Srettha Thavisin (Thai: เศรษฐา ทวีสิน, RTGSSettha Thawisin, pronounced [sèːt.tʰǎː tʰā.wīː.sǐn]; born 15 February 1962), nicknamed Nid (Thai: นิด, RTGS: Nit, pronounced [nít]), is a Thai politician and real estate developer who is serving as the prime minister of Thailand since 22 August 2023.[1] He was previously the chief executive and president of Sansiri.[2]

Srettha Thavisin
เศรษฐา ทวีสิน
Srettha in 2023
30th Prime Minister of Thailand
Assumed office
22 August 2023
See list
Preceded byPrayut Chan-o-cha
Minister of Finance
Assumed office
1 September 2023
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byArkhom Termpittayapaisith
Personal details
Born (1962-02-15) 15 February 1962 (age 61)
Bangkok, Thailand
Political partyPheu Thai
(m. 1989)
Residence(s)Government House, Bangkok

He co-founded Sansiri in 1988, which later became one of Thailand's largest real estate developers, leading Srettha to become a property tycoon and billionaire.[3] He is a known confidant of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Early life and education edit

Srettha Thavisin was born on 15 February 1962[4] in Bangkok, Thailand. Born into a wealthy family, he is the only son of Captain Amnuay Thavisin and Chodchoi Jutrakul.[5][6] Srettha is related to 5 Chinese-Thai business families: Yip in Tsoi, Chakkapak, Jutrakul, Lamsam and Buranasiri.[7] He completed his primary education at Srinakharinwirot University's Prasarnmit Demonstration School in Bangkok.[8] Before going to the United States, he received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Chulalongkorn University.[9] He then graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics from University of Massachusetts Amherst.[10] He received his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Finance from Claremont Graduate University.[11]

Business career edit

After graduating in 1986, he became an assistant product manager at Procter & Gamble for 4 years.[12][6] He later co-founded Sansiri in 1988, which became one of the largest real estate developers in Thailand.[13] Under his leadership, the company has developed over 400 residential projects.

On 12 March 2013, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra opened Thailand 2020: Thailand’s New Step to the World Expo in Chaeng Watthana government complex, which highlighted planned investments by the government totaling to 2-trillion baht.[14] Srettha visited the expo when he had finished inspecting one of his residential development projects nearby, and then encouraged others working at Sansiri to visit the expo due to its persumed affect on real-estate. Srettha was a suporter of the initiative despite concerns from the public over its funding and the amount of debt it would cause. This would be similar to his digital wallet scheme he would advocate for once becoming Prime Minister. Srettha would write positively on the project in early 2019.[15]

Due to Srettha's management, Sansiri continued to grow even during the COVID-19 pandemic.[16] In 2020, he bought the corner of Sarasin road near Lumphini Park in Bangkok for ฿3.9 million per square wah (4m²), one of the most expensive land purchases in Thailand's history. Also in 2020, he acquired a 15% stake in XSpring Capital Public Company Limited. Due to Thai electoral laws, Srettha could not own or have shares in any company while holding an elected position. Because of this, on 8 March 2023, he transferred all his shares to his daughter, Chanada Thavisin, including his shares in Sansiri, which amounted to 4.4% of the company.[17]

On 17 August 2023, Chuvit Kamolvisit brought a complaint to Surachate Hakparn to investigate Srettha's handling of the purchase of land in Bangkok in 2019, in which he accused Srettha and his former company Sansiri of being complicit in tax evasion.[18] In turn, Srettha filed a defamation a ฿500 million lawsuit against Chuvit's comments on the Sarasin case made in a press conference on 3 August.[19]

Political career edit

Srettha giving an interview during the campaign in 2023

Srettha has strong relationships with Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra, both former prime ministers of Thailand. He was one of the three prime ministerial candidates of the Pheu Thai Party alongside Thaksin's youngest daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, and a former Attorney General of Thailand, Chaikasem Nitisiri, in the 2023 Thai general election.[12]

