BANGKOK (AFP) – Thailand’s army-installed premier said Thursday he would reshuffle his cabinet as he struggles to find a replacement for finance minister Pridiyathorn Devakula, who abruptly resigned.
“Give me three to four days to make my decision. I think by next week I will have a clear answer on how I will reshuffle my cabinet,” Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told reporters.
Surayud said he had asked Kosit Panpiemras, industry minister and deputy prime minister, to oversee the finance ministry until a final decision is made on Pridiyathorn’s replacement.
Pridiyathorn on Wednesday made the surprise announcement that he was resigning immediately, following a series of policy blunders that have battered Thailand’s economy.
Surayud declined to answer questions about how big a reshuffle he was contemplating, amid calls for him to overhaul his cabinet to restore confidence in the military-installed government.
There was no clear front runner to replace Pridiyathorn, but the head of the Export-Import Bank of Thailand, Virabongsa Ramangkura, was widely tipped in Thai media as a contender.
Since the military seized power in a bloodless coup in September, the new government has made a succession of missteps that have weakened the stock market and spooked foreign investors, raising fears of a general economic slowdown.
Pridiyathorn has received much of the blame for those problems, but his resignation cast doubt on the fate of the entire government and raised questions about Surayud’s leadership abilities.
The Nation, one of Thailand’s leading dailies that had championed the coup, questioned whether Surayud would be able to hold the government together.
“We expect to see a major cabinet reshuffle, which could start from the top,” the paper said.
The Bank of Thailand wasted little time in undoing the most damaging of the economic policies instituted in recent months, and on Thursday relaxed the remaining capital controls that had been imposed in December.
Pridiyathorn had strongly backed the controls, even though they sparked panic selling on the Thai stock market that resulted in the biggest one-day fall in the history of the bourse.
The sell-off forced the Bank to quickly reverse many of the controls, but the damage to investor confidence was already done and has yet to rebound.