new education minister Trinuch Thienthong.
A file photo of the new education minister Trinuch Thienthong.

BANGKOK (AP) — The appointments of several new Cabinet members to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government were made official Tuesday when their approval by King Maha Vajiralongkorn was published in the government gazette.

The Cabinet reshuffle became necessary after the Criminal Court in the capital Bangkok last month found three serving ministers guilty of sedition for leading sometimes violent protests in 2013-14 against the government then in power. Under Thai law, Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam had to leave their posts immediately even if they choose file appeals against their convictions.

Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn and Trinuch Thienthong, lawmakers from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, take over the positions of Digital Economy Minister and Education Minister, respectively. Trinuch is a niece of politician Sanoh Thienthong, a longtime power broker now with the opposition Pheu Thai Party who nonetheless is friendly with Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the Palang Pracharath Party leader.

In an effort to keep the balance of power in Prayuth’s coalition government, Sinit Lertkrai, a Democrat Party lawmaker, was appointed to be Deputy Commerce Minister, while a Member of Parliament from the Bhumjaithai Party, Weerasak Wangsuphakijkosol, was moved from Deputy Commerce Minister to Deputy Transport Minister.

Prayuth’s government was formed in June 2019 after a March general election. Prayuth also headed a military government from 2014-2019 installed after he staged a military coup when he was army commander.