During the 2013–2014 Thai political crisis, Srettha opposed the People's Democratic Reform Committee. After the 2014 coup, he was forced to report to the National Council for Peace and Order at the Royal Thai Army auditorium.[5]

2023 election edit

In November 2022, he announced he would seek membership with the Pheu Thai Party.[20] During the 2023 Thai general elections, he was selected as one of Pheu Thai's three prime-ministerial candidates on 5 April 2023. He was regularly behind the other Pheu Thai candidate, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, in the polls as the preferred prime minister. He began his campaign in Khlong Toei in Bangkok, while he made his first speech in Phichit province. In mid-April in Loei province, he gave a speech where he said that Pheu Thai would not form a coalition with Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation due to their involvement in the 2014 coup.[5]

After the election on 14 May, Pheu Thai received the second most seats behind Move Forward Party, eventually forming a coalition with Move Forward and 6 other parties.[21] However, Pita Limjaroenrat failed to secure enough votes in the first round of parliamentary voting on 13 July.[22] Pita's second nomination was subsequently blocked on 19 July.

Pheu Thai subsequently formed a new coalition without Move Forward, which expanded on 7 August to include the Bhumjaithai Party.[23] The coalition then expanded again to include Palang Pracharath Party and United Thai Nation Party, in contrast to their election promise, with Srettha calling it necessary.[24][25][26]

Following the Constitutional Court of Thailand's dismissal of a petition from the ombudsman to investigate the constitutionality of Parliament's rejection of Pita, another round of parliamentary voting took place on 22 August,[27][28] in which Srettha delivered a speech to the Parliament of Thailand outlining his goals as prime minister before answering questions.[29] His bid was supported by Thaksin Shinawatra.[30] Srettha was elected by Parliament to become the 30th Prime Minister of Thailand[31] after being nominated by Pheu Thai. From both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Srettha won 482 votes out of a combined 728 votes.[32]

Prime Minister of Thailand (2023–present) edit

Government formation edit

Srettha was elected by the parliament to be the country's next prime minister on 22 August 2023. He has a duty to prepare to form a cabinet and present policies to the parliament about working for the next four years.[33]

On 23 August, the King endorsed Srettha Thavisin to become the 30th Prime Minister of Thailand.[34] The endorsement document was posted on the Royal Gazette's website.[1] At the event, Srettha also gave his first speech as Prime Minister.[35]

On 5 September, he was sworn in as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance by King Vajiralongkorn along with the rest of his cabinet at the Amphon Sathan Residential Hall in Dusit Palace, Bangkok.[36] The Srettha cabinet is made up of 34 ministers across six parties in the coalition,[37] including ministers who previously served under Prayut Chan-o-cha.[3] Following his swearing in, Srettha said his cabinet would begin working immediately.

Domestic affairs edit

Srettha meets with U.S. Ambassador Robert F. Godec at Pheu Thai Party headquarters in 2023

On 8 September, Srettha visited Khon Kaen, Udon Thani and Nong Khai provinces in Thailand's northeast in a way similar to how Taksin had during his premiership. In addition, all three provinces are important bases of support for the Pheu Thai party and his visit was accompanied by several ministers.[38] In all three provinces, Srettha discussed problems with locals.[39] In Khon Kaen, he visited Ubol Ratana Dam which suffers from droughts, and told the media that agriculture was a priority to his government.[38] In particular, he is aiming to increase yield of farmers in the area by 50%.[40] In Nong Khai, he discussed shipping between Thailand and China.[39]

