Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is said to be at loggerheads with Prawit Wongsuwon, his deputy PM and leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), over the imminent cabinet reshuffle.
A source has told the BangkokPost that Gen Prayut wants to bring in professional experts but Gen Prawit is hoping to hand the coveted posts to members of his party.
A cabinet shake-up appears inevitable after three ministers were jailed on Wednesday and lost their posts as a result. The next day, Gen Prayut was asked if only the three posts left vacant by the prison sentences would be affected. He replied that the immediate focus would be on the vacant posts and only later would he decide if any further changes were also necessary.
The three ministerial posts that must be filled are digital economy and society (DES), education and deputy transport — DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam were found guilty by the Criminal Court of charges linked to street protests to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra administration.
Among outsiders being eyed by the prime minister is one of his advisers, Pirapan Saliratha-vibhaga, who is tipped to land the post of education minister, the source said.
However, this prompted a group of 90 PPRP MPs to sign a petition declaring their support for Gen Prawit to decide which members of the party should be nominated for the cabinet posts, the source said.
Wirach Ratanasate, chief government whip and a PPRP list-MP, confirmed that the 90 MPs wanted Gen Prawit to act decisively after news emerged of outsiders being approached to join the cabinet.
Mr Wirach said Gen Prawit had not known about that but played down the reports.
“When he [Gen Prawit] learned about it, he told party members to calm down and said the party’s executives would hold a meeting next week,” Mr Wirach said. The meeting, set for Tuesday, is certain to discuss the imminent reshuffle.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, said the primary goal of the next reshuffle could be to build bridges between the PM and PPRP ministers left unhappy with their current posts as a result of the previous reshuffle.
Mr Wanwichit said Capt Thamanat Prompow, a Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister, could receive a ministerial post because criticism of him in the past had decreased drastically and he had since worked harder to work closely with colleagues.
He also said the reshuffle could become a peace offering to the Bhumjaithai Party to maintain unity among coalition partners after six MPs in the PPRP abstained instead of backing Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, in the crucial no-confidence vote on Feb 20.