>Thai Govt vows reconciliation

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(Courtesy of Ki-Media)
Noppadon leads team to set policy platform

Thursday September 25, 2008
Bangkok Post REPORTERS

Ending the dispute with the anti-government demonstrators led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy is a high priority for the government, which was endorsed yesterday by His Majesty the King, an official says.

The administration is expected to take an oath before His Majesty today and could hold an informal meeting tomorrow at the temporary office at Don Mueang international airport.

The government will not officially function until it declares its policies in the House, expected to be next week.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has assigned former foreign minister and People Power party (PPP) member Noppadon Pattama to design a platform.

He held talks with National Economic and Social Development Board secretary-general Ampon Kittiampon yesterday at the PPP headquarters and will discuss the policies with the leaders of all seven coalition parties tomorrow.

According to Mr Noppadon, the government’s urgent tasks include national reconciliation.

Other important policies are the border problem with Cambodia, implementation of megaprojects, better education, foreign investment promotion, more lending for the poor and schemes to revive the sagging economy.

All policies could be achieved within three years, the remaining term of the House and the government, he added.

The decision to bring in Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh as a deputy prime minister underlines the attempt to mend fences with the PAD.

Gen Chavalit said he would try to find a solution acceptable to the government and the PAD. The new administration was determined to end the political turmoil, he added.

The prime minister reiterated his belief in the quality of his cabinet ministers despite continued criticism. “I’m ready to listen to criticism and can explain all cabinet positions to the public, but it’s better to give time to the ministers to prove themselves and let them work first,” Mr Somchai said.

The prime minister’s comments failed to win over the opposition Democrat party and other critics who are disappointed at the line-up.

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva doubted the ability of the government to solve problems as the cabinet was based on the quota system.

“It’s a compromise gesture by the prime minister to settle [party] interests. If fundamental problems remain, the nation cannot solve its problems,” Mr Apirak said.

Despite having confidence in Deputy Prime Minister Olarn Chaipravat, the former president of Siam Commercial Bank who will be overseeing economic affairs, business leaders cast doubts on the overall economic ministers.

Santi Vilassakdanont, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said Mr Olarn is internationally and locally accepted. It will be better with him in control of the economic ministries, which include finance, industry, commerce and energy, he said.

Dusit Nontanakorn, vice-chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said he believes Mr Olarn will be able to direct the economic team.

“We will give them an opportunity to work even though most of them are the same people as the last cabinet,” he said.

As the new administration promises to improve education as a key policy, vice rector of Dhurakij Pundit University Paitoon Sinlarat questioned the suitability of Srimuang Charoensiri as the education minister. Mr Paitoon said he did not recognise Mr Srimuang’s role in education in the past.

Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositrakul questioned the selection of Preecha Rengsomboonsuk as a deputy interior minister because of his connection to a 4.3-billion-baht drug scandal.

Mr Preecha was secretary to former health minister Rakkiat Sukthana, who was exposed by Ms Rosana in a Public Health Ministry scandal in 2003. She said Mr Preecha was implicated by a fact-finding committee but not charged.

Rakkiat was convicted by the Supreme Court’s political crime section in October 2003 of taking a five-million-baht bribe from drug firm TNP Healthcare Co and sentenced to 15 years in jail. Mr Preecha did not face any legal charges.

“How can such a person with a tainted background be promoted to the cabinet,” she said.

Foreign diplomats suspect the government will not complete its term.

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