The Leaderboard: Jarupong Ruangsuwan

Who is he?

Jarupong Ruangsuwan is a prominent figure in the government of Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Jarupong, 66, spent the majority of his career in government service, most recently as permanent secretary for labor. After his retirement from government service, Jarupong entered politics in 2006, becoming a member of the People Power Party and, upon its disbandment, of Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party.

He was elected Pheu Thai secretary-general on May 3, 2011 and became a member of parliament on July 3, 2011.  Jarupong resigned from his position in the legislature in February 2012 after Yingluck named him transport minister during a January cabinet reshuffle.

Why is he in the news?

Yingluck transferred Jarupong from his position as transport minister to that of interior minister during another cabinet reshuffle, endorsed October 29 by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Jarupong was also named Pheu Thai party leader during the October 30 election of a new 19-member executive committee; he was the only candidate nominated for the position and received 332 of 334 votes. The interior minister traditionally holds the title of party leader, and his nomination to both seats was expected.

The shake-up of both Yingluck’s cabinet and the Pheu Thai executive committee occurred on the heels of Yongyuth Wichaidit’s high-profile resignation from his positions as deputy prime minister, interior minister and Pheu Thai party leader.

What can we expect from him?

Jarupong appears to have replaced Yongyuth as the second most powerful figure in the Pheu Thai government, taking over two of the latter’s three political positions. Jarupong’s years of experience as a member of Pheu Thai and strong connections to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship and the populist, pro-democracy “Red Shirt” movement, allowed him to gain the trust of both Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, ousted during a military coup in 2006, is in self-imposed exile and faces arrest on charges of malfeasance. Jarupong has said that he will work toward securing Thaksin’s return to Thailand within the current government’s term. However, given Thailand’s contentious politics, Jarupong’s ability to rally support for Pheu Thai will need to mesh with the prime minister’s efforts to maintain support for her government across Thailand’s political spectrum.

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