Major cabinet reshuffle talks confirmed by PM Srettha Thavisin after a Songkran visit to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Thonburi. Several ministers, including the senior ones at public health and defence, are expected to be replaced.

Despite weeks of conflicting messages and denials by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, on Tuesday, he conceded that talks about a cabinet reshuffle will commence. Mr Srettha was speaking during a visit to pay a Songkran courtesy call on former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This took place at Thaksin’s residence in the Thonburi area of Bangkok on Tuesday morning. In the shakeup, Minister of Public Health Cholnan Srikaew looks likely to be axed along with Minister of Defence Sutin Klangsaeng. At the same time, a key Thaksin confidante is tipped to assume the chair at the Ministry of Finance and become a new deputy prime minister. There are also less reliable reports of a return to the cabinet of General Prawit Wongsuwan as a deputy prime minister.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Thaksin Shinawatra’s Ban Chan Song La residence in Thonburi. (Inset) The Prime Minister wishes Mr Thaksin a Happy New Year as part of Songkran by pouring water over his head.

Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew is rumoured to be for the chop.

In short, it comes as speculation grows of a cabinet reshuffle. The Public health Minister who has been under pressure with controversial new legislation to control marijuana, is earmarked to join the parliamentary ranks instead.

PM Srettha met ex Premier Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday. It came after mounting speculation and political pressure over a cabinet reshuffle

On Tuesday, there was a meeting between former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the PM at the former’s Bangkok residence. Afterwards, Mr Srettha appeared to countenance the prospect that a cabinet reshuffle may after all take place.

It was the second time the PM travelled to the home since Mr Thaksin was released from prison in February.

In turn, this came following comments from Mr Thaksin over Songkran.

‘Some things can wait, while others can’t,’ Thaksin declared. This came after he was previously asked about whether a reshuffle should take place.

However, on Tuesday, Mr Srettha insisted that it was not a surefire thing despite intense speculation from well-informed political sources. 

Indeed, the Thai political arena is rife with commentary on Mr Thaksin’s increased visibility and profile. This was seen particularly during the Songkran holiday period.

High visibility of ex-PM in the political sphere becoming more obvious. Over Songkran, the PM appeared tetchy when questioned by reporters on the matter

The former premier visited Chiang Mai and was joined by major Pheu Thai heavyweights in the cabinet.

Significantly, they included ministers tipped for the axe as well as those for promotion.

For instance, experienced stalwart and Minister of Transport Suriya Jungrungruangkit is to become a deputy prime minister. At the same time, Minister of Defence Sutin Klangsaeng is predicted to lose his cabinet seat. 

This will be taken by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin who will turn over the Ministry Of Finance to Mr Pichai Chunhavajira, a key adviser to the Shinawatra family.

Before Tuesday, Mr Srettha had vociferously denied such reports.

New Finance Minister expected in April as economic malaise deepens with downgrades in GDP growth

Indeed, the Prime Minister has consistently denied any prospect of a cabinet reshuffle up to his point.

Similarly, last week, the United Thai Nation (Ruam Thai Sang Chart) Party made it clear that it had not been approached about such a move at all.

Talks on a proposed cabinet reshuffle are now certainly to take place. Prime Minister confirmed this to reporters during his visit to meet Mr Thaksin

If it happens, it will be the country’s first cabinet reshuffle since the government took office seven months ago. The reshuffle is expected to follow the Songkran holiday period.

On Tuesday, Mr Srettha certainly made it clear he would hold discussions with coalition parties.

Although he initially downplayed rumours of changes, recent comments from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and other inside sources have pointedly suggested a major shake-up is imminent.

On Tuesday, after 11 am, Prime Minister Srettha met with Thaksin, the de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party. Officially, the role is held by Mr Thaksin’s daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra or ‘Ung Ing’. 

The meeting took place at Thaksin’s residence, Ban Chan Song La. 

The Thonburi-based exclusive home is where Mr Thaksin is serving out the remainder of his prison sentence while on parole.

Srettha told reporters cabinet reshuffle not discussed

Following their meeting, Srettha explicitly stated there was no discussion about cabinet adjustments. He told reporters the talk focused instead on pressing national issues such as forest burning and the war in Myanmar.

Nevertheless, Srettha, in this instance, did not dismiss the possibility of changes. He noted the importance of finding the right people for the right positions.

According to a Pheu Thai source, the reshuffle is expected to take place immediately after Songkran. In short, it will involve significant changes to key ministerial posts. A major cabinet reshuffle. 

The prime minister’s adviser and chairman of the Stock Exchange of Thailand, Mr Pichai Chunhavajira, is expected to replace Srettha as finance minister. Mr Pichai will additionally hold a deputy prime ministerial position.

Transport Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit is also anticipated to take up the role of deputy prime minister.

Prime Minister Srettha tipped to become Minister of Defence in place of Mr Sutin Klangsaeng in the new lineup. Public Health Minister Cholnan also to go

Reports suggest that Srettha might take on the defence minister position, replacing Sutin Klungsang.

Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chaiya Promma are expected to lose their cabinet portfolios.

Both ministers will focus on overseeing the ruling party’s parliamentary affairs and strategies.

Somsak Thepsutin, the current deputy prime minister, may be appointed as the new public health minister.

