Thailand’s Cabinet was reshuffled on Thursday, with a new finance minister and two new deputy prime ministers named at a time when the country is struggling to cope with the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reshuffle of prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s one-year-old Cabinet, involving seven people and eight portfolios, was published in the Royal Gazette after being endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
It was the first shakeup since the restoration of quasi-civilian rule followed a leadership change in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party in June amid intraparty feuding.
Predee Daochai, former chair of the Thai Bankers’ Association and former CEO of leading private bank Kasikornbank, is Thailand’s new finance minister.
He replaces Uttama Savanayana, who was resigned last month along with other key ministers including then deputy prime minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversaw economic policy.
In the new Cabinet, Supattanapong Punmeechaow, former director of PTT Global Chemical, has been given the dual posts of energy minister and deputy prime minister in charge of economic matters.
Incumbent Foreign minister Don Pramudwinai has also been appointed as a deputy prime minister.
Among other new faces is Anucha Nakasai, secretary general of the ruling Palang Pracharath party, who was named as minister to the prime minister’s Office, Suchart Chomklin, a legislator from the same party who became labour minister, and former Cabinet spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat, who became Suchart’s deputy.
Academic-turned-politician Anek Laothamatas, who is a leader of the Action Coalition Party in the coalition government, became minister for higher education, science, research and innovation.
Thailand’s central bank predicts that the country’s economy will shrink by a record 8.1 percent this year following the spreading of novel coronavirus globally.
Prayut said that he will be the one to lead the new economic team, though he is prepared to listen to suggestions on how to steer Thailand out of the COVID-19 crisis that has taken a severe toll on Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
The retired general came to power in a 2014 military coup when he was army chief. His current, military-leaning government was formed a year ago following a long-delayed general election held in March 2019.