Day One for Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister was not in 2014, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday, summing up a defence statement submitted to the Constitutional Court.
Mr Wissanu confirmed that the document was sent to the court on Thursday, a week before the deadline imposed by the judges, who are expected to take about one month to reach their decision.
The court has ordered Gen Prayut to be temporarily relieved from the premiership until the judges make a ruling on his disputed tenure. He continues to act as defence minister in the cabinet.
The statement delivered to the court said the general’s first day as prime minister was not Aug 24, 2014, three months after the military coup that he staged. But it stopped short of specifying the first working date, according to Mr Wissanu, as that is for the judges to decide.
The opposition contends that Gen Prayut’s eight years at Government House are up, since he assumed the premiership on Aug 24, 2014. The date was based on the announcement in the Royal Gazette that came into force on that day. At the time, the country was under the 2014 provisional constitution enacted after the coup.
Supporters of Gen Prayut have argued that his first day in office was June 9, 2019, when he became prime minister following the election conducted under the charter approved in 2017 by a public referendum.
Some others believe the eight-year term should be counted from April 2017, when the new charter took effect.
The court is seeking the opinions of Meechai Ruchupan, who chaired the charter drafting committee, and Pakorn Nilprapunt, the secretary-general of the Council of State, according to Mr Wissanu.
Gen Prayut on Friday returned all official cars used when he was the government leader to the Prime Minister's Office.
Mr Wissanu said the return of the vehicles should not be interpreted as a sign that he would not return to Government House as the prime minister.
Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, the first deputy prime minister, is now serving as acting PM, with full powers under a cabinet resolution approved this week.