PM 'won't quit' over oath

PM 'won't quit' over oath

Govt plays down 'apology' to cabinet

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha greets officials of state agencies as he chairs a meeting yesterday to tell them about his government's policies at the Impact Forum convention centre in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha greets officials of state agencies as he chairs a meeting yesterday to tell them about his government's policies at the Impact Forum convention centre in Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

A government spokeswoman has played down rumours that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may quit after apologising for not completing the oath of office during last month's cabinet swearing-in ceremony.

Speculation that he might resign has been rife after the premier apologised to cabinet ministers over the issue and said he would take "sole responsibility'' during a keynote speech outlining government policies to cabinet ministers, senior officials and state enterprise executives at the Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi on Thursday.

"I would like to apologise to all ministers. I take sole responsibility [for this]. My only worry is how to make sure the government can function. I would like you all to carry on with your work," the prime minister said.

Gen Prayut said he would let the issue be settled by a thorough study of the constitution, while he gets on with governing.

Government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat on Thursday dismissed talk the prime minister had hinted at resigning when he said he would take "sole responsibility".

The prime minister's remarks had nothing to do with the oath issue, Ms Narumon said, adding that he was referring to his responsibilities under the constitution.

"Don't take it for granted that the prime minister hinted at resigning. He still gives instructions and attends meetings every day.... The prime minister is not disheartened by the issue, but he has already come up with a solution. We will have to wait to hear from the prime minister himself,'' the spokeswoman said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam on Thursday refused to comment on Gen Prayut's apology and remark that he would take sole responsibility.

However, Mr Wissanu said he felt the prime minister intended to communicate with the public rather than cabinet ministers at Thursday's gathering.

"If he [Gen Prayut] wanted to apologise to cabinet ministers, he could have done so at the cabinet meeting or anywhere else. There would be no need for him to do so at such a public gathering which was broadcast live nationwide. He'd rather speak to the public,'' Mr Wissanu said.

The prime minister said on Wednesday that he did not intend to deliver an incomplete oath.

"It will be settled soon because I had no intention of doing it wrongly. Let's focus on the intention," the prime minister said in Yala.

In reciting the oath, he omitted to vow to uphold and abide by the constitution, which is the final paragraph in Section 161 of the charter.

Critics say this could render his cabinet illegitimate and unable to perform its duties. The opposition has jumped on the issue to put pressure on the prime minister and invalidate the government.

Supoj Arwas, spokesman of the opposition Prachachat Party, said on Thursday that the prime minister and the cabinet must be held to account over the issue. They must strictly abide by the constitution and deliver the complete oath of office.

The prime minister's gesture of taking sole responsibility is too late, Mr Supoj said, adding that the constitution does not allow anyone to take the oath in ways they desire.

Future Forward Party secretary-general and list-MP Piyabutr Saengkanokkul brought the oath issue to light during the recent parliamentary debate on the government's policy manifesto.

Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham Suthin Khlangsaeng earlier said the opposition will have the prime minister explain the omission in the House of Representatives.

But if Gen Prayut cannot give a satisfactory answer, the opposition may table a no-confidence motion against the government, Mr Suthin said.

The Ombudsman decided on Tuesday to examine the legitimacy of the cabinet's oath, in response to a petition from Srisuwan Janya.

The activist asked the Ombudsman on Monday to forward the issue to the Constitutional Court or the Administrative Court for a ruling on the government's legitimacy. He questioned whether the incomplete oath -- given on July 16 -- was in breach of Section 161 of the constitution.

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