Thai PM asks billionaires for help solving virus crisis

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand’s leader said he will appeal directly to the country’s 20 wealthiest people for assistance in overcoming the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a televised address on Friday that the government alone cannot solve the health and economic challenges posed by the pandemic, so other sectors should join what he called “Team Thailand”.

A business council advising his government warned this week that as many as 10 million Thais could lose their jobs in the next few months if the crisis doesn’t ease.

“The first thing I will do next week is to send an open letter to the 20 richest people in Thailand to ask them to tell me, as they are respected elders of our society, how they will help us and how they will help Thailand more,” Prayuth said.

He said the country’s billionaires have a tremendous influence on its economy and are wealthy even by international standards, so they could play important roles in Team Thailand.

A child wearing a face mask has his temperature checked as people receive food support in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat. PHOTO: AFP

The list of Thailand’s 50 richest individuals and families compiled by Forbes magazine puts 27 in the billion dollar bracket.

Topping the list is the Chearavanont family, which owns the CP Group, one of the world’s biggest conglomerates.

Thailand’s royal family controls the country’s biggest fortune, but Prayuth was clearly calling on the business community.

He also said he will reach out to small and medium-size enterprises to get a better picture of their situation than by having information filtered through various agencies.

Thailand reported 33 new COVID-19 infections – one-third of them in Bangkok – bringing the nation’s total to 2,733 cases, a senior official said yesterday.