Indictment the final blow to Yongyuth's lacklustre career
Interrior Minister Yongyuth Wichaidit led his team in announcing their one-year ministerial performance last week - but it was crystal clear he lacked any concrete results to show.It's possible not many people are aware he is the current Interior minister as he is seen in public mostly accompanying Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as if he was her bodyguard, not a minister.
"I walk along with Prime Minister Yingluck not to decorate her appearance but because I'm also a deputy prime minister who needs to synchronise work with the prime minister," he said.
Many people said he was chosen for the position of deputy prime minister and Interior minister because of his loyalty to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Yongyuth admitted during an interview with The Nation years ago that Thaksin was a person he highly respected, second only to his parents and teachers. He could be anything Thaksin wants him to be. He nearly resigned as Pheu Thai Party chief when Thaksin signalled he was seeking a new leader to replace him - but when Thaksin changed his mind, Yongyuth stayed on.
Why is Thaksin's support so important for him? He managed to sit in the top position at the Interior Ministry as its permanent-secretary during Thaksin's time in office. It was very rewarding for Yongyuth, as Thaksin appointed him to the position only seven days before his retirement, but listed his term of duty from the time he'd been acting permanent-secretary eight months earlier. Days in office mean a lot for a bureaucrat as they affect his salary and welfare.
It was said Yongyuth was rewarded with the position after he managed to clear a business deal on the purchase of temple land when he was director-general of the Land Department at the ministry.
The case was complex, beginning when Nieum Chamnanchartsakda donated 924 rai of land to Wat Thammikkaram Worawiharn and the temple wanted to sell it to the Alpine Village and Golf Course. Yongyuth granted permission for the temple to make the deal - with veteran politician Sanoh Thienthong.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission decided in June this year to indict Yongyuth on the grounds he abused his authority. The temple's property could not legally be sold for commercial purposes. The anti-graft body suggested the attorney-general file a criminal lawsuit against Yongyuth and recommended the Interior Ministry punish him.
So, he got his position in the government as a reward for a deal, not because of his ability to run the Interior Ministry, which has seen a lacklustre performance with him as minister over the past year.
Thaksin selected Yongyuth as Pheu Thai party chief simply to handle routine jobs and paper work at the party. However, Thaksin expected more from Yongyuth as the Interior minister, since this ministry controls all administrative branches throughout the country. Yongyuth, however, runs the ministry as if he was still its permanent-secretary, doing only routine jobs, not as minister.
Critics say he has no policy initiative and merely allows officials at the ministry to do their routine jobs. Many Pheu Thai MPs are disappointed with his style of work and have put pressure on Thaksin to dump him.
Thaksin responded at first by dispatching his close aide Padung Limcharoenrat to be Yongyuth's secretary at the ministry. It was said Thaksin wanted Padung to control Yongyuth, but Padung also kept a low profile and was quiet over the past year.
The Interior Ministry under Yongyuth appears to have no direction. Officials run it as per their own will, as if there is no minister to control it. Two deputy ministers, Choochart Harnsawas and Thanis Thienthong have also been totally invisible.
The question is, who actually runs the Interior Ministry? The answer can be seen clearly in the fact that candidates for permanent-secretary of the ministry visited Thaksin in Hong Kong recently, before Wiboon Sanguanphong was officially named to the post.
For Yongyuth, the future is not so bright after the anti-graft body's decision to indict him. Thaksin and Yingluck have good reason to dump him from the portfolio.