Pheu Thai disagrees with Prayut ruling

Pheu Thai disagrees with Prayut ruling

Opposition party says reasoning could go against spirit of charter and create future interpretation problems

Pheu Thai supporters join a party activity in Samut Prakan on May 14 this year. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
Pheu Thai supporters join a party activity in Samut Prakan on May 14 this year. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

The opposition Pheu Thai Party has expressed disagreement with the reasoning behind the Constitutional Court ruling that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha’s tenure as prime minister did not begin until 2017.

While the party respected the court’s performance of its duty and the binding nature of the ruling, doubts could be raised about whether the ruling would be seen as constitutionally legitimate, it said in a statement on Friday.

The court had been asked by Parliament to clarify the legal political tenure of Gen Prayut, who was first appointed to the premiership on Aug 24, 2014, three months after he led a military coup.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that Gen Prayut’s tenure as prime minister had not reached its eight-year limit under the current constitution. His term started on the date the constitution of 2017 took effect, it said.

Such a ruling could lead to heavy criticism among academics and others who disagreed with it, said Pheu Thai.

The party said it strongly disagreed with the ruling because legal interpretations must strictly adhere to the written provisions and the spirit of the charter.

Sections 158 and 264 of the 2017 constitution limit the term of a prime minister to eight years. In the party’s view, this covers cabinet ministers who existed before the constitution was promulgated in 2017.

Although Gen Prayut became prime minister before the constitution came into force in 2017, he was considered serving in the post under this charter, said Pheu Thai, citing a royal command appointing him as prime minister on Aug 24, 2014 and taking effect continuously.

The party said that in its view, it was not logical to conclude that Gen Prayut’s term started on April 6, 2017, when the present charter took effect.

It said the facts were evident in a memorandum by the Constitution Drafting Committee that the prime minister’s term shall be counted from before the 2017 constitution took effect. This clearly showed the spirit of the constitution, it said.

People were also widely aware that Gen Prayut had been serving as prime minister since Aug 24, 2014 and that his eight-year term ended on Aug 24 this year, the statement added.

The party said some could conclude that the court’s ruling might have implications for the legitimacy of the constitution legitimacy. This could set a precedent in terms of legal interpretation.

Law specialists and society must jointly consider whether the reasons given by the court in its ruling were in line with the provisions and spirit of the constitution or not, it said.

Pheu Thai said it was not worried that the ruling would enable Gen Prayut to stay on until March 2023 and serve serve as prime minister after the next general election if nominated.

The real worry, it said, is whether the problems that have been rooted in Thai society over the past eight years since the military coup could be solved so that the country could return to a genuinely democratic system with true rule of law.

Another concern, it said, was the precedent for use and interpretation of the Constitutional Court ruling. Because there is no mechanism to check the court’s ruling, all people in society  should think about possible solutions, said the party.


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