Thai lawmakers to debate Prime Minister Prayut's swearing-in controversy

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Cabinet were sworn-in in July after a disputed general election, but have have been attacked for failing to utter part of the oath of office during the ceremony.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Cabinet were sworn-in in July after a disputed general election, but have have been attacked for failing to utter part of the oath of office during the ceremony.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - Thailand's Parliament will debate the incomplete oath of office taken by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Cabinet, a controversy some critics say could render the less than two-month-old government illegitimate.

The debate will be held on Sept 18, Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong told reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday (Sept 3) after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Mr Prayut and the Cabinet were sworn-in in July after a disputed general election in March. But he and his ministers have been attacked for failing to utter part of the oath of office during the ceremony. Opponents argue the government could be illegitimate as a result.

Last month, the Office of the Ombudsman sent a complaint about the incomplete July 16 oath-taking to the Constitutional Court to decide if it is a breach of the charter.

Mr Raksagecha Chaechai, secretary-general of the Office of the Ombudsman, has said the Constitutional Court would have to rule on what needed to be done because an incomplete oath could mean that all of the government's actions could be seen as unconstitutional.

The Ombudsman has said it is up to the court to say whether it will accept the case.

Mr Prayut led a military coup in Thailand in 2014 and the current constitution – the nation’s 20th – was put together while he was junta leader. The former army chief returned as a civilian leader after this year’s contested election.

Television footage indicates the final sentence of the oath was omitted during the swearing-in ceremony in front of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The full oath is: “I swear I will be loyal to His Majesty and perform my duties honestly for the benefit of the country and the people. I will also uphold and comply with the constitution of the kingdom in every aspect.” 

On Aug 8, Mr Prayut said he was taking full responsibility for the omission and apologised, while assuring the country that the government would function as normal. He did not specify how he would rectify the situation.

“It’s hard for the government to make this go away,” said Dr Prajak Kongkirati, the head of the politics department at Thammasat University in Bangkok. “It’s a serious issue, especially in a country that gives so much respect to traditions and ceremony.” 

 

Mr Prayut and the Cabinet on Aug 27 received a letter from King Vajiralongkorn containing the monarch’s speech from the July ceremony. 

That speech includes a wish for the administration to have “the strength to do good.” 

Thailand’s pro-military ruling coalition comprises more than a dozen parties but has a razor-thin majority in the lower house, spurring doubts about whether it will last its full four-year term.