Opinion – Thais should not have hopes of Constitutional Court ruling against Prayut, past ruling gives signal of expected outcome

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Today the Constitutional Court is set to deliberate on the contentious issue of the 8-year term limit of 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, which by most means has already ended since midnight but there is no doubt that the court will most likely rule in the coup markers favor.

The ruling is almost guaranteed to be in favor of Prayut’s, not because the law clearly started when his premiership term should be counted from, but because the court never rule against his regime.

Right before the previous general election, this same court ruled to dissolve one of the parties that were against the military junta, the Thai Raksa Chart Party. Then it ruled to dissolve the upcoming Future Forward Party halfway into this government’s term.

This same court ruled that General Prayut can stay at a luxury house inside an army barracks even though he already retired as army chief.

This very same court also ruled that the call for the reform of the royal institution was considered an attempt to overthrow the institution.

And, they ruled that Prayut’s use of the emergency decree to prevent the spread of Covid-19 was constitutional even though it was being used to silence dissidents.

Term Ends or Not

The Constitutional Court has been asked to rule on the term limit of General Prayut whether he has been the Prime Minister for 8-years or not, and whether he needs to stop working effectively immediately or not.

If General Prayut is in breach of the 8-year term limit then he has a minor problem. The rule of law needs to be applied equally and in this case, the May 23, 2019, decision by the Constitutional Court to ask Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the then leader of the Future Forward Party, to stop his duties as a member of parliament until the Constitutional Court makes a decision, comes into play.

Thanathorn was eventually banned for a period of 10 years for breach of a rule that forbids parliamentarians from holding shares in a media company, but that decision was made months after he was asked to stop performing his duties while the Constitutional Court deliberated on the legality of the entire issue.

The Constitutional Court would have to make the call on when the term of General Prayut started.

Was it on August 24, 2014 (8 years ago), was it April 6, 2017 (when HM the King signed the constitution) or March 24, 2019 (when the 2019 elections put Gen. Prayut back in power).

The problem with the 2017 constitution is that it does not stipulate when the 8-year term limit starts but there are documents indicating that this issue was discussed in the Constitution Drafting Committee and the aim according to many experts is that it should be counted retroactively from the day the Prime Minister was sworn in as Prime Minister.

The announcement by late HM the King Rama IX on the appointment of Gen. Prayut as Prime Minister

As this is an issue that is not stipulated in the Constitution, it has become a hot issue that is being debated and prompted Gen. Prayut to have a ‘sore throat’ today after the Cabinet meeting and therefore avoided meeting the media after the Cabinet meeting.

It is for this reason that the Constitutional Court has been asked to interpret the law.

But given the track record, no one is holding their breath for the Constitutional Court to give a fair opinion and one can guess what the outcome will be without an argument.

Prayut’s supporters and government agencies have been calling him Prime Minister since he stole the power from an elected government to declare himself as an illegitimate leader and now they are saying that he was not a premier?

This was the same as when Prayut was claiming that he was not a politician until he said it himself that he is one before the previous general election.

He refused to call himself a politician because he wanted to keep the propaganda image of a soldier riding a white horse who saved the country from corrupt politicians. Only his supporters can believe that.

Self-Set Trap

It is also hilarious how the junta-drafted charter backed fired on General Prayut.

The junta under the leadership of General Prayut drafted the 2017 constitution to scuttle any plans by the highly popular former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from ever returning to the position of Prime Minister by putting in place the 8-year term.

They did not think that General Prayut would break his promise after the coup that he will ‘not stay for long’.

But as time progressed Gen. Prayut’s intoxication with power made him change his mind and the same law that he drafted to scuttle others is haunting him.

But that is pretty much what it can do, haunting, because we all know that the Constitutional Court would not say anything more than allowing him to remain in power.

What else can you expect from the court which has 7 out of 9 of its members being handpicked by the junta?

2 out of the 9 judges were selected by the military junta appointed National Legislative Assembly while another 5 were picked by the 250 senators who were handpicked by the military junta ahead of the 2019 elections.

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