Former transport minister becomes new Thai finance minister

BANGKOK: Thailand has a new finance minister, its third in less than three months.

The appointment of Arkhom Termpittayapaisith was officially confirmed on Monday (Oct 5) with its publication in the government gazette, which carried a declaration by the prime minister saying King Maha Vajiralongkorn had endorsed the selection, which took effect on Oct 1.

The job presents a huge challenge as Thailand strives to cushion the devastating economic fallout from the coronavirus. The National Economic and Social Development Council, the country’s economic planning agency, has projected a 5 per cent contraction in the economy this year.

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Arkhom served as transport minister in the military government installed after a 2014 coup. Prayut Chan-o-cha, who served as prime minister in that regime, returned as prime minister after a general election last year. Before receiving a Cabinet position, Arkhom served as a member of the military government’s appointed National Legislative Assembly.

Arkhom had previously been secretary-general of the economic planning agency, which then was called the National Economic and Social Development Board.

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Arkhom’s immediate predecessor, banker Predee Daochai, resigned on Sep 1 after less than a month on the job. No official reason was given for his departure, though some Thai media reported it was for health reasons.

Predee had succeeded Uttama Savanayana, who as finance minister had been part of a team led by Somkid Jatusripitak, a deputy prime minister who had been overseeing economic stimulus packages.

Somkid’s team, which also included Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Suwit Mesinsee, resigned together in July.

Their departures were related to a shake-up in the ruling Palang Pracharath party. There were many reports that Somkid, who served in several governments over the past 19 years, was at odds with Prime Minister Prayut.