Paetongtarn says she’s not ready to replace Srettha
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Paetongtarn says she’s not ready to replace Srettha

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, gives a speech at the party's meeting on May 3. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, gives a speech at the party's meeting on May 3. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, says she is not yet ready to become the next prime minister if Srettha Thavisin is removed from office in a case involving the appointment of a minister with a prison record.

“I am not prepared [to become prime minister] yet,” said Ms Paetongtarn, who is another prime ministerial candidate of Pheu Thai.

However, Ms Paetongtarn said she believed the Constitutional Court would rule in Mr Srettha’s favour.

“There should be no problem with the prime minister. He will continue to work to fix economic problems affecting people.

“I myself will carry out my job as the party leader and as chair of the government’s national soft-power development committee to the best of my abilities,” said Ms Paetongtarn, daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is widely seen as Pheu Thai’s de facto leader.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court accepted a petition seeking Mr Srettha’s ouster over the appointment of Pichit Chuenban as PM’s Office Minister.

The judges told Mr Srettha to provide an explanation within 15 days. However, the court decided not to suspend him as PM pending its ruling.

The court also voted to reject a similar petition against former Prime Minister’s Office minister Pichit Chuenban, citing his resignation on Tuesday.

Pichit tendered his resignation in what was seen as a bid to spare Mr Srettha from possible legal wrangles associated with appointing him as a cabinet minister despite his eligibility being in question.

Previously, 40 caretaker senators had asked the Constitutional Court if Mr Srettha and Pichit should be removed from office under Section 170 (4) and (5) of the charter, which deals with the ethics of cabinet ministers.

The appointment of Pichit, who once served as ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyer as well as Mr Srettha’s adviser, as PM’s Office minister raised questions about his eligibility to serve as a cabinet minister.

This is because he served jail time for contempt of court in connection with an attempted bribery case when he represented Thaksin in a controversial land deal case in 2008.

The Supreme Court sentenced Pichit and two of his colleagues to six months in prison on June 25, 2008, after they tried to bribe Supreme 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.

Prapan Koonmee, one of the 40 senators who submitted the petition, said the court should not take long to consider the case.

The case is not complicated as sufficient facts and information have been provided in the petition, he said, adding that the court is expected to deliver its ruling within three months.

Romtham Khamnurak, deputy spokesman of the Democrat Party, said that even if Mr Srettha is removed from office, the rest of the cabinet will remain in office until a new prime minister is elected by parliament.

This is because the petition submitted by the senators only singled Mr Srettha out for removal, Mr Romtham said.

Sakda Noppasit, a former Pheu Thai spokesman, also noted that the petition seeking Mr Srettha’s ouster is acutally a reaction against Thaksin because the senators were unhappy with Thaksin’s increasing role in politics after returning to Thailand, despite him not holding any official government office.

Thaksin returned last August. His jail term was then commuted, and he was paroled in February.

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