Economy edit

On 11 September, Srettha delivered the cabinet's policy statement to parliament which addressed the cabinet's plan to tackle the issues of the nation. Despite high expectations from economic, labor and business groups, the policy statement came under heavy scrutiny from opposition parties and the media. Move Forward Party deputy leader and chief economist Sirikanya Tansakul criticised Srettha and the Pheu Thai-led government's policy statement to parliament as being vague and lacking goals or timeframes. "This policy statement is no different from a document released earlier. It does not elaborate. There are only broad words but no indicators... If it was a GPS signal, the country would be lost" Sirikanya said, citing the lack of difference from the draft version of the statement that was leaked earlier.[36][41][42][43]

Infrastructure edit

Srettha's government renewed interests in shortening travel through the Strait of Malacca through the Kra Isthmus. Srettha aims to develop a land bridge which would see deep-sea ports in Chumphon and Ranong, connected by rail and roads, totalling around ฿1 trillion.[44] Part of the Southern Economic Corridor, the project is designed in two phases, with phase one expected to be completed around 2030 and phase two by 2039. Once completed, it will be able to handle 20 million cargo containers each year.[45]

The project was approved by his cabinet on 16 October.[45] During his visit to the United States for APEC and the 2023 Belt and Road Forum, he sought American and Chinese investment.[46][47]

Tourism edit

Srettha has also focused on reviving Thailand's tourism sector. On 25 September, Thailand began visa exemptions for Chinese and Kazakh tourists, coinciding with Golden Week and Chinese New Year. With the Chinese ambassador to Thailand, Han Zhiqiang, Srettha welcomed the first flight from China since the exemption from Shanghai at Suvarnabhumi airport.[48][49] The policy will be active to 29 February 2024.[50] However, following the shooting at Siam Paragon, confidence among Chinese tourists dropped. According to the government spokeswoman, Chai Wacharonke, 650,000 Chinese visitors had registerred to visit Thailand, but following the shooting it dropped to 590,000.[51]

On 17 October, his cabinet approved extending the visa-free stay of Russians from 30-days to 90-days.[52] This comes as Russia enters the winter, and tourism in Thailand reaches the high season. Russians are currently the fifth most frequent visitor to Thailand, and the most frequent from Europe. The extension will begin in November and last until April 2024.[51] This coincided with a meeting with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.[52]

Visa exemptions were again extended to Indian and Taiwanese travellers from 10 November 2023 to 10 May 2024. India is the 4th largest source of tourists to Thailand.[53]

As a result of visa-exemptions and further opening up from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced on 3 November that high-season flights to Thailand had rebounded over 80% of 2019 numbers.[54]

Digital wallet scheme edit

Into the 2023 election, the Pheu Thai party campaigned on delievering a digital wallet scheme which would see every Thai over 16-years old receiving a ฿10,000 handout from the government that must be spent within a 4km radius of their address within six months.[55] The scheme would cost the government ฿560 billion,[56] in order to cover 54.8 million eligible citizens.[57] Since becoming Prime Minister, Srettha has continued support of the policy despite widespread criticism. Pheu Thai has called the scheme as a "resuscitation" of the Thai economy.[56] Srettha has also said that his government will listen to criticism on the scheme and use public input.[57] Economists from the Bank of Thailand, Thailand's central bank, have since criticised the scheme, saying that it risks long-term implications for Thailand's future. Former Finance Minister under Abhisit Vejjajiva, Korn Chatikavanij, who served during the Great Recession has also criticised the scheme for its lack of details.[55]

A committee for the scheme has been established.[56] During a visit to Phitsanulok province on 15 October, Srettha said his government plans to rollout the scheme in February 2024.[57]

Electric vehicle industry edit

During his visit to New York on 21 September 2023, Srettha held a meeting with Elon Musk to discuss Tesla investment in Thailand, which he plans to continue discussions in November. Srettha has consistently aimed for bigger investments into the Thai electric vehicle industry from companies like Tesla.[58] Following his visit to Malaysia on 11 October, Srettha said that the Malaysian automotive company Proton and its Chinese partner Geely were considering establishing electric vehicle plants in Thailand.[59][60]

