Thai finance minister resigns from troubled post-coup gov’t

By Ambika Ahuja BANGKOK, Thailand, AP

Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Pridiyathorn Devakula abruptly resigned Wednesday, quitting the troubled government that took power after a September coup ousted Thaksin Shinawatra and casting further doubt on Thailand’s economic policy.

Pridiyathorn, who has faced widespread criticism for policies that spooked foreign investors, said his resignation from both posts would take effect Thursday.

In a hastily called news conference, Pridiyathorn was vague about the reasons for his departure. But he cited differences of opinion with Cabinet ministers, whom he declined to name, and said he felt uncomfortable working alongside people with links to Thaksin’s administration.

“I don’t want to work under the influence of some people whose behavior is not entirely transparent, especially some ministers,” he said.

“People with links to the previous government still hold political office,” he said. “I don’t want to work under circumstances in which there are hidden agendas and influences.”

Pridiyathorn, the former central bank governor and a U.S.-trained economist, was initially considered one of the most respected members of the Cabinet appointed by military-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

After getting an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, he spent the next three decades in the country’s commercial banking sector including the Thai Farmer Bank, Export-Import Bank of Thailand before becoming the country’s central bank chief in 2001.

But once in office Pridiyathorn struggled to save face after a run of bungled policies and embarrassing reversals.

He and the Central Bank faced a barrage of criticism after imposing capital controls in late December that triggered a 15 percent plunge in the main stock index. Authorities then rescinded some of the curbs.