Thailand’s top economic team resigned on July 16, paving the way for a reshuffle amid the challenge of recovering the country’s economy, hit hard by the Covid-19 epidemic.
The team of Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, Finance Minister Uttama Savanaya, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong and Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Suvit Maesincee-Minister submitted their resignation letter, along with Kobsak Pootrakul, deputy secretary-general of the prime minister.
“We see it’s the appropriate time to step aside … for Thailand to move forward … and relieve some political pressure. It was our own decision. We remain on good terms with the prime minister [Prayut Chan-ocha],” outgoing finance minister Uttama told reporters during a press conference.
“Am I hurt? No, there’s nothing to be hurt about … No matter what hat we are wearing, we are here to help Thai people,” he added.
The move comes after the recent change in leadership of the Palang Pracharath party, which named Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan as its new head.
Uttama, Sontirat, Suvit and Kobsak quit the party that leads the government coalition last week. They said they would continue working in their cabinet portfolios.
It was recently reported that Somkid and his team planned to set up a new political party or group, according to the Bangkok Post, but Uttama at the press conference said he had made no plans to do so.
In March, the Bank of Thailand said it expected the economy would shrink by 5.3% this year – the first contraction since the 2008 global financial crisis – due to the impact of the pandemic on various key sectors for the country, such as tourism and exports.
The government has approved billions of dollars worth of financial aid packages to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis, although financial uncertainty is one of the country’s major concerns.
Thailand, the first country to detect a case of Covid-19 outside of China, the epicenter of the pandemic, has so far managed to contain it by closing borders and with the extensive use of masks and social distancing, with 3,236 confirmed cases and 58 deaths.