– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: The National Legislative Assembly yesterday voted unanimously for junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to be the 29th prime minister of Thailand.
He was the sole candidate for the job.
Prayuth was widely tipped to become the next prime minister after staging the coup in May. Before the assembly meeting yesterday, the only questions that remained were whether he would win unanimous approval or whether there would be other candidates.
Of the 197 NLA members, 191 voted for Prayuth while NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai and assembly vice presidents Surachai Liengboonlertchai and Peerasak Porchit abstained.
Three members were reportedly on sick leave.
Prayuth did not attend the meeting as he was not required to, and did not need to reveal his vision for the country. Instead, he attended a ceremony commemorating the 64th anniversary at the 21st Infantry Regiment of the Queen’s Guard in Chon Buri province.
An army of journalists arrived at Parliament early yesterday morning and there were a large number of security officers.
Before the meeting started, NLA members lined up for a group photo at 9am in a noticeably lively atmosphere, as members had got to know one other better through previous meetings.
Voting began at around 10 am, with Pornpetch detailing the voting procedures.
NLA member Tuang Antachai nominated Prayuth for the prime minister’s post, and the military-dominated assembly rushed to raise their hands to approve the proposal.
Pornpetch had to remind them that they still had to indicate their support on the electronic voting system.
The voting process went smoothly as members seemed to have collectively made up their mind.
The assembly president said he expected to submit Prayuth’s name as the new prime minister to His Majesty the King for royal endorsement later yesterday.
PHUKET: Economic advancement and integration into the Asean community are the great challenges for the Prime Minister-elect General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the country is on the edge of recession while the door to regional integration has already been opened, diplomatic and business figures have said.
They said economic matters must be the priority for Prayuth’s government since the economy had slowed since late last year when anti-government groups started the protests that ended with the coup on May 22.
“I think one of the priorities will be to manage the economy. With a stable Thai economy, the regional economy will also perform better,” an Asean diplomat told The Nation when asked for a reaction after the National Legislative Assembly yesterday voted for Prayuth to become prime minister.
“Hopefully the new government will continue to think about Thailand’s integration into Asean, and also about the larger regional strategic picture,” said the diplomat, on condition of anonymity.
Lyn Kok, president and chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank (Thai), said that Prayuth’s priority must be to restore the confidence of foreign investors. She said one way to do that was by pushing infrastructure projects that could attract foreign investment.
The prime minister-elect should also try to boost Thai competitiveness as it was facing more challenges from more competitors being driven by integration of the Asean Economic Community at the end of next year.
Kok said neighbouring countries were enhancing their competitiveness to deal with the AEC, so Thailand had to do the same.
Darren Buckley, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand, said foreign investors’ confidence in Thailand would not hurt by Prayuth becoming prime minister.
“The mix of the new Cabinet will be interesting since it is less obvious on what the set up is going to be, such as what is going to be the ratio of military personnel, and will there be a mixture of different political views within it,” he said.
Prayuth has not revealed his plan for the make up of the Cabinet. But it was reported that most ministers would come from the inner circle of the junta.
His deputies are tipped to become deputy prime ministers and ministers, taking care of key ministries.
Junta adviser Pridiyathorn Devakula is tipped to become a deputy prime minister overseeing economic matters while deputy junta chief Thanasak Patimaprakorn, a four-star general, could become foreign minister.
Stanley Kang, chair of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT), said foreign investors would be keeping an eye on the setting up of the new Cabinet and how it functioned.
Kang said everything seemed to be functional due to the respect that Prayuth had from the permanent secretaries and other government agencies. He was confident things would continue to run smoothly.
The JFCCT is due to meet with Prayuth in upcoming weeks to give its economic outlook for the next three to five years.
Sombat Kitjalaksana, managing director of Bangkok Metro Plc, said the junta had handled many challenges.
“I expect the rail system development, which is one of the biggest challenges facing the Prayuth government, will also be successful someday,” he said.
“Over the next 10 years, the country’s rail system will not be the same as it was in the past ten years. The rail system will be more systematic in terms of both the regulatory and business sphere.”
PHUKET: Business representatives say they are confident that the new prime minister, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, will drive the country’s economic growth.
Vallop Vitanakorn, vice chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said yesterday that the junta chief was suitable for the position of prime minister and his new post would help speed up the National Council for Peace and Order’s national reform effort along with restoring foreign confidence in the country.
He said the appointment of the new PM would improve governance, boost investment, and support the recovery of the tourism industry, since Prayuth would be working with a new cabinet to continue with the national reform effort. He is also expected to implement measures to stimulate the economy as proposed by the private sector.
Vallop said the 2015 budget bill would be the top priority of the new cabinet and it should pass the second and third readings with ease, which should help stimulate the economy through the expected increase in investment.
Boonsithi Chokwatana, chairman of the Saha Group, said he wanted the new government and prime minister to make exports a priority concern. The economy has not recovered yet and the new government should first promote a strong export sector and keep the currency more stable, albeit a bit weaker.
He said that at the time the junta seized power on May 22, the baht was trading at 32.9 against the US dollar. However, it has been getting st
— Phuket Gazette Editors