Thai court to decide on PM Prayut's tenure this month

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is currently suspended while the court deliberates on the case filed by the opposition. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Thailand's Constitutional Court on Wednesday set Sept 30 as the date to deliver its verdict on the tenure of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in a case that seeks to determine he has already exceeded an eight-year limit as premier.

Prayut, who seized power in a 2014 coup before formally becoming prime minister a few months later, is suspended while the court deliberates on the case filed by the opposition Pheu Thai party, which argues he should have left office last month.

The former army chief is still active in his other post of defence minister and could return as premier if the court decides he has yet to reach the eight-year mark. 

His deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, is serving as caretaker premier.

Prayuth, 68, has given no opinion on the case and has said he will respect the outcome.  

The court must decide whether the eight years should include Prayuth’s time as leader of the military administration he installed after toppling the Pheu Thai government.  

Some of his supporters argue the eight years should be counted after 2017, when a new Constitution took effect, or even from 2019, when an election was held and a new Parliament chose him to head a coalition government.  

Anucha Burapachaisri, government spokesperson, said the verdict would be a chance for clarity.  

“I urge the public to wait and see and respect the result,” he added.

The tenure issue is one of many opposition attempts to remove Prayuth from office, including four parliamentary no-confidence motions, a conflict of interest case over his use of a military residence, and months of youth-led protests that challenged his leadership and the monarchy.  

An Aug 2-4 survey of 1,312 people by the National Institute of Development Administration showed nearly two-thirds of people in Thailand wanted Prayuth to leave office, while a third wanted to wait for a court ruling. REUTERS

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