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Politics

Thai finance minister quits less than a month after inauguration

Prayuth's new economic team hits immediate roadblock as Predee departs

Thailand's Finance Minister Predee Daochai attends a photo session with new cabinet ministers at the Government House in Bangkok on August 13.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- Thailand's new finance minister resigned less than a month after his inauguration, creating an immediate roadblock for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's new economic team in its bid to salvage the kingdom from a coronavirus-induced recession.

Predee Daochai's abrupt resignation was announced on the Thai government's public journal Royal Gazette on Tuesday. The resignation is effective on Wednesday.

Predee's nomination as finance minister was approved on Aug. 6, and he was formally inaugurated in front of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Aug. 12. The 61-year-old cited health issues for his decision, according to government sources. His successor is yet to be named.

Predee quit as co-president of Kasikornbank, Thailand's fourth largest bank by assets, on July 24 to join Prayuth's administration. He was also the chairman of Thai Bankers' Association.

Along with Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, the former president of state-run petrochemical company PTT Global Chemical, Predee was appointed to supply the former junta chief's administration with private sector knowledge.

Thailand's gross domestic product shrank 12.2% on the year in the second quarter -- the biggest contraction since 1998, when the country was hit by the Asian Financial Crisis. The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council predicts a contraction of 7.3%-7.8% in 2020, which could be the worst slump in the country's history.

Prayuth's previous economic team, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and his faction that included former Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana and former Energy Minister Sonthirat Sonthijirawong, left their posts in mid July.

They said they departed to make it politically easy for Prayuth to reshuffle his cabinet. The weeks long political vacuum of economic ministers was criticized by the public, with people saying that ministers could not afford to be absent during the virus-induced crisis.

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