PM takes flak over military residence

PM takes flak over military residence

Prayut hit with legal threat by opposition

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appears in a pensive mood as the opposition singles him out in the censure debate which entered its third day on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appears in a pensive mood as the opposition singles him out in the censure debate which entered its third day on Wednesday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha faces the prospect of being taken to the Constitutional Court over his allegedly unlawful occupation of an army residence.

Prasert Chanthararuangthong, a Nakhon Ratchasima MP for the main opposition Pheu Thai Party, told parliament during Wednesday's censure debate that Gen Prayut's tenancy of the army house constituted a conflict of interest.

The MP said Gen Prayut, who is also defence minister, should have moved out of the house when he retired as army chief on Sept 30, 2014 and that by staying on free of charge he defied army regulations, which disqualified him as prime minister.

"It should not be up to the army chief to decide who gets to remain in military houses beyond their retirement," Mr Prasert said.

The MP was attacking army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong, who said earlier that retired top brass can stay on in army accommodation if they continue to work in public office for the national interest. He said such people include the prime minister and senators.

Mr Prasert countered that it was hard to gauge what qualified as contributing to national interest, and that no exception could be made on military house tenancy. He added that Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paojinda, while serving as army chief, had specified clearly in army regulations that only incumbent officers and those contracted to work for the armed forces are eligible for military houses.

The other armed forces have fixed deadlines for vacating military accommodation. Navy officers must vacate within 90 days of retiring while air force officers must leave seven days before retirement, according to Mr Prasert. Water and electricity charges at Gen Prayut's army house amounted to an estimated one million baht since he retired, he added.

He said Gen Prayut had disregarded the regulations and he planned to petition the Constitutional Court to remove him as prime minister.

Gen Prayut decline to comment on the allegation, saying he would leave the matter to be decided by the army. He told reporters last week that, as prime minister, he needed to stay in the army-owned residence for reasons of security. However, said he he would move out once he was no longer premier.

Earlier, Gen Anupong, who is also a target of the censure debate, admitted that he too was still staying in a military house before adding he was ready to comply with army regulations.

Gen Pornpipat Benyasri, chief of Defence Forces, said on Wednesday the new rule set by Gen Apirat not only applied to retired officers but also to non-commissioned officers and state employees who stayed on in military housing.


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