Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has revealed that he has already approached some economists to take up a role in his new government but that they are reluctant to enter the political arena. The PM has underscored the importance of a free press in Thailand and his government’s respect for the principle. It came on a tour of publishing houses in Bangkok at the end of last week.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, on Friday, pledged his government’s commitment to preserving the independence of the press in Thailand. Despite conflicting reports, the PM also indicated that a cabinet reshuffle will take place in September and that there will be changes to Thailand’s economic team. This comes after Economics Czar and Deputy Prime Minister, Somkid Jatusripitak, admitted that he had ‘lost heart some years ago’ and was ready to bow out of the government.
The Thai prime minister has accepted the need for a cabinet reshuffle in the wake of the leadership change in the Palang Pracharat Party. The resignation of four key government officials including three ministers from that party, last week, has made the shakeup even more inevitable.
However, there appears to be still some confusion over when the reshuffle will take place.
On Thursday, while confirming the reshuffle which he has indicated he is already preparing for, the PM denied press reports that it would take place in September as speculation. ‘Did I say that it will happen in September? I never said that, you guys just make up your own speculation,’ General Prayut said, as he scolded reporters.
Confusion still on when the reshuffle will take place
On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, added to the mystery when he told the press that no signal had yet been given that a cabinet reshuffle was to take place. ‘PM Prayut has not given any signal for a reshuffle,’ Mr Wissanu pointed out. ‘You should hear it from the PM directly.’
The key focus of any cabinet reshuffle will be the government’s new economic team.
Met with economic advisers and the media on Friday
On the same day, the prime minister, as well as meeting his existing economic team which is central to the cabinet reshuffle, also met key officials and representatives of the Bank of Thailand to prepare for an economic cabinet meeting. He also found time to visit one of Thailand’s leading media groups.
The visit is part of a campaign by the Prime Minister to reach out to the media and was his third in several days having already visited the Bangkok Post group and The Nation.
PM says he has already approached key experts
General Prayut gave some insight into his thinking.
‘I will make my own decisions,’ he said. ‘Some ministerial seats wouldn’t take long to pick, but I can’t just replace them all with those outside the coalition, I have approached some of the skilled economists, but they are still reluctant to enter into politics.’
At that meeting, he did suggest that the reshuffle could take place in September after the annual budget debate.
Media boss questioned Prayut on the economic crisis
The prime minister was visting the Matchicon Group, one of Thailand’s leading news publishers with publications both in Thai and English including the popular publication Khaosod English.
He was welcomed to the company by Group President Khanchai Boonparn and the company’s Managing Director, Parnbua Boonparn.
Ms Parnbua was full of praise for the government’s handling of the Covid 19 emergency but questioned him on the escalating economic crisis.
He promised that his government would make certain to ‘help those who had fallen to stand up again’.
PM commits to building back Thailand’s tourism industry and transforming it after the crisis
The prime minister elaborated by saying that the government would do everything in its power to relaunch the country’s shattered tourism industry. Last week, the government vetoed a plan presented by the tourism ministry, to allow groups tourists from China entry into the kingdom in controlled visits from August.
General Prayuth even suggested a transformation of the industry with exciting new products and destinations.
Senior ministers in the government and officials have indicated that Thailand may use the Covid 19 crisis to move away from mass tourism and aim its offerings at a more exclusive and elite market.
Deputy Prime Minister Somkid says he ‘lost heart years ago’ and he is ready to accept his fate
On Friday, the man at the centre of speculation, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, the economic czar and leader of the economic team, indicated that he is ready to stand down if that was required.
‘I have been prepared for a long time. I am old now. I already lost heart years ago,’ Somkid told reporters.
He urged that any transition should occur in an organised and coherent manner as political infighting could damage the already challenged economy further.
Prime Minister says political squabbling is for the ‘lesser people’ in the political sphere at this time
A similar statement was made by the prime minister when he reminded his audience that he was not a member of the Palang Pracharat Party and took a swipe at those playing politics.
‘I’m not a member of Palang Pracharat, but everyone cooperates with me fully,’ General Prayut said during his visit to Matchicon. ‘The party leaders have nothing against me. It’s the lesser people who poke at each other.’
Major overhaul of the cabinet being considered
The prime minister has also indicated that any change in his cabinet will be a major one with all positions being reviewed in terms of the performance of ministers to date.
The PM is expected to take advantage of an opportunity to shake-up the effectiveness of his government.
Government is committed to a free press in Thailand
The prime minister, on his tour last week, reaching out to the media and press, stressed his government’s commitment to defending the rights of the press in Thailand.
He promised that there would be no interference or attempts to stifle criticism of the government or other constraints.
‘I want to build understanding and cooperation with the press for the benefit of the public, I do not intend to violate the Fourth Estate,’ Prayut pledged.
In the light of recent developments in China, Hong Kong and even in other ASEAN countries, such an assurance is not to be dismissed lightly and must be welcomed.