Clear up tenure doubt

Clear up tenure doubt

The length of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's tenure is back under the spotlight, after a legal team from the House of Representatives claimed that he is entitled to serve as premier until 2027.

Recently, the team submitted its opinion to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, saying Gen Prayut's term technically began when his premiership received royal endorsement under the 2017 constitution on June 9, 2019. As such, it said, Gen Prayut is entitled to serve until 2027, as a premier can only serve for a total of eight years.

The team rejected the views of those who argue that Gen Prayut's tenure began in 2014, when he took over in a coup as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order. Under this interpretation, his term would end in August this year.

Six opposition parties, led by Pheu Thai, slammed the team's interpretation. They vowed to seek a Constitutional Court ruling in August on the matter, saying to them, Gen Prayut's tenure began in Nov 2014 and as such, he must step down on Aug 24.

The charter bars an individual from remaining in office for more than eight years, regardless of whether the four-year terms are served back-to-back or not.

The opposition's argument was in line with Jade Donavanik's, a former adviser to the 2017 Constitution Drafting Committee, who had earlier confirmed that Gen Prayut's term should end August this year, according to the spirit of the constitution, which was designed to prevent entrenchment of power by the prime minister.

Mr Jade cited Section 264 of the constitution, which stipulates that all cabinet ministers who assumed office before the charter took effect in 2017 carried over their roles under the present constitution.

There are differing views as to when he began his term. These include the day he was named prime minister in 2014 after the coup; when the current constitution was promulgated in 2017; or when he was sworn in as prime minister in 2019.

In fact, there aren't any problems with Gen Prayut staying put until 2027 because an election has been held since the coup, in which he came into power through the electoral process.

That said, Thais can still vividly remember when, right after the coup, Gen Prayut asked for a little time to bring back happiness to society, before saying he had no intention to cling on to power. Having said all that, doesn't he owe the public an explanation for wanting to stay in office until 2027?

Is it for political gain, or to better the country? Or is it just for the record's sake? If Gen Prayut wins the next election and remains in power until 2027, he would beat the late Prem Tinsulanonda, who was premier for eight years.

It would be great if his answer was to make the country better. But past examples have thrown doubt over his ability to do so. After the coup, Gen Prayut's government announced its plan in a 2,000-page document to reform the country. The focus areas include politics, public administration, laws, justice, education, the economy, natural resources and environment, public health, mass media, social issues and other areas.

But in reality, during the past seven years, the government has failed to deliver any tangible reform, particularly in politics. Instead, the country has been bogged down in political conflict, while social injustice continues to beset the country. Gen Prayut must note that staying in power for a long time isn't the issue -- holding on for no reason is.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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