Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet will remain in office even if the Constitutional Court accepts a petition on his eight-year tenure for consideration, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Tuesday
The deputy prime minister said the Constitution Court was expected to decide on Wednesday whether it will accept the petition from the opposition for deliberation and decide whether to accept it for trial.
If accepted, the court may take several days for deliberation before deciding if Gen Prayut should suspend his duties as prime minister, Mr Wissanu said.
If the court rules against the petition, Gen Prayut can continue his role as prime minister, he said.
In the event the court rules for Gen Prayut to step down, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon would take over as caretaker prime minister and he will work with other cabinet ministers, including Gen Prayut who is defence minister, he said.
"Political position holders and permanent government officials can perform their duties as usual," said Mr Wissanu. "There will be no risk or legal violation regardless of the court's ruling," the deputy prime minister said.
He quoted Gen Prayut as telling his subordinates during Tuesday's cabinet meeting to continue working, and his tenure would depend on the court's decision.
Mr Wissanu said the first five years in the premiership of Gen Prayut was approved by the National Legislative Assembly and the three following years by the parliament. "This has a significant effect. I can say only this," Mr Wissanu said.
Anucha Burapachaisri, deputy secretary-general to the prime minister, said that if Gen Prayut's tenure was considered as beginning on Aug 24, 2014, it would end on Wednesday.
If the tenure is deemed to start on June 9, 2019, when Gen Prayut assumes the premiership after a general election in the same year, the term can continue until June 8, 2027.
If the term is considered as commencing on April 6, 2017, when the constitution was promulgated and defined Gen Prayut's cabinet as the cabinet under the constitution, his term would end on April 6, 2025, Mr Anucha said.
Gen Prayut on Tuesday remained tight-lipped on reporters' questions about his tenure. He said he had a "sore throat". He did not hold a press conference after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, as expected.
He also cancelled his previously set meeting with the Vatican's outgoing ambassador in the afternoon and left Government House, which was surrounded with shipping containers to avoid demonstrators who would call for his resignation.
Under the charter, a prime minister cannot be in office for more than eight years.
The opposition camp and opponents of Gen Prayut believe the first day of the eight-year tenure he is limited to by the constitution was Aug 24, 2014, when he was installed as prime minister under an interim constitution after the military seized power.