PM ignores oath bungle in debate

PM ignores oath bungle in debate

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks during the general debate centred on his incomplete oath in Parliament on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks during the general debate centred on his incomplete oath in Parliament on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday rose to answer the opposition's questions in the parliamentary debate, but stopped short of clarifying the oath gaffe -- the debate's focus -- in his 25-minute stint.

Gen Prayut spent the time tackling questions about the source of funds to implement the government policies, public debts, and the 2017 constitution -- which was targeted for amendments by the seven-party opposition camp -- but left the oath controversy completely untouched.

The oath issue nevertheless was handled by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who cited the Constitutional Court's ruling as he explained that the oath-taking concerned a "specific relationship" between the cabinet and the monarchy.

On Sept 11, the Constitutional Court rejected a petition lodged by the Ombudsman over the matter. The court said the oath was a political issue and it was beyond the jurisdiction of the court to examine issues between the executive branch and the monarchy.

Mr Wissanu explained that Gen Prayut recited the oath written on a card prepared by the Secretariat of the Prime Minister, in the same manner as other prime ministers in the past.

However, Mr Wissanu said it was not known why the prime minister did not recite the oath in its entirety.

"The opposition can petition the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate if they think the incomplete recital of the oath constitutes a breach of ethics, he added.

During the debate, opposition MPs called on Gen Prayut to step down to take responsibility for his failure to recite the full oath of office as required by the charter.

The debate kicked off with Pheu Thai leader Sompong Amornvivat questioning if Gen Prayut deliberately omitted the final sentence of Section 161 of the constitution, which requires the oath-taker to uphold and abide by the constitution.

"You have led swearing-in ceremonies several times, but this time you didn't use a prepared document. So did you intend to omit those words, and how will you take responsibility?" he said

Future Forward Party secretary-general and MP Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said by taking the oath of office, the cabinet recognised the charter and delivered a pledge before the monarchy and the people.

He said he was afraid Gen Prayut could have set a precedent for future prime ministers to follow.

Pheu Thai secretary-general Anudith Nakornthap said cabinet members must recite the oath completely, otherwise the opposition would not be able to hold the prime minister to account if he failed to comply with the charter because he never vowed to abide by it.

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