Update – Thailand’s Constitutional Court suspends coup leader Prayut from duties, as opposition demands his resignation

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The main opposition party demanded that embattled Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha step down from his position after the country’s Constitutional Court decided to accept the opposition parties’ petition to rule on his 8-year term limit.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled 5:4 to order 2014 coup leader General Prayut to halt his responsibilities as Prime Minister as the court deliberates on the merits of the petition that 172 members of the opposition filed last week and sent to the court on Monday.

The petition was based on Article 158 of the 2017 constitution which states that no Prime Minister can stay in power for more than 8 years.

“We are asking General Prayut to step down so that the parliamentary process can proceed to select a new Prime Minister and to prevent any impediment to the working of the courts as they deliberate on this issue,” Cholanan Srikaew, the leader of the main opposition Pheu Thai Party said.

He said the parliament would then select a new Prime Minister, adding that although the court has said that it would likely make a call on this issue within September the lack of clarity and uncertainty would be a hindrance to the country’s functioning.

Cholanan Srikaew outside the parliament after the court’s verdict today.

“Gen. Prayut should also avoid Cabinet meeting because if he does, the Cabinet would not be able to function,” Cholanan said.

“How do you expect a suspended Prime Minister to be sitting as Defense Minister in the Cabinet?”

Watchman to the Rescue

The move by the charter court means that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, the 2nd highest ranking government official, will assume the role of caretaker prime minister.

General Prawit who is famous for saying ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’ and for his borrowing of watches worth millions of dollars from dead friends, is a frail Deputy Prime Minister who is also the leader of the ruliing Phalang Pracharath party (PPRP) that picked Gen. Prayut to be the Prime Minister.

The move by the court does not push 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha from the Cabinet because under the law he can still continue to remain the Defense Minister, which has no term limit.

General Prayut was both the Prime Minster and Defense minister.

Former Constitutional Court judge Charan Pakdeethanakul had on Tuesday said that the charter court could take up to 2-months to rule on this issue.

The next step is for the court to offer Prayut a chance to provide his argument and this process alone could take up to 1-2 weeks, Charan said.

The news will please anti-Prayut protesters who came out to demand his resignation yesterday and the protests are expected to continue today with more protests planned during the weekend.

The court now has three possible rulings.

  • Decided that Prayut’s term started 3 months after he took control of the power via a coup in May 2014 which would mean that his term has already ended since midnight last night and parliament will then vote for a new prime minister.

The viable prime minister candidates include Bhumjai Thai Party’s candidate Anutin Charnvirakul, Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva, and Pheu Thai Party’s candidates including Chadchart Sittipunt and Chaikasem Nitisiri.

The leader of the Thai Sang Thai Party Sudarat Keyuraphan is no longer a viable candidate since she resigned from the Pheu Thai Party.

  • Decided that Prayut’s term started when the current charter came into effect in April 2017 which means that his term limit would be in April 2023.
  • Decided that Prayut’s term started when he was royally endorsed as prime minister in March 2019 which means that his term limit would be in March 2027.


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