by Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has reshuffled her Cabinet for the third time since last year, with a dozen new faces, in a move to further consolidate her power and at the same time silence her critics.
The so-called "Yingluck III" Cabinet, which was submitted to King Bhumibol Adulyadej last Thursday and approved by the Thai monarch over the weekend, has apparently pre-empted a censure motion of the opposition Democrat Party against Yingluck and her Cabinet scheduled at the end of this month.
Censure debate will be held in the House of Representatives sometime next month, according to House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranand.
As expected, Yingluck has categorically dismissed criticism that her brother, the ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been living in exile since the 2006 coup, had anything to do with the latest Cabinet revamp.
But Yingluck has managed to keep her Cabinet members under control even as she denied ministerial seats to several persons within the rank and file of the ruling Puea Thai (For Thais) Party.
Those newly-named ministers, earlier banned from politics for five years time following the 2007 dissolution of a once-ruling Thai Rak Thai party, include Pongthep Thepkanchana as deputy prime minister-cum-education minister, Pongsak Raktapongpaisal as energy minister, Sermsak Pongpanit as deputy education minister and Varathep Rattanakorn as minister attached to the Prime Minister's Office.
Jarupong Ruangsuwan was moved from the post of transport minister to that of interior minister, and Chatchart Sitthipan from the post of deputy transport minister to that of transport minister. Both men have the full trust of the Shinawatra family.
"Some faction heads, ex-members of the (so-called) House No.111 and ex-Red Shirt leaders had quietly sought personal favors of being named members of the Yingluck III Cabinet. They waited to take their turn but were eventually denied and told to keep waiting until next time, probably," said one former cabinet minister, currently attached to the Puea Thai Party.
Members of the Red Shirt movement, mostly people from the provinces, were strong supporters of Yingluck's Puea Thai Party in last year's general elections that eventually won for her the premiership.
As head of the ruling coalition, Yingluck is admired for her own style of governance.
One ex-minister said that Yingluck is not the kind of leader who controls her Cabinet ministers or micro-manage them but would rather let them get things done on their own after they have been given assignments.
Then, she looks at the big picture of things and evaluate the performance of the ministers based on the end results, which may more or less affect the way that she revamps her Cabinet, the official said.
Yingluck has apparently succeeded in thwarting criticism from her political opponents by not bringing into her new Cabinet her relatives or those with ties to the Shinawatra family.
For instance, former police chief Preowpan Damapong, brother of Thaksin's ex-spouse, was nowhere on the list of the "Yingluck III" Cabinet although he had been earlier speculated to be named deputy prime minister or even minister attached to a major portfolio.
"If Preowpan was named a cabinet minister, Yingluck herself would almost certainly be the target of attacks from the opposition in the parliament and her critics in the media," one observer said.