21 May 2024

Deputy Education Minister Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich will serve as the acting education minister, while Culture Minister Itthiphol Khunpluem will also serve as the acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngarm announced today (Thursday).

The two posts were left vacant after former Education Minister Nataphol Teepsuwan and former DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanya were stripped of their posts, in accordance with Section 170 (4) and Section 160 (7) of the Constitution, after being convicted by the Criminal Court.

Dr. Wissanu said that, in the case of the education portfolio, Khunying Kalaya just moves up to fill the vacant post in an acting capacity. In the case of the DES post, however, he said the cabinet used to rule that the education minister will fill the vacant seat but, since Nataphol was stripped of the post, the culture minister will serve as the acting DES minister.

He also said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha had not sought his advice about this latest political incident.

Buddhipongse, Nuttapol and six other former People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) core leaders, namely Suthep Thaugsuban, former Deputy Transport Minister Thaworn Senneam, Chumphol Julasai, Issara Somchai, Samdin and Buddha Issara spent last night in the Bangkok Remand Prison after the Criminal Court referred their bail requests to the Appeals Court.

Asked whether some of these convicts will lose their parliamentary status because they were sentenced to prison terms, Dr. Wissanu said he wasn’t sure.

Among them are Buddhipongse and Nuttapol, who are party-list MPs of the Palang Pracharat party, and Thaworn, a Democrat MP.

The deputy prime minister said that, if these MPs claim parliamentary immunity, the court must order their release from prison.

In the case of Mrs. Taya Teepsuwan, who was given a suspended sentence and had her political rights withdrawn for five years by the court, Dr. Wissanu explained that, for now, she has lost her MP status, adding that this is the consequence defined in the Constitution.