Thai Raksa Chart member moves to oust Prayut

Thai Raksa Chart member moves to oust Prayut

A screenshot of the Prayut Chan-o-cha Facebook page taken on Monday.
A screenshot of the Prayut Chan-o-cha Facebook page taken on Monday.

A Thai Raksa Chart member has taken the first step to oust Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister on the grounds he owns Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages, as well as a website, which he claims are mass media.

If the court agrees, the entire cabinet will have to be shown the door along with him as constitutionally required.

Ruangkrai Leekitwattana of Thai Raksa Chart, a party perceived as a spinoff of Pheu Thai, submitted a petition to the Election Commission (EC) on Monday. He asked the EC to deliberate whether Gen Prayut has a disqualification as prime minister under Section 174(4) of the 2017 Constitution.

The provision prohibits a minister or prime minister from “being an owner or shareholder of a newspaper or any mass media”.

Mr Ruangkrai refers to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as the website under his name opened last year.

He also cited two bills on the promotion and protection of ethics and professional standards of mass media, which count digital and online media as mass media. The cabinet already approved them.

“The prime minister must therefore know that the online platforms he opened are mass media, and opening them is prohibited by the charter,” he said.

Mr Ruangkrai also said not only ministers are prohibited from owning media, position holders at independent organisations or those applying to become MPs must also observe this rule.

“I myself had to close my Facebook since I’m about to apply as MP,” he added.

He urged the EC to promptly consider the petition. If the EC agrees with him, the case will be sent to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.

Unlike cases considered by the National Anti-Corruption Commission, a subject of an investigation by the EC need not cease his or her duty if the case against him or her is found to have grounds before it is sent to the Constitutional Court. 

Government spokesman Puttipong Punnakun said last year the prime minister had opened social media accounts. He also said Gen Prayut was the administrator of these accounts and posted or tweeted by himself.

“No state budget was used to open such platforms and Gen Prayut doesn’t use office hours to run them,” he had said.

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