Thai Premier Says He’s Considering Cabinet Reshuffle Amid ‘Crisis’

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Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha confirmed talks on a cabinet reshuffle will begin Thursday after three key ministers quit Thailand’s biggest ruling party.

“We’re facing an economic crisis. We have to continue working,” Prayuth said at a briefing on Thursday. “I ask you trust in the system I created. No matter who comes or goes, they’ll have to follow my rules.”

The new cabinet will have to deal with an economy facing its steepest contraction in more than two decades. Reliant on tourism and exports, Thailand is preparing for one of emerging Asia’s worst economic contractions this year, after the Covid-19 pandemic hurt travel and trade. The central bank predicts gross domestic product will shrink by a record 8.1%.

Earlier Thursday, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, Higher Education Minister Suvit Maesincee and Prime Minister’s Deputy Secretary-General Kobsak Pootrakool indicated they were resigning from the ruling party, Palang Pracharath.

“The technocrats that are in the position now might be replaced with politicians who aren’t as efficient in looking after the economy,” Punchada Sirivunnabood, a Thai politics expert at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. “The reshuffle doesn’t point to a weaker government, but it’s a risk because if the new cabinet can’t handle the economic challenges it could lead to the end of the administration and a new election.”

The upcoming reshuffle would be the first for Prayuth’s government after the election in 2019. Prayuth, the country’s former army chief, led a military coup in 2014. He ruled as the head of a junta for five years and returned as leader after a disputed election last year. His coalition has steadily tightened its grip on power after forming government.

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