6 June 2024

Just a few hours after Prime Minister-elect Srettha Thavisin had confirmed that his cabinet list was complete and ready to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretariat for qualification examination, the name of Phichit Chuenban, the long-time legal counsel to the Shinawatra family, was added to the line-up as PM Office Minister.

Many believe that Phichit was given the post as part of the Shinawatra quota, because he is a lawyer who worked closely with Thaksin Shinawatra and later Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck.

He was jailed for six months in 2008 for bribery, when he worked as a chief counsel for Thaksin who was charged with abusing his authority to buy a Ratchadapisek land plot. The case prompted the Law Society of Thailand to disqualify Phichit as a licensed lawyer, suspending him for five years.

Thaksin was later tried in absentia and sentenced to two years in jail on October 25, 2008.

After completing his jail term, Phichit became a party-list MP for Pheu Thai Party and was behind the party’s attempt to enact a blanket amnesty bill. The bill triggered massive protests, which were followed by a coup in 2104 that ousted then PM Yingluck Shinawatra.

Phichit became head of the legal defence team for Yingluck, who later fled Thailand.

In 2019, Phichit chaired the legal advisory panel of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, before the party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court.

Phichit’s imprisonment does not bar him from taking a ministerial seat in Srettha government, as he was jailed by court order, not by conviction.