Mr Prayut Chan-o-cha’s new government is expected to be sworn in at the end of this month, the next milestone in an eventful period for Thailand. The country’s general election in March, the first in eight years, was followed by the coronation last month of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the head of state and a figure of unparalleled influence in the nation riven by a 13-year-old political divide. The new dispensation acquires shape as China expands its Belt and Road projects while the United States prepares to mend bilateral ties, disrupted after the 2014 coup, with its major non-Nato ally.
“Thank you. Everything is the same,” Mr Prayut told reporters a day after the bicameral Parliament voted him in as Prime Minister. Yet, his second term will present sharper challenges. The economy recovered under the junta after the choppy years of the Yingluck Shinawatra government. Last year’s growth rate of 4.1 per cent was the highest in six years. But to be on a more surefooted path, the government will need to halt the trend of declining foreign investment and recover from the fall in competitiveness and ease of doing business rankings. Growth dipped in the first quarter of this year, reflecting slowing exports as well as a sluggish tourism sector. South-east Asia’s second-largest economy needs, above all, a quiet period in which to make its next moves.