PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha expects his new Cabinet line-up to improve the government's image, boost foreign economic relations and help open up new export markets.
The premier also told a gathering of more than 350 Japanese businessmen in Thailand that the amount of trade and investment between Thailand and neighbouring countries will further expand from next year due to a number of favourable factors.
Speaking at the "Prime Minister meets Japanese Businessmen" event held by the Thai-Japanese Association yesterday evening, he said Thailand and neighbouring countries - namely Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (the CLMV region) - will benefit from the government's policy promoting the setting up of special economic zones along its borders and the Thailand-Plus-One policy adopted by Japanese firms, in which Thailand will become a centre for investment in the CLMV region.
Top executives from Japanese companies such as Sumitomo, Toshiba, Sony, Mitsui, Marubeni, and Itochu attended the event. Prayut said the Dawei deep-sea port and industrial estate projects in Myanmar, near Kanchanaburi, will also facilitate trade and investment growth in the region, which will be better linked by the Mekong-India Economic Corridor Development scheme supported by Japan.
The premier said the growth momentum would be driven by rapid development of logistics facilities and transport infrastructure - highways, railways, sea and air transport - to boost competitiveness and lower transport costs.
In addition, he said the government is promoting the setting up of international headquarters and trading centres in Thailand with various promotional privileges from the Board of Investment (BoI).
Prayut highlighted the BoI's "One Start One Stop Investment Centre", which he said provides faster services to foreign firms wanting to do business in Thailand. He said: "I have laid down the foundation for higher value investment projects in Thailand to help the country avoid the middle-income trap with greater emphasis on research and development. I hope the new Cabinet will also boost business confidence and Japanese firms should also study the business opportunities that will be created by Thailand's investment programme over the next eight years.
"We are also working on a new public/private partnership [PPP] law to attract more Thai and foreign investors to join the government's various investment projects. I think Thailand can focus on connectivity in ASEAN [thanks to the country's geographic location]."
Kalin Sarasin, president of the Thai-Japanese Association, said the government would have to restore Japanese investor confidence in the Thai economy following Monday's deadly blast at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine.
He said the new Cabinet, especially its economic team led by Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, should also help boost confidence. He said Japanese and other foreign investors hope the new economic team will continue policies and projects initiated earlier, especially the policy to promote the establishment of international headquarters in Thailand.
Foreign businessmen are awaiting details of this policy, as they want to compare its privileges with those provided by Malaysia or Singapore, according to Kalin.
Earlier yesterday, Prayut said his new Cabinet would try to improve the well-being of low-income earners, while admitting that military generals were removed from economic ministries in the reshuffle to improve the government's image. Three generals - Tanasak Patimaprakorn, ADM Narong Pipatanasai, and ACM Prajin Junthong - are now only deputy prime ministers.
Prayut said he was fine with the criticism directed at him by former deputy prime minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, who said the premier had resorted to a "divide and rule" tactic with the new Cabinet line-up, as he wanted former ministers to be advisers who will check the work of the new ministers.
Government spokesperson Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd insisted that the premier would never use such a tactic.
General Wilas Arunsri, secretary-general to the PM, said he had delivered a letter to Pridiyathorn thanking him for his service and offering him an advisory post.
Pridiyathorn began packing his belongings at Government House yesterday after losing his position in the reshuffle. Former deputy PM Yutthawong had already done that.