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Surayud and Sonthi begin their new portfolios without fanfare

Updated On: Oct 09, 2007

After all the speculation about whether Sonthi Boonyaratglin, former army commander and ex-leader of the Council of National Security (CNS), would join politics, the Thai people effectively got two “new” ministers this week.

Last Friday (5 October), both incumbent Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Sonthi took their oaths before the King Bhumibol Adulyadej for their new posts as Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for security respectively.

As a deputy premier, Sonthi will take charge of security affairs, especially with regard to calming the restive South. While many were unsupportive of his move into politics so quickly after his retirement from the army and CNS, the Bangkok Post is taking a mitigated approach. It says that perhaps Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi is the “right man for the job” as Sonthi will take the task most seriously. Success in the South will be crucial to securing a continued political future and contesting any elections.

On the other hand, Surayud is assuming the post of interior minister in place of Aree Wong-araya who earlier resigned under pressure due to irregular holdings of corporate stocks more than the limit allowed for cabinet members. Surayud’s new duties will focus on ensuring free and fair elections scheduled for December 23. This new posting comes amid the scandal regarding his acquisition of land in a forest reserve. Nonetheless, Surayud can take a little comfort that a very slight majority –54.4% of 1,456 people in Bangkok and nearby provinces –want him to continue his term to the end, the recent Abac poll revealed.

As Thailand moves towards the elections, political parties have called for the lifting of martial law to no avail. The CNS secretary-general, General Winai Phattiyakul, said, “In some areas it will be lifted [in the run-up to the elections], while in others –mainly on the border with neighbours –it will be maintained for security reasons.” (8 October 2007)

Sources:

PM Surayud starts work as interior minister (Bangkok Post, 8 October 2007)

Martial law to remain in place in much of Thailand: junta (AFP, 8 October 2007)

Sonthi begins political 'freshy week' (Bangkok Post, 8 October 2007)

Bangkokians want PM to stay (Bangkok Post, 8 October 2007)

Can Sonthi end the insurgency? (Bangkok Post, 8 October 2007)

Surayud and Gen Sonthi take oaths (Bangkok Post, 6 October 2007)

Plot to topple Surayud? (Bangkok Post, 6 October 2007)

EC set to issue campaign rules (Bangkok Post, 6 October 2007)

EC, Surayud agree Dec 23 is doable (Nation, 6 October 2007)

Thai PM promises to curb vote-buying (AFP, 5 October 2007)