Economic team still has PM's support
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended the work of the government's economic team, cooling speculation that key ministers in the team will be purged in the next cabinet reshuffle.
Emerging from the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Gen Prayut responded to a reporter's question on whether he had conveyed moral support to the economic team, especially Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana.
Speculation grew at the weekend that Mr Uttama and other economic ministers in the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) may not be in the cabinet if and when a reshuffle takes place in the near future.
The catalyst was the ruling party's general assembly on Saturday, during which Mr Uttama was replaced as PPRP leader and Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong as party secretary-general. They also lost their places on the party executive board as talk swirled in the party over the possibility of government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat serving on the PPRP's economic panel and becoming a candidate for the finance portfolio.
However, leading PPRP figures have clarified that party's economic panel and the government's economic team are separate entities.
This was interpreted as an indication that the ministerial posts held by Mr Uttama and Mr Sontirat might will be taken away from them. The government's economic team is led by Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. However, Gen Prayut said yesterday he has no problem with the economic ministers.
"What do I have to speak with them [the economic ministers] for? They have worked well with me all this time.
"What takes place in the party stays as a party affair," the prime minister said.
Gen Prayut also vowed to punish state officials who have reportedly 'given up' on their jobs as a result of anticipating a changing of the guard in the economic team.
Chaiwut Thamakamanusorn, a PPRP executive, said several capable people who are not members of the party were eager to be part of the government's economic team, but were reluctant to step forward because Mr Somkid still headed the team.
"I think Mr Somkid should go. That way we can have a wider variety of people filling the economic posts," he said.
Mr Chaiwut said he believed Gen Prayut would consider replacing other economic ministers as well.
At the first meeting of the new PPRP executive board yesterday, party secretary-general Anucha Nakasai said capable people in the PPRP, including Ms Narumon, deserve a chance to work for the country.