BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand was thrown into confusion on Wednesday over reports the government’s economic team, including the finance minister, were resigning, as Southeast Asia’s worst-performing economy struggles with the fallout from the coronavirus crisis.
Thai media reported that Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana and longtime economic policy czar Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak had resigned or were planning to resign their posts.
Asked about the reports, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters “I don’t know, I have not seen”.
Uttama quit the ruling party last week along with two other ministers amid rumours of an impending cabinet shakeup, but they all remained in their cabinet positions.
The ministers could not be reached for comment, and the government spokeswoman did not answer phone calls.
Sources in Prayuth’s ruling Palang Pracharat Party gave contradictory answers when contacted by Reuters.
Somkid is not a member of Palang Pracharat, but he has been considered the guiding economic advisor to Prayuth since shortly after the then-army chief overthrew an elected government in 2014.
Changes to the top economic team could further rattle Thailand’s economy as the government tries to mitigate damage from the coronavirus pandemic, with billions of dollars of stimulus measures being rolled out and big ticket investment projects already slowed.
Financial newspaper Than Settakij first reported on Wednesday afternoon that Somkid and two cabinet ministers had tendered their resignation to Prayuth.
It was followed by a similar report in Krungthep Turakij, another newspaper in the same media group.
Another daily newspaper, Matichon, said reports of the resignations were untrue, but later posted another story saying that Uttama had “revealed” he would hand in his resignation on Thursday morning.
Its sister financial paper Prachachart said the same group of ministers would hold a news conference on Thursday to explain their plans.
All of the newspapers cited anonymous sources.
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Martin Petty and Sonya Hepinstall)