Opinion – Gen. Prayut should take the moral high ground and step out of politics

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The decision by the Constitutional Court today to accept the petition by the opposition parties on the 8-year term limit of the Prime Minister is a clear indication that the 2014 coup leader and now suspended Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s time as the leader has come to an end.

Gen. Prayut who had claimed to remain in power only for a ‘short while’ when he seized power from an elected government on May 22, 2014, declared himself to be the Prime Minister on August 24, 2014, and late HM the King Rama IX had issued a letter of his appointment to the position.

Fast forward 8-years and the same General Prayut now was claiming that his term as Prime Minister began when the constitution that passed the referendum on August 7, 2016 and was signed off by HM the King Rama X on April 6, 2017.

Although the Constitutional Court is yet to make a final decision on what is the date that needs to be taken into account when calculating the term of General Prayut, the unanimous decision by the 9 bench judges to accept the petition by the opposition was a clear indication that there is merit to the issues that are being raised on the term limit.

The decision to suspend Gen. Prayut from his duties was more fragmented with 5:4 vote, which indicated that it is a close call.

But no matter what the issue is, one thing is very clear, which is that General Prayut is now morally incapable of continuing to remain as the leader of the government.

Battered and Ineffective Government

The verdict of the Constitutional Court clearly indicates that General Prayut’s chances of survival is next to nothing because even if the judges come back to vindicate General Prayut from the 8-year term, the justifications would have to be rock solid or else the entire credibility of the judiciary would be questioned by the public.

The herculean task that lays ahead for the judges is something that General Prayut should realize and be thankful that the same court that has today suspended his work, has in the past helped him remain in power.

From the dissolution of the Thai Raksaa Chart party that was a threat to the victory of the Phalang Pracharath party (PPRP) to the dissolution of the banning of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit from politics for his holding of shares in media company down to the vindication of the drug dealing convict (in Australia) Thammanat Prompao, were all undertaken to help keep General Prayut in power.

Today the same court has made a call to question the legality of the person they were trying to protect and General Prayut may be better off bowing to the pressure and allowing the PPRP to lead the coalition with a new Prime Minister from the same coalition.

The 8-year term of General Prayut has been a roller coaster one as he has been struggling with one fiasco to another and dodging bullets left, right and center to keep the cobbled-up coalition in power.

From the failing economy to mismanagement of the vaccine procurement that killed thousands if not 10s of thousands, to the rising number of poor people, the country has been a mess for nearly a decade in the name of ‘peace’ which the coup leader had promised to bring after nearly 2-years of orchestrated street protests to bring down the government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

His government has had to dish out ‘bananas’ every time they needed to survive the no-confidence debate because without these kickbacks, which by the way, were being carried in hard cash into the parliament, the government of General Prayut would have fallen long ago.

Morally Correct Thing to Do

Once again Thailand is divided, the parliament is divided, its economy is stagnant because General Prayut did not know what to do with the resources.

The 4-million people who are living with the mere earning of 100 Baht per day (US$ 3.5) along with the slightly better off but still considered poor, are the majority of the population of the country and they are living in a situation that is getting worse by the day, all because of the mismanagement of General Prayut.

These people are so dissatisfied with General Prayut’s mismanagement that street protests have been erupting and it is only by use of force that the junta has managed to control the protest movements.

But more street protests are planned, and the pressure is set to increase in the days and weeks ahead.

Street protests from both sides are set to converge in the days ahead and maybe this is the thing that General Prayut wants, after all this was the pretext of the 2014 coup.

But with the dissatisfied population, the new protest could be far worse than the previous one where the people had food in their stomachs and a lifestyle that was decent as the populous policies of the democratically elected government were still flowing into their pockets.

If General Prayut continues to remain in power while the court is making its verdict, there are higher chances for violence to occur given the track record of crackdowns on protests against him over the past 2 years.

If there are crackdowns or crashes between opposite groups, the country will plunge deeper into political chaos.

The country cannot afford to go through this path and therefore the morally correct thing to do is to step aside and allow the parliamentary process to take hold and have a selection and voting on a new Prime Minister who could possibly take the country forward and into the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that is set to be held in Bangkok in November this year.

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