Prayut 'not state official': court
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was not a state official when he governed as the head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), a decision that cemented his position as prime minister.
The ruling was made in response to a petition signed by 110 MPs from seven opposition parties, which was forwarded to the court by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
The MPs wanted the court to determine Gen Prayut's status when he ran for the top job in the last election, as Section 170(4), Section 160 (6), and Section 98 (15) of the constitution prohibits state officials to compete in a race for the premiership.
They argued that Gen Prayut, in his capacity as chief of the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), was a state official -- and thus not eligible to hold the post of prime minister after the election.
Before delivering the ruling, the court said that the petition concerns a legal issue, so there was no need for the court to conduct hearings.
The court ruled that Gen Prayut was not a state official when he was the chief of the NCPO.
"The position of the NCPO chief was the result of the seizure of power by coup-makers in 2014," the court said.
"The NCPO chief was not under the command or supervision of the state, and the position was not appointed by any laws," the court explained, before adding that the NCPO chief held an interim role in maintaining peace and order.
In light of this, the position of the NCPO chief was not the same as personnel or employees of state agencies, state enterprises, and/or other kinds of state officials under Section 98(15) of the constitution, the court said.
The court also cited a past ruling in 2000, which summarises the criteria which must be met to be regarded as a state official: appointed and/or elected by law; having the authority and duty to enforce laws and perform routine functions; being under the command or supervision of the state; and receiving a regular wage or salary.
Gen Prayut, in his capacity as the NCPO chief, did not fall under these criteria, the court said.
Gen Prayut led the coup on May 22, 2014 when he was the army chief -- ousting the Pheu Thai Party-led government from power following months of street protests which were led by the now-defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee.