Opinion – Prawit’s 1-month in the hot seat of Prime Minister shows he is ready for the job and may even want that job

In just about 24-hours from now deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is set to mark 1-month in the office as the caretaker Prime Minister and indications are that he enjoys the limelight and has in-fact been more acceptable to the people than his boss and predecessor.

Come Saturday the 2014 coup leader – General Prayut Chan-o-cha would mark 1-month in ‘suspension’ and off duty after the Constitutional Court on August 24th ordered him suspended from active duty as Prime Minister although General Prayut continued to remain the defense minister.

The orders from the Constitutional Court came after the opposition parties filed a petition to seek the court’s opinion on whether Gen. Prayut had breached the 8-year term limit on being the Prime Minister or not.

As per the 2016 constitution that went into effect on April 6, 2017, no single person is allowed to stay in the position of Prime Minister for more than 8-years. General Prayut, who seized power on May 22, 2014, from the elected government lead by Pheu Thai party, then declared himself as Prime Minister on August 24, 2014, and late HM the King Rama IX had approved Gen. Prayut’s appointment.

The appointment letter to PM position of Gen. Prayut dated August 24, 2014

The Constitutional Court on August 24, 2022 decided to take on the petition by the opposition to deliberate on the issue and the surprising move by the court was when the court voted 5:4 to have Gen. Prayut suspend from active duty until the court makes its verdict.

The court has set September 30, 2022 (a week from today) to give its verdict.

Expected Outcome

There is no doubt that the court’s verdict would likely be to allow Gen. Prayut to continue on the position and they may cite the fact that Thailand is in the process of hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) and it will culminate with the leader’s meeting from November 14-19 this year.

Leaders from the 21 member countries of APEC are set to converge in Bangkok for the summit and would be the first since the last APEC was held in 2003.

But Gen. Prawit, the man famous for ‘borrowing’ millions of dollars worth of watches from his dead friends, has given the courts and his boss – General Prayut, a run for the money in the 1-month that he has been the acting Prime Minister.

A move that would likely make the Constitutional Court think twice before it makes its verdict.

Over the past 1-month Gen. Prawit who was barely able to walk by himself has been running up and down the stairs without any help, has transformed himself from being a frail old looking man to being more modern by wearing jeans, has started to speak to people and journalists and not to mention has been shuttling around the country vying votes for the upcoming elections for his Phalang Praracharath party (PPRP).

The frail looking Gen. Prawit has changed to have power and charisma. He has taken lead in many initiatives be it the ongoing merger saga of big businesses such as True Corporation Plc (TRUE) and Total Access Communications Plc (DTAC), down to managing the flooding in Bangkok along with the governor of Bangkok – Chadchart Sittipunt, and not to mention the approving various budgets to battle the ongoing economic and cost of living problems.

Gen. Prawit has managed to transform himself and the image of the working of the government in ways that would not have had been possible under Gen. Prayut’s era.

Compliments from Nemesis

Even the archrival of PPRP and the generals who undertook the coup – Thaksin Shinawatra, came out to accept that if Gen. Prawit was to remain the ‘caretaker’ Prime Minister then the PPRP may see some revival.

Thaksin, who is in self-exile, said during a recent Clubhouse talk, that if Gen. Prawit was to remain in the position of Prime Minister until the polls, there was a chance that the PPRP may see some more enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm was already been witnessed as many of the PPRP MPs who were looking to parachute out of the party to other parties, have already started to rethink their position, while others who had waked out are contemplating coming back to the PPRP.

Gen. Prawit has come to the realization that economic policies are likely to be the driving factor that would determine who gets elected in the next general elections and that is the reasons why he has continued to push for many of the economic policies to be the priority of his 1-month in power.

He had given out 10’s of billions of Baht for subsidy of fuel and other goodies and even came out to comment on the fact that the Thai Baht should be trading at 35 Baht to the US$.

Gen. Prawit went as far as to ask Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith to look at ways to tackle the continued slide of the Thai Baht against the US$. He has asked Arkhom and Bank of Thailand to sort this issue out.

The Baht was trading at around 37.34 this morning, down nearly 10% year-to-date against the Korean Won that has declined by nearly 15% and the Japan by as much as 20%.

Thai Baht weakest since September 2006

Gen. Prawit has also managed to revive the PPRP and the office of the Prime Minister to work and function in ways not seen in nearly 8-years and is leaving a mark behind to indicate that even if the outcome is for Gen. Prayut to be thrown out of the office, he (Gen. Prawit) is there to hold the fort until at least the APEC summit is done and over with.

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