Wednesday’s shock resignation of the non-aligned economic team will lead to a cabinet reshuffle at an earlier stage. It may also lead to political infighting which could destabilise the Thai government at this critical time.
The Thai economic team members, led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, will hand their resignations in on Thursday morning amid unconfirmed press reports of an emerging alternative team. The team of five, including Mr Somkid, three cabinet ministers and a key official at the prime minister’s office, is to give a press conference later.
Thailand’s team of economic ministers will submit their letters of resignation on Thursday to the Secretary-General at the Office of the Prime Minister, Disatat Hotrakit, at Government House. They are to hold a press conference later to explain their actions.
Reports on Wednesday suggested the Deputy PM Somkid will be away in Chumphon but that his staff were already removing his personal belongings from his office at the seat of government.
It follows press speculation also on Wednesday as to who may be included in the new economic line up which became inevitable after the resignations last week of three cabinet ministers and a top official at the Office of the Prime Minister from the Palang Pracharat Party.
Deputy PM Somkid indicated last weekend that his tenure as Economic Czar may be ending
Over last weekend, Thailand’s economic czar and economic point man since 2015, Somkid Jatusripitak, had indicated that his tenure as Deputy Prime Minister with oversight of the economy was coming to an end.
Thursday’s resignations will see Deputy PM Somkid step down in addition to Minster of Finance Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Higher Education Minister Suvit Maesincee and Deputy Secretary-General at the Office of the Prime Minister Kobsak Pootrakul.
This team has been linked with the deputy prime minister and has been seen as progressive and to a certain degree, above politics even though four out of the five of them are now ex-members of the Palang Pracharat Party which was formed to contest the 2019 General Election.
Cabinet reshuffle now may come earlier
The shock move will likely now precipitate an early cabinet reshuffle which had been widely anticipated as happening in September.
The Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, told reporters on Wednesday he had not seen any resignations when asked about the news that the team had quit.
The PM was visiting Rayong following this week’s controversy over an Egyptian military plane and a Covid 19 infection scare in the area.
Leading Kasikorn Bank executive Predee Daochai linked with a leading economic role in government according to unconfirmed reports
Earlier on Wednesday, the name of Predee Daochai, who is a President of the leading Thai financial institution, Kasikorn Bank, emerged as a likely Minister of Finance or even head of Thailand’s new economic team.
The reports also suggested that a cabinet reshuffle may now take place in a matter of weeks.
The veracity of these reports is not yet clear. Mr Predee has denied being offered the position of Minister of Finance in any reconfiguration of government at this point.
The senior bank officer is a barrister and holds a masters degree in law as well as extensive and valuable experience in the financial services industry with Kasikorn Bank.
The prime minister had indicated, over the weekend, that he had approached certain individuals who had declined to become involved in a government role at this point because of the politically charged nature of the job.
Former boss of PTT linked to sought after energy portfolio but reports conflict with political sources
Pailin Chuchottaworn, the former boss of PTT, has been suggested as the new energy minister. He was previously deputy minister of transport from 2017 to 2019.
The reports have been attributed to a Bangkok based business news website.
These reports run counter to reports from political sources emanating from within the Palang Pracharat Party where senior members of the political movement, who have supported the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongswuan, have long coveted key positions, in particular, the post of energy minister.
The top man at the National Economic and Social Development Council linked with an oversight role
Among those expressing an interest in the energy portfolio, is current Minister of Industry, Suriya Juangroongruangkit, while Deputy Finance Minister, Santi Promphat, has been linked with the top job at finance.
Today’s unconfirmed news reports linked the Secretary-General of the National Economic and Social Development Council, Thosaporn Sirisumphand, with the oversight role previously undertaken by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid.
Politics of a reshuffle should go smoothly – Somkid
Reports of Wednesday’s shock resignations could lead to political infighting even if the cabinet reshuffle is carried out expeditiously.
It does not appear to be the orderly process that would have been preferred by the prime minister who handpicked Mr Somkid to lead his economic team initially.
This was highlighted only last weekend by Deputy PM Somkid himself when he noted that it was essential that the process of any cabinet reshuffle went smoothly for the good of the economy.
We will have to wait for Thursday’s press conference but we can only conclude the deputy PM is trying to clear the way for a new team and giving the prime minister full scope to act, given the urgency of the economic situation.