Somkid Jatusripitak was most recently an economic adviser to Thailand’s governing National Council for Peace and Order. He previously served as deputy prime minister and commerce minister from 2001 to 2006 under the government of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawtra. Somkid was a proponent of so-called “Thaksinomics”— a controversial populist economic platform that focused on subsidy and welfare schemes for rural farmers.
He resigned from Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party three weeks after the prime minister was ousted in a 2006 coup and served as an adviser to the military government that replaced him. Somkid received a PhD in business administration from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Thammasat University.
Why is he in the news?
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha appointed Somkid deputy prime minister in charge of the economy in an August 20 cabinet reshuffle. He replaces Pridiyathorn Devakula, who is a member of Thailand’s royal family, in the hopes of reviving the stuttering economy.
What can we expect from him?
It remains to be seen whether Somkid’s unusual position as a former Thaksin official turned member of the junta government will make him an effective bridge-builder or ensure he is distrusted within political circles. But he clearly has the support of Prayuth, who noted that Somkid has helped the military government from the start. The regime’s decision to remove his political ban, which had been in place since 2006, and appoint him deputy prime minister suggests the junta is aware that the previous military-dominated cabinet was widely unpopular and change was needed to maintain public support.
Somkid will play a crucial role in attempts to revitalize the economy. The private sector has so far responded positively to his appointment, recalling that during Thaksin’s administration, Somkid promoted pro-trade and privatization policies that helped Thailand recover from the 1997 financial crisis. But he faces a stiff challenge in trying to drive the current economy, which grew at just 0.4 percent from April to June, far below the government’s target of 2.7-3.2 percent for the year. And most of that meager growth was driven by the tourism sector, which is now facing a slowdown following the August 17 bombing that left 20 people, mostly foreigners, dead at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine.