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Thailand’s Army Turns Its Attention to State Enterprises

A cleaning woman sweeps in front of the Government house, the complex where offices of country's prime minister and other officials are located, in Bangkok on Saturday. Reuters

A cleaning woman sweeps in front of the Government house, the complex where offices of country’s prime minister and other officials are located, in Bangkok on Saturday. Reuters

Company Heads Told to Submit Reviews, Business Plans and Get Option to Resign

BANGKOK – Thailand’s ruling military on Saturday gave the heads of the country’s largest state enterprises, many of them affiliated with the ousted civilian government, a two-day deadline to submit a review of their operations and invited them to resign if they wished.

Just over a week since the army ousted Thailand’s caretaker government and suspended the constitution, military chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has been under pressure to lay out plans for reviving a spluttering economy in which state enterprises play a significant role in sectors ranging from banking to transport and energy.

The heads of many companies were named by the previous administration and have been instructed to justify their positions to the junta.

Fifty-six state enterprises were represented at the meeting, where their chiefs were told to summarize operations and identify any problems that needed urgent attention. They were ordered to submit work and investment plans for next year to the military’s economic team by noon on Monday. The plans will be reviewed and submitted on Tuesday for final approval by the ruling military council.

he company heads were told to review their personal performance and were given an option to resign. None was ordered outright to step down. State enterprises will be required to freeze appointments of senior officers until work plans have been clarified, the army said, and each corporate head was told to consider whether a change in board members would help boost efficiency.

“The appointment of personnel at any state enterprise should consider only knowledgeable and capable individuals whose works are transparent and open for inspection,” said Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, the new regime’s economic czar, who led the meeting. “They should promote good governance and strive to achieve Thailand’s economic strength and stability.”

Among companies represented were oil and gas giant PTT PCL, which is 51% owned by the Finance Ministry, and the Government Savings Bank, which provides retail banking services across the country.

The military intends to review all state projects that had been put on hold by the previous caretaker government, Air Chief Marshal Prajin told reporters after the meeting.

Nearly seven months of political unrest has stalled Thailand’s economy, which contracted 2.1% in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter. The junta says it intends to stabilize the badly shaken economy and has begun to lay out an economic plan which targets 6.3% growth in 2015.

As is common in Thailand, several of the enterprises represented at the meeting had executives or chairmen affiliated with previous administrations. Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, chairman of PTT, and Choojira Kongkaeow, chairwoman of the Government Savings Bank, were appointed by the populist administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. An embattled Ms. Yingluck was removed from office by a court in May for alleged abuse of power.

Mr. Parnpree was formerly a deputy leader in Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party while Ms. Choojira’s husband is close to former Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, brother-in-law of Ms. Yingluck and of Thaksin Shinawatra, the anchor of their family dynasty. Mr. Thaksin was toppled as premier in a coup in 2006.

Air Chief Marshal Prajin gave no indication of any particular individuals being targeted for removal.

The lines between Thailand’s political, military and business elite are often fuzzy. Air Chief Marshal Prajin is also on the board of PTT as an independent director. At Saturday’s meeting, he said he would oversee state enterprises in energy, transport, communications and utilities. Deputy economic chief Gen. Chatchai Sarikalaya will take responsibility for financial institutions, industry, information and communication technology, agriculture and natural resources, Air Chief Marshal Prajin said.

Write to Nopparat Chaichalearmmongkol at nopparat.chaichalearmmongkol@wsj.com

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