Cannabis edit

Srettha has said it would change its government policy on cannabis, limiting it only to medical use.[61] Cannabis had previously been decriminalized by Prayut Chan-o-cha on 9 June 2022.[62] In Pheu Thai's campaign for the 2023 elections, the party campaigned on an anti-drug basis.[63] In a interview with Bloomberg in New York in September 2023, he said his government will aim to rectify its previous cannabis policy and cannabis dispensaries within six months.[64] Pheu Thai coalition partner, Bhumjaithai Party led by Anutin Charnvirakul, has instead aimed to introduce a bill that would place tighter monitoring on the cannabis industry but not to the extent of reclassifying it as a drug.[63] Srettha has also said that his coalition has a common agreement that its cannabis policy needs to be rewritten.[65]

Guns edit

Following the Siam Paragon shooting in Bangkok on 3 October, Srettha joined a minute of silence the next day at Siam Paragon where he then said, "Let this be the only time this happens. My government insists we will give priority to preventive measures". He then spoke to Han Zhiqiang where he promised high safety measures for tourists.[66] By 12 October, police had seized over 2,000 illegal guns, 75,000 bullets and made 1,593 arrests following a three-day national crackdown ordered by Srettha. Along with the crackdown, Srettha's Interior Minister suspended the trading and importation of firearms.[67]

Military edit

On 30 October, Sutin Klungsang said that the Srettha government will lift the emergency decree imposed on the southern provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat since 2005 due to a seperatist insurgency.[68]

Thailand had been hoping to purchase a Yuan-class submarine from China since 2017 under Prayut Chan-o-cha, but as Germany unable to export the engines intended for Chinese military use, Thailand instead decided to proceed with ordering a frigate. However, Sutin Klungsang has said that the submarine deal was not cancelled, but instead paused.[69]

Foreign affairs edit

Srettha giving a speech at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2023
Srettha meeting with Thai Americans in New York City on 21 September 2023

On 21 September, Srettha held a virtual meeting with Elon Musk in New York City to discuss the electric vehicle industry and Tesla investment in Thailand.[70][71] He also met with representatives of Estee Lauder, Google and Microsoft in order to increase foreign investments into Thailand,[72] with Srettha saying that Thailand had been "falling behind Vietnam" when it came to free trade agreements.[73] Srettha said on 24 September that Thailand is expected to receive $5 billion from Google, Microsoft and Tesla in investments.[74] Srettha gave his first speech to the United Nations at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 22 September.[75] In the speech, he highlighted Thailand's wishes to cooperate with other countries and to strengthen their own democracy.[76] The same day, he met with executives of the New York Stock Exchange to discuss his government's economic policies. Before leaving, he rang the bell to start the trading session.[77][78]

He has also been leading Thailand's bid to apply to the United Nations Human Rights Council as ASEAN's candidate for the 2025 to 2027 term.[75]

On 9 October, he began his visit to Hong Kong where he met with John Lee Ka-chiu, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.[79] His trip to Hong Kong is part of a tour to encourage investment in Thailand.[80] Then on 10 October, Srettha visited Brunei and was received by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah at the Istana Nurul Iman palace, and both spoke of closer Brunei-Thailand relations.[81] They also spoke of the two countries' cooperation in food security, where Thailand plans to increase its food exports to Brunei.[82][83] He then flew to Kuala Lumpur to hold bilateral talks with Malaysia,[84] where he discussed bilaterial relations on investment, trade, food, tourism and security with Prime-minister Anwar Ibrahim,[85] as well as securing Thai hostages taken by Hamas.[86] On 12 October, he then visited Singapore where he discussed renewable energy, investment and food security with Prime-minister Lee Hsien Loong.[87] Srettha visited China from 16 to 19 October, where he attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.[88] On the sidelines of the forum on 17 October, he met with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Together they discussed boosting trade and cultural ties between Russia and Thailand. Srettha then invited Putin to visit Thailand in 2024, saying "President Putin likes Phuket, I understand he travels often." According to the Bangkok Post, the invitation was accepted by Putin. Thailand is not a ratified signatory of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and is not obliged to arrest Putin following the arrest warrant issued by the ICC on 17 March 2023.[89][90]

