Abhisit and Kasit in a pickle

13 07 2009

Initially, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was less than enthusiastic about supporting Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya’s decision to stay on in cabinet despite a police summons. As we reported here, Kasit was summonsed by the police for his part in the November 2008 PAD occupation of Bangkok’s airports.

Abhisit is now reported to have decided that Kasit must remain in office (The Nation, 11 July 2009: “No reason for Kasit to quit his post at this juncture: Abhisit”). Abhisit claims that Kasit has “important tasks” to complete and the PM feels that the case will not go to court for another 3 months. This decision seems to lack congruence with Abhisit’s earlier stand on ministerial responsibility and with Kasit’s own claims that he would stand down if charged.

Perhaps Abhisit has been fazed by PAD’s attacks on his government (The Nation, 11 July 2009) over these charges? Maybe he feels that he cannot move against one of his closest allies and supporters amongst the yellow-clad PAD leadership? More likely, Abhisit is troubled by reports that the military wants Kasit out (The Nation, 13 July 2009: “No pressure to fire FM Kasit: PM”).

Abhisit and Army chief General Anupong Paochinda rushed to refute the claims that the military is unhappy with the foreign minister. The foreign minister is also nervous and responded apparently inappropriately. They were supported by Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon (Bangkok Post, 13 July 2009) Another report (Bangkok Post, 13 July 2009: “Suthep denies coercing Kasit to resign”) claim that Democrat Party powerbroker Suthep Thaugsuban had aligned with the military in wanting Kasit to go. Suthep denied this.

Equally troubling for Abhisit is that at the very time he comes out to support his minister, even supportive newspapers like The Nation has an editorial calling for Kasit to show responsibility for his actions and to stand aside while he fights the charges (The Nation, 12 July 2009: “This is the moment of truth Kasit can’t flunk”).

In the face of this pressure, Abhisit has again claimed that Kasit meets the “ethical standards set down for ministers” and that he should stay in cabinet (Bangkok Post, 13 July 2009). Abhisit also adds that his “Initial checks found that the minister has no credibility problems.” Given that recent polls suggest that 60% think Kasit should go, PPT wonders if Abhisit just asked those sitting with him in cabinet.



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