Srettha Faces Suspension As Court Weighs Ethics Complaint

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin could be suspended from his duties if the Constitutional Court decides to accept a petition from several senators that accuses him of ethical violations in connection with the appointment of a PM’s Office Minister.

The court plans to convene on Thursday to determine whether to accept the petition.

On Friday, a group of 40 senators requested that the court assess the roles of Mr. Srettha and PM’s Office Minister Pichit Chuenban following the latter’s appointment in a cabinet reshuffle.

Submitted by Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, the petition questions whether Mr. Srettha and Mr. Pichit should be dismissed from their roles according to Sections 170 (4) and (5) of the constitution concerning cabinet ministers’ ethics.

A court insider reported that although judges typically meet on Wednesdays, they will convene on Thursday this week due to the Visakha Bucha public holiday.

Should the petition be approved, the court may mandate a temporary suspension for Mr. Srettha and Mr. Pichit while the case is reviewed, with both individuals given 15 days to present their defense.

Mr. Pichit’s recent appointment as PM’s Office Minister is controversial due to his past as an advisor to Mr. Srettha and his history as a lawyer for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

His suitability for a cabinet minister is under scrutiny because he was previously jailed for contempt of court during legal representation involving an attempted bribery in 2008.

On June 25, 2008, Mr. Pichit and two associates were sentenced to six months in prison for attempting to bribe Supreme Court officials with a paper bag containing 2 million baht.

The three were representing Thaksin and his former wife, Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, in the Ratchadaphisek land case, which resulted in a two-year prison sentence for Thaksin in 2008.

During a recent trip to Italy, Mr. Srettha reiterated that he had sought legal guidance from the Council of State regarding the appointment of Mr. Pichit before finalizing the cabinet lineup for royal approval.

An earlier statement from a cabinet source mentioned that Mr. Pichit’s 2008 imprisonment does not prevent him from serving as a cabinet minister, as the conviction is beyond the required 10-year interval before such an appointment.

However, whether Mr. Pichit meets the ethical and moral standards expected of MPs, as stipulated by the constitution, remains a subject of debate, according to the same source.