His visit to Laos on 29 October came as part of a plan between Laos and Thailand to strengthen bilateral trade to $11 billion USD by 2025.[91] Along with Laos, Srettha's government aims to construct a new railway over the Mekong by atleast 2026. To also strenghten cross infrastructure, Srettha and the Lao PM Sonexay Siphandone opened Khamsavath station which is part of a new line to Nong Khai and is expected to be opened by 2024.[92]

Foreign policy edit

2023 Israel-Hamas war

In response to the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Srettha denounced the actions of Hamas, as well as the kidnapping of Thai citizens by Hamas. In response, he ordered the Royal Thai Air Force to begin evacuations of Thai citizens with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[93] The first evacuated group, which consists of 15 Thais, arrived back in Thailand on 12 October.[94]

During the United Nations General Assembly Resolution ES-10/21 on 27 October, Thailand voted in favour of a ceasefire.[95]

Thailand has also been working with Jordan, Egypt and Malaysia for the release of Thais taken by Hamas.[94] The conflict has resulted in the death of 24 Thai nationals.[96]

Myanmar civil war

On 15 October 2023, on the eighth anniversary of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement signed in 2015 between the government of Myanmar and ethnic insurgent groups, Thailand reaffirmed its support to the ceasefire that was broken by the Myanmar military junta in 2021.[97][98]

Thailand was set to hold the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on 30 November, but as since postponed the event, as well as suspending Min Aung Hlaing's invitation.[99]

Political positions edit

Social issues edit

Srettha has frequently supported former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.[100] In 2010, he wore a red shirt with Thaksin's face on it after being selected as the head of the Royal Bangkok Polo club's football team. He has also criticised then-prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand and supported the pro-democracy 2021–2022 protests. During his 2023 campaign, he stated he would not lead a Pheu Thai government that was in a coalition with United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharat.[6] However, when he was sworn in as Prime Minister, his coalition cabinet consisted both parties.[101]

Srettha identifies as a liberal on social issues.[102] Srettha has stated that he is opposed to conscription.[5] Additionally, he is a supporter of environmental sustainability and LGBTQ rights.[103][20] However, he is opposed to amending the lèse-majesté laws to maintain support from the parties which Pheu Thai formed a coalition government with.[104]

Economics edit

In a 2023 interview with FAROSE, Srettha clarified his positions on economic issues. He stated that he believes in "capitalism with empathy". As an ex-CEO and businessman who recently entered politics, he believes that capitalism and empathy for the poor can go hand in hand. He stated that "The various problems that come with economic disparity and social inequality should be discussed with empathy and understanding." With Pheu Thai, he has pledged to stimulate the economy and combat poverty through raising the minimum wage and implementing a ฿10,000 'digital wallet' scheme.[102]

Personal life edit

He is married to Pakpilai Thavisin, a specialist in anti-aging medicine.[105] They have two sons, Napat Thavisin and Warat Thavisin, and one daughter, Chananda Thavisin.[6] He is a collector of classic travel trunks, such as those made by Louis Vuitton.[11] Srettha also is a supporter of Liverpool F.C., and also contributes to Sansiri Academy which trains football players in Thailand.[106]

Srettha stands 1.92 metres (6 ft 4 in) tall, making him the tallest leader within ASEAN and the third tallest in the world behind the Prime minister of Albania, Edi Rama who stands at 2.01 metres (6 ft 7 in) and the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, who stands at 1.98 metres (6 ft 6 in).[107]

Srettha frequently uses social media, especially on Twitter where he actively uses his account to post updates.[57]

References edit

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Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Thailand
Preceded by Minister of Finance