Court to decide on PM’s fate
text size

Court to decide on PM’s fate

Petition calling into question PM's cabinet choice up for consideration on Thursday

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin prepares to meet media members at the Thai Khu Fah building on April 29. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin prepares to meet media members at the Thai Khu Fah building on April 29. (Photo: Chanat Katanyu)

All eyes will be on the Constitutional Court on Thursday, when it will decide whether to accept for consideration a petition seeking the ouster of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin over his decision to appoint Pichit Chuenban to the cabinet.

Mr Pichit resigned as a PM’s Office minister on Tuesday, in what was seen as an attempt to spare Mr Srettha from possible legal fallout given the questions about his eligibility.

However, it remains to be seen whether the court will proceed with the petition submitted by a group of 40 senators, who have accused both Mr Pichit and the PM of breaching ministerial ethics.

Mr Srettha could face suspension from duty if the court accepts the petition, say legal observers.

The petition, submitted via Senate speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, asks the court if Mr Srettha and Mr Pichit should be terminated from their positions under Section 170 (4) and (5) of the constitution, which deals with the ethics of cabinet ministers.

A source at the court said the judges would also look at Section 51 of the court’s procedures before deciding whether to accept the petition.

The section says that if a petition is withdrawn or there are no grounds to consider the petition, the court can dismiss it, except if the court decides that it should proceed with the petition for the sake of the public’s benefit.

Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat, a Bangkok MP and deputy leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, said on Wednesday that the appointments of ministers in the latest reshuffle were not based on merit.

“Cabinet seats were divided based on the quota of each party. Rewarding close associates was obvious [in the reshuffle],” he said.

Mr Nattacha said Mr Srettha is not out of the woods despite Mr Pichit resigning.

The MP said he believed the resignation wouldn’t have any bearing on what the court thinks, and that it would proceed with the petition against the premier.

Mr Pichit, served time in jail for contempt of court over an attempted bribery case when he acted as a lawyer for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in a controversial land case in 2008.

The Supreme Court sentenced Mr Pichit and two of his colleagues to six months in prison on June 25, 2008, after they tried to bribe court officials by handing them a paper bag containing 2 million baht in cash a fortnight earlier.

All three represented Thaksin and his ex-wife, Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, in the Ratchadaphisek land case, for which Thaksin was sentenced to two years in prison in 2008.

Mr Srettha earlier said had asked the Council of State, the government’s legal arm, for legal advice on the appointment of Mr Pichit before submitting the new cabinet line-up for royal endorsement.

A source in the cabinet earlier said Mr Pichit’s imprisonment in the 2008 case did not render him ineligible to be appointed as a cabinet minister. The conviction had long passed the required 10-year break between finishing serving a jail term and the appointment.

However, the question of whether Mr Pichit meets the moral and ethical standards as required in the charter is a different matter, according to the source.

Supoj Khaimuk, a former Constitutional Court judge, said that if the court accepts the petition, it may have to verify whether Mr Srettha had actually asked the Council of State about whether Mr Pichit met the ethical standards.

“The prime minister knew that if he had asked the Council of State about whether Mr Pichit met the ethical standards, the answer would not have been in his favour,” Mr Supoj said.

Do you like the content of this article?