POLITICS

Embattled Chaiya wants brother to succeed him

BANGKOK POST REPORTERS

Chaiya Sasomsab has pushed for his elder brother, Padermchai, to succeed him if he resigns from his post as public health minister. A source at the People Power party said yesterday that Mr Chaiya had lobbied Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to replace him with his brother. Both are PPP representatives for Nakhon Pathom.

Mr Padermchai said he was ready to work as public health minister and denied his brother intended to break National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) rules.

Government chief whip Chai Chidchob said cabinet positions could change hands between siblings.

The NCCC on Tuesday found that Mr Chaiya had failed to declare a substantial shareholding owned by his wife, Churai.

The minister vowed to stay on in office, though conflicting reports emerged about his fate yesterday.

In the morning, Mr Samak said the minister had changed his mind, telling him he intended to resign. But Nattapong Kitaworarat, adviser to the public health minister, insisted hours later that Mr Chaiya had not promised to resign.

Mr Chaiya was not available for comment. He cancelled a scheduled trip to the southernmost provinces and did not show up at the ministry yesterday.

NCCC commissioner Wicha Mahakhun said Mr Chaiya was not qualified for the minister's post because he failed to report the assets of his wife within 30 days of assuming office.

The constitution demands that a minister's spouse report any shareholding in a company exceeding 5%. Mrs Churai was found to hold 25,000 shares, worth 2.5 million baht, in an unnamed firm. Her shareholding was reported after the March 6 deadline.

Mr Wicha said the NCCC would send a letter on Mr Chaiya's status to Mr Samak next week. The prime minister has the authority to keep Mr Chaiya for now, or remove him from office.

Mr Chaiya could be forced out of office if the Constitution Court rules against him on the shareholding disclosure matter. The case can be sent to the court through the Senate, parliament or the Election Commission.

Mr Chaiya has also been under pressure from an alliance of patients, health activists, pharmaceutical academics and rural doctors, who are upset about his decision to review the compulsory licensing policy on cancer drugs.