>SOMPONG, NEW THAI FOREIGN MINISTER

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By D.Arul Rajoo Bernama –
Wednesday, September 24

BANGKOK, Sept 23 (Bernama) — Justice Minister and veteran politician Sompong Amornwiwat (pictured) is set to helm the Foreign Ministry in Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat’s Cabinet.


The deputy leader of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) told reporters today that Somchai had asked him to be foreign minister in the new Cabinet which is awaiting royal endorsement.

Sompong, 67, one of the front-runners to replace prime minister Samak Sundaravej after he was disqualified by the Constitution Court on Sept 9, said he would be ready to assume the post which was last held by former diplomat Tej Bunnag.

Sompong’s confirmation today also ruled out former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh as speculated by the media or former ambassador to France Saroj Chavanaviraj who was nominated by Samak to replace Tej but was left out in the cold after Samak’s departure.

Thai officials said Sompong, who hailed from the northern city of Chiangmai, was favoured over other career diplomats due to the party’s close link with ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

THAILAND-CABINET 2 BANGKOK

“In the previous Thaksin government until he was ousted in the 2006 coup, his party was not concerned much with the foreign ministry. But now they need a politician in control as there are lot of issues about Thaksin, his exile abroad and his red (diplomatic passport),” said a government source.

Sompong’s immediate task would be to reduce the border tension with Cambodia, as well as taking charge of the country’s preparation to hold the Asean Summit in December.

Somchai, a brother-in-law of Thaksin, said the Cabinet line-up had been completed, including nominees from five other parties in the coalition government.

The former judge is expected to hold the Defence Minister post as well.

The new cabinet is expected to have several new faces, including for the coveted Finance Minister post where the current deputy finance minister, Suchart Thadathamrongvech is likely to replace PPP secretary-general Surapong Suebwonglee who declined reappointment due to an ongoing court case.

Suchart is the leader of the Puea Thai, a party formed recently with the aim of absorbing members of parliament from PPP in case the party is disqualified for alleged election fraud.

— BERNAMA

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