Prayut’s Legal Team Disputes Tenure Limit Before Court

Deputy Prime Minister Wissany Krea-ngam confirmed that General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s legal team had filed a defense statement with the Constitutional Court, saying that his tenure as prime minister did not start in 2014.

The defense statement was filed on Thursday, just a week before the deadline set by the judges. Summarizing the document, Mr. Wissanu revealed that the lawyers told the court that General Prayut’s first day as prime minister was not August 24, 2014, three months after the coup that brought him to power.

However, the legal team did not specify the date on which the mandate began because that is something the jury has to decide, the deputy prime minister added.

The document was sent shortly after the Constitutional Court suspended General Prayut from his duties as prime minister, pending a decision on the disputed mandate.

General Prawit Wongsuwan relieved him temporarily after the ruling and now serves as acting prime minister. However, General Prayut continues to hold the defense minister’s post in the cabinet.

The Constitutional Court’s decision came after the opposition filed a petition to clarify his tenure’s limit. General Prayut’s detractors maintain that his term in Government House is over, arguing that he took office as prime minister on August 24, 2014. Thai constitution limits prime ministers’ terms to just eight years.

According to opposition leaders, that date is based on the Royal Gazette announcement that came into force in August of that year under a provisional constitution promulgated after the coup.

However, General Prayut’s supporters disagree and say that his first day in office was June 9, 2019, when he became prime minister after the elections that followed the 2017 public referendum.

Other parties consider that his eight-year term in office should be counted from April 2017, when the new charter approved in the public referendum of that same year came into force.

Mr. Wissanu said that the Constitutional Court was seeking the views of Council of State’s secretary-general Pakorn Nilprapunt and the chairman of the committee that drafted the charter Meechai Ruchupan.

In another related development, General Prayut returned all official vehicles used when he led the Prime Minister’s Office.

However, Mr. Wissanu said that returning the vehicles was not a sign that he would not return to Government House as prime minister.