Thai Airways must ‘stand on its own feet,’ PM says of bankrupt national airline

A file photo of Thai Airways flight attendants
A file photo of Thai Airways flight attendants

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has defended the “difficult decision” to send the national carrier to bankruptcy court in a carefully worded English statement.

In a Twitter thread yesterday afternoon, Prayuth said bailing out loss-stricken Thai Airways did not make sense during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the government needs to reserve funds to help people facing financial hardship.  

“In this time of crisis when everyone’s livelihood is being destroyed by the Covid catastrophe, we need to keep the nation’s money to help the public in the months ahead: to help farmers, SMEs, the self-employed, and everyone else trying to earn an honest living.”

The airline, which was sent for court-imposed debt restructuring, must be competitive, he said.

“Let’s think about why we have Thai Airways?” Gen. Prayuth added. “Thai Airways exists to build our country’s reputation and support the prosperity of Thais.  For that, it needs to stand on its own feet and compete globally. That is the basis on which I made my decision.”

The statement, which puzzlingly began with the word “TWITTER,” bore little resemblance to his government’s usual missives and drew accusations online of being the work of costly international publicists.

Founded in 1960 as a joint venture between domestic carrier Thai Airways Co. and Scandinavian Airlines System; Thai Airways has operated in the red and racked up huge debts for many years. It’s current debt load is an estimated THB300 billion (US$9.4 billion). 

According to Prayuth, the national carrier will continue to fly and retain some employees while undergoing restructuring. However, the government will no longer provide it funds.

“I hope that we may see again an airline that Thais can be proud about, and which can contribute to the prosperity of Thailand,” Prayuth tweeted.

Like other airlines, Thai Airways suspended operations in the wake of the collapse of air travel due to the coronavirus outbreak but for several flights to Europe.

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