PM Srettha turns to legal eagle Wissanu for advice
text size

PM Srettha turns to legal eagle Wissanu for advice

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, right, meets former deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam at the Bangkok Post Forum 2023 in October last year. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, right, meets former deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam at the Bangkok Post Forum 2023 in October last year. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin admitted on Monday that he had asked Wissanu Krea-ngam, a legal expert and former deputy prime minister, for advice on how to handle a case involving the appointment of a minister with a prison record that could violate the code of ethics for cabinet ministers.

Mr Srettha said that he visited Mr Wissanu at his house and discussed the matter, though he refused to divulge the details.

‘’I did not invite him over. I went to see him at his house. We had a discussion,’’ Mr Srettha said.

When asked if Mr Wissanu’s advice had boosted his confidence ahead of defending himself in court, the prime minister said, ‘’I am quite confident," adding that he is also preparing a submission that must be presented to the Constitutional Court within 15 days.

According to sources, Mr Srettha visited Mr Wissanu at his house on Saturday.

Chaithawat Tulathon, the leader of the main opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), said that if the court rules against Mr Srettha, this could damage the coalition government’s stability and obstruct the implementation of its policies.

Mr Chaithawat said the budget bill for the 2025 fiscal year, which is awaiting deliberation by parliament and is crucial to government spending, will also be affected.

If Mr Srettha is removed from office as a result of the court’s ruling, a new prime minister will be elected by parliament, Mr Chaithawat said, adding that the MFP will nominate Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s chief adviser and prime ministerial candidate, for the vote in parliament.

‘’Even though the junta-appointed Senate’s tenure already ended [on May 10] and the new Senate can no longer co-elect a prime minister, it is unlikely that the MFP will be aligned with Pheu Thai to form a new government. The two parties remain political rivals,’’ Mr Chaithawat said.

The junta-appointed Senate last year succeeded in voting against Mr Pita, then leader of the MFP, and scuttled his chance of becoming prime minister.

Unlike the NCPO-appointed Senate, the new Senate will not be allowed to co-elect a prime minister but will retain the power to endorse appointments to independent public agencies.

Bhumjaithai Party leader and its prime ministerial candidate Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday that the coalition party did not have any contingency plan if Mr Srettha is removed from office.

“The coalition government’s unity remains intact and each cabinet minister remains focused on carrying out their duties,” said Mr Anutin, who serves as Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister.

Last 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 Mr Pichit, citing his resignation as PM’s Office Minister last Tuesday.

Mr 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, the 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.

Do you like the content of this article?