Simultaneously, Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsuphakijkosol will swap roles with Culture Minister Sermsak Pongpanich. Additionally, some new faces could be introduced into the cabinet.

Two veteran editors of the Nation Group, Somchai Meesen and Weerasak Pongaksorn, shared their predictions last Thursday. They commented on the reshuffle during a live broadcast of their Nation Insight program on Nation TV.

Media insiders certain of a major cabinet reshuffle

They too anticipated a major cabinet reshuffle. Undoubtedly, the government will see new faces joining the lineup while some ministers are removed.

The two veteran insiders and commentators particularly highlighted changes to the defence and tourism portfolios.

They also confirmed that the Democrat Party would not be included in the new cabinet lineup. This has been confirmed in recent days by Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on.

It is estimated the reshuffle announcement will occur quickly although on Tuesday, this was not clear.

At length, Mr Srettha indicated a consultative process will now begin. At the same time, the PM suggested that a cabinet reshuffle was not yet guaranteed at all.

‘I’ve already made it clear. And if there really is to be a reshuffle, talks with several sides will come first,’ he said. When asked by reporters if that meant immediate talks, beginning this week on a new cabinet lineup, he replied affirmatively. ‘Exactly,’ he told reporters.

Srettha, over the Songkran, forced by reporters to address the high visibility of Thaksin Shinawatra who met ministers and political associates in Chiang Mai

The Prime Minister, over the holiday period, appeared tetchy with reporters when asked to comment on Mr Thaksin’s high-profile visibility. In one exchange, the PM was asked about Mr Thaksin’s perceived popularity.

This followed well-publicised encounters with Mr Thaksin and cabinet ministers in Chiang Mai. At the same time, Prime Minister Srettha holidayed in Hua Hin.

The PM however assured the media that Mr Thaksin was simply a highly respected elder.

He said it was natural for young ministers to seek him out. Similarly, the ex-PM and founder of the ruling political movement offered valuable advice.

‘If there will be a cabinet reshuffle, discussions will come first to ensure respect for all sides involved. While many cabinet ministers will possibly need more time to continue working and prove themselves if a reshuffle is to come, it won’t be the last and more are to follow,’ Prime Minister Srettha explained.

The PM still insisted on Tuesday that a reshuffle was not yet certain even as he undertook to hold consultations with other coalition parties on the matter

However, he continued to insist that a cabinet reshuffle was not yet certain.

‘There won’t be any conflicts or tensions, more changes will follow. After all, I’m not saying a reshuffle will certainly take place,’ he cautioned.

Under the mooted reshuffle, the Palang Pracharath Party is expected to gain an additional portfolio. This will possibly be within the Agriculture Ministry.

Therein, it would remove a deputy agriculture minister from the United Thai Nation Party and another from Pheu Thai. 

Palang Pracharat Secretary-General Thamanat Prompow would retain his role as agriculture minister but might push his right-hand man, Phai Lik, as his deputy. Mr Phai is a Kamphaeng Phet MP.

In addition to personnel changes, sources note that Pheu Thai may strive to have complete control over the Finance Ministry. Similarly, Palang Pracharat would aim for total control over the Agriculture Ministry.

Unconfirmed reports of a cabinet return for Palang Pracharat Party leader General Prawit Wongsuwan as deputy prime minister with his previous security role

In addition, there are unconfirmed reports of a possible return to the cabinet of General Prawit Wongsuwan.

Some sources suggest that General Prawit would like again to be Deputy Prime Minister with a roving security brief. This was the role he played in the second government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha.

General Prawit is currently a sitting MP in the House of Representatives.

The post-Songkran cabinet reshuffle in Thailand is anticipated to bring significant changes to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin’s government.

The changes will be aimed, ostensibly, at placing the right people in the right jobs to address the country’s challenges.

On Tuesday, Mr Thaksin commented on the economy saying that it will be 2025 before real growth returns

On Tuesday, Mr Thaksin told reporters that Thailand’s economy would not pick up substantially until 2025.

In short, this would come through government stimulus measures, especially the ฿500 billion Digital Wallet scheme.

However, at the same time, the government deficit is expected to rise substantially.

Digital Wallet scheme is controversial and a worry
Central bank rate call a minor issue compared to the surge in fiscal spending and deficit planned in 2025

Mr Thaksin, while on parole, is still facing a possible Article 112 criminal prosecution. On April 10th, the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) delayed a decision on the matter. Mr Thaksin’s lawyers have argued that the case should not proceed.

A decision is now scheduled for May 29th. 

Thaksin’s visit to Chiang Mai lays down a marker. The ex-PM is still a compelling political force in Thailand
Hun Sen visit to Thaksin in Bangkok signals that the ex-premier may not be retiring from politics as suggested
Thaksin hit with a bombshell as police pursue lèse-majesté criminal charge against him from 2016

In brief, the criminal charge was ordered by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) in 2016. It relates to a 2015 newspaper interview given by Thaksin in South Korea.

Change in the political balance of power

As the process unfolds, observers will watch closely to see how these changes affect Thailand’s governance and the broader political landscape. 

In the meantime, the countdown to the probable dissolution of the Move Forward Party, the country’s largest, has begun.

At the same time, after May 11th, the Thai Senate or upper house no longer has a say in the election of any future Prime Minister.

In other words, the country’s political landscape and balance of power are set to alter significantly.

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