Unqualified! – Opposition launches attack on new Cabinet
By The Nation
MP Seripisut Temiyavej, leader of the opposition Seri Ruam Thai Party
Opposition politicians on Thursday questioned the qualifications of several members of the incoming government headed by General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Thammanas Phromphao, a key figure in the ruling Phalang Pracharat Party and new deputy agriculture minister, was the main target of the opposition attack.
MP Seripisut Temiyavej, leader of the opposition Seri Ruam Thai Party, wondered how Thammanas could take up the Cabinet job after he was allegedly sentenced to jail in Australia for a drug-related offence.
"The Constitution states that anyone who has served time in jail for drug offences is not qualified to become an MP or government minister. The law does not distinguish between imprisonment in Thailand or overseas," Seripisut said.
He added that the opposition was discussing whether to file a motion for an investigation into the qualifications of other newly appointed Cabinet members.
Deputy Prime Minister and government legal adviser Wissanu Krea-ngam rebuffed the accusation on Thursday, insisting that Thammanas did not lack qualifications for Cabinet.
"Legal facts are one thing and suitability is another matter," he said, citing constitutional clauses.
Asked about the opposition filing a motion on the matter, Wissanu said: "They have the right to do so."
Asked if Prime Minister Prayut should take responsibility, Wissanu replied: “I don’t know.”
Politician Ruangkrai Leekitwattana said his research revealed that many newly appointed Cabinet members had problems regarding their qualifications.
These included Wissanu, Suvit Maesincee, Uttama Savanayana and Somkid Jatusripitak.
Ruangkrai was formerly an MP for the opposition Pheu Thai Party and later a key figure in the now-defunct Thai Raksa Chart Party.
MP Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the opposition Future Forward Party, said on Thursday that the new Cabinet line-up indicated that the incoming government is merely an extension of the outgoing junta.
He pointed out that many junta regime members with military backgrounds or connections have been reappointed.
"The new government is elected but its members have just taken swapped their military attire for business suits. They still have military traits. And I believe they will continue to run the country by centring on the military," Piyabutr said.
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