POLITICAL WRANGLING : Anek could be in line for Cabinet post

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Urges Thaksin to dispense with entrenched tradition

Less than a week after stepping down as Mahachon Party’s leader, Anek Laothamatas insisted his political career was not on the skids, as rumours swirl that he might be set to join Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Cabinet as a non-Thai Rak Thai member.

“Never in my political career have I cared about posts and positions for their own sake. What I care about is the results I’m given a mandate to achieve,” Anek told The Nation yesterday. “If [an appointment] is challenging enough, I will accept it.”

It was rumoured that shortly after he was pressured to hand over leadership of the Mahachon Party to party advisor Sanan Kachornprasart, Anek was approached by some leading Thai Rak Thai members urging him to accept a ministerial post in the new Cabinet.

Anek declined to comment on the rumours, that he insisted that Thaksin could do worse than appoint “well-qualified and well-respected” people to important Cabinet positions, regardless of their party affiliations. “I want to urge Prime Minister Thaksin to make the most of the mandate the people have given him,” Anek said.

He added that Thai Rak Thai’s landslide win in the February 6 election, in which the party won 377 seats of 500 House seats, represented a clear mandate from the people. Appointing 35 “competent” members in the Cabinet is part of the ruling party’s mission.

Anek said he had urged Thaksin to divest himself of an entrenched political tradition whereby the prime minister is expected to allocate a certain number of ministerial posts to party factions to reward them for winning seats in the election. Rather than kowtow to party interests, the leader of the government should appoint the most suitable candidates for important government positions.

Anek called for the appointment of former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, who was recently appointed to head a special panel set up to formulate a long-term plan to bring peace to the Muslim-majority deep South, to a permanent ministerial position in charge of that mission.

Similarly, privy councillor Kasem Wattanachai and former Democrat MP Vichit Srisa-an, two proven education experts, would be the best choices to spearhead a reform of the education system, which has made little progress since Thaksin took power in 2001, Anek said.

Sumeth Tantivechakul, secretary of His Majesty the King’s Chai Pattana Foundation, is the most suitable candidate to oversee an economic reform aimed at increasing financial self-sufficiency of citizens, businesses and social groups, Anek suggested.

He proposed that Thaksin enlist these people in his new government and give them full authority to tackle problems to the best of their abilities alone, rather then interfering in their decisions and threatening to replace them if they contravene his ideas.

“Many well-qualified people would be happy to join the government to serve the country without wanting to become members of Thai Rak Thai,” Anek said.

As for the question of whether Thailand was on its way to becoming a one-party democracy, Anek said opponents of Thai Rak Thai had their work cut out for them with Thaksin being not only a dominant tycoon, but also the man holding the reins of government power. The opposition had better start figuring out how to gain ground on Thai Rak Thai before the next election, four years from now, Anek said.

Published on Mar 09 , 2005

Weerayut Chokchaimadon

The Nation

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