BANGKOK — PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday said the rumors that his economy minister resigned out of his disillusionment with nepotism, chronic incompetence, and a mess of internal politics – just to name a few – is definitely untrue.
Gen. Prayut said Predee Daochai, who held the position of Finance Minister for only 21 days, resigned due to health reasons. He also said the abrupt departure will not affect the government’s efforts to pull Thai economy back towards recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s because of health reasons. He had a stroke before,” Prayut said. “Everything stays on and there’s still someone driving the economy, including the deputy minister and myself. So, I ask those who spread the word to stop damaging the country and rest assured that the government can continue to work.”
Preedee’s resignation came as a serious blow to the Prayut administration, which is already reeling from the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic.
The 61-year-old banking veteran was handpicked by Prayut to run the country’s economy in August, replacing longtime finance advisor Somkid Jatusripitak.
Prayut said he will find his new economic tsar in the meantime, but he did not specify the time frame.
However, the spokesman of the opposition Phue Thai Party said he did not believe that Predee’s departure was caused by his personal illness, but rather because he was sick of the system or his colleagues.
“Health problems alone should not be enough to lead to the resignation,” Anusorn Iamsa-ard said. “Maybe it’s because the conflict over the appointment of the new chief of the Excise Department, the conflict over the restructuring of state enterprises, or the conflict over his attempt to reorganize ministerial procurements.”
“Whatever the reason is, the government should give answers to the people,” Anusorn continued. “This country is not a toy. His resignation may not be the last if the PM allows the internal conflict within the Phalang Pracharath Party to affect the Cabinet.”
Pheu Thai whip Sutin Klungsang also poured cold water on the current administration, suggesting that it was the country’s negative financial figures that led to Predee’s resignation.
“I don’t believe that there’s a problem over official appointments,” Sutin said. “It’s more about the country’s financial records. This resignation will shake up the investment climate. It’s a big issue for the government to think of ways to regain confidence.”
Word on Government House also has it that Preedee, a former CEO of Kasikorn Bank, was upset at the unchecked favoritism and incompetence within the government, Khaosod English has learned.
But those rumors were denied by Predee’s deputy, Santi Prompat, who said Predee was under constant pressure from his work, and added that there was no disagreement.
“There were issues for him to solve for the people 24/7. He told me that he was stressed,” Santi said. “I confirm that there’s no conflict over the appointment since it was the minister’s sole power.”
When asked whether he will accept the finance minister position himself, Santi said it depends on the PM or deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan to decide.
“I’m ready to move this country forward,” he said. “I was the transport and social development minister in the past, so I believe I have the expertise and immunity against the work pressure.”
The finance ministry predicted that the country’s tourism-dependent economy will contract by 8.5 percent this year, while the baht currency already fell almost 4 percent against the dollar this year.