Prayut silent amid tenure controversy

Prayut silent amid tenure controversy

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ends his press conference after a cabinet meeting at Government House without answering questions on his term on Tuesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ends his press conference after a cabinet meeting at Government House without answering questions on his term on Tuesday. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remains tight-lipped about the opposition's move to seek a Constitutional Court ruling over a dispute regarding the eight-year limit on his premiership.

Asked about the matter after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Gen Prayut only said: "I will not provide answers to any political issues."

The prime minister also refused to comment when asked about the possibility of him dissolving the House of Representatives before the end of his tenure.

Leader of the opposition Pheu Thai Party, Cholnan Srikaew, said on Tuesday a petition seeking the court's ruling has already been finished and a final check will be run on the list of MPs who signed it before it is submitted to parliament president Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday.

The parliament president will then have seven days to examine the petition before forwarding it to the court, and the court will consider whether to accept it, he said.

The opposition will ask the court to issue a temporary injunction suspending Gen Prayut pending the court's deliberation, Dr Cholnan said, adding that he believed the court's consideration will not take long because the issue is important.

Dr Cholnan insisted that Gen Prayut's maximum eight-year tenure ends on Aug 24.

Asked about the possibility that Gen Prayut may dissolve the House before the end of his tenure, Dr Cholnan said: "He won't dissolve it if he does not benefit from it.

"But he might dissolve the House so he could stay on in a caretaker role because the election bill has yet to pass parliament. Anyway, I think he won't dare to dissolve the House out of fear of resistance from the public," Dr Cholnan said.

"Some also believe Gen Prayut will dissolve the House after the Apec summit in November because by that time several MPs are expected to defect to new parties without by-elections being held. These MPs can join new parties within 30 days.

"The prime minister will benefit from these defections as these MPs will be rounded up [in a party set up to support him]," Dr Cholnan said.

Section 158 of the constitution limits the term of a prime minister to eight years, but politicians are divided on when Gen Prayut's eight-year tenure concludes, with three potential dates that have been bandied around by various groups.

Some believe it should be this month because the count started in 2014 when Gen Prayut first assumed the PM role after the coup that year. Another group claims his term should end in 2027 because he was appointed PM under the 2017 charter in June 2019. As a result, his eight-year limit would end in 2027.

According to another metric, the count started in April 2017 when the current charter was promulgated, meaning Gen Prayut's tenure would end in 2025.

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