Defense minister denies giving Shinawatra family members top positions

Thailand’s defense minister, Sutin Klungsang, has denied he appointed family members of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to top government positions, referencing an alleged leaked defense minister order that went viral over the weekend.

The 62-year-old defense minister declared that the leak is fake and said he had not appointed any members to his staff including Payap Shinawatra, younger brother of Thaksin, and Payap’s son, Porpong, as his chief advisor and secretary, respectively.

“In regards to the news that I’ve been appointing people to various positions, I would like to clarify that there have been no appointments or preparations for appointments because I am currently unable to assume any official duties and must await the formal process, which is after the government’s policy statement to parliament is complete,” he wrote on Facebook.

A document shared online seemingly named 66-year-old Payap Shinawatra and his 32-year-old son Porpong as the new appointed chief advisor and personal secretary to the defense minister. Payap Shinawatra is a key figure in the Pheu Thai Party in the north-east region of Thailand.

The document also listed military personnel Lt. Gen. Dechnithit Leung-ngamkham as chief of defense and Lt. Gen. Petcharat Limprasert as deputy chief, as well as Worachart Fongchon and Maj. Gen. Akarapon Thongsuk as members of the advisory committee.

Thaksin, who founded the Pheu Thai Party and was ousted by the military in 2006 and convicted in absentia two years later for abusing power and malfeasance, left the country in self-imposed exile for over 15 years. He returned to Thailand late last month, prior to the appointment of Pheu Thai’s Srettha Thavisin as the new prime minister. The former PM was sent to jail and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Once Pheu Thai formed a new coalition government consisting of pro-regime parties with Srettha Thavisin as PM, Thaksin’s prison sentence was reduced to one year.

Critics have alleged his return is part of a political deal where Pheu Thai would ally with military-backed parties to form a government to offer some leniency in the former leader’s sentencing. Thaksin has denied for months that there was any connection between his return and Pheu Thai’s newly formed government. 


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