08/24/2022, 11.52
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Bangkok, Supreme Court suspends former general turned premier Prayut

by Steve Suwannarat

The judges will review the opposition's petition seeking disqualification, as eight years have passed since he took office after the coup. Supporters are pressing to postpone the start of the count to the approval of the latest constitution, thus moving the term end to 2025. Provisional transfer of power to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, another former military man. Public opinion divided between the desire to turn over a new leaf and fear of a new season of instability.

Bangkok (AsiaNews) - The Thai Constitutional Court, with five votes in favour and four against, has decided to suspend former general Prayut Chan-ocha from his post as prime minister. With this decision, the judges expressed their intention to examine the petition requesting the end of his term of office due to expiry of terms.

This is an important decision both because of its democratic significance and because it eases the tension that was set to reappear today in the streets around the government building in Bangkok, which were blocked overnight with containers.

Prayut, who led the junta that took power on 22 May 2014 and then headed the government (civilian but directed by the armed forces) that took office on 24 August of the same year, is the longest-serving premier in Thai history. However, the Constitution, including the one approved after the coup, prohibits the tenure from exceeding eight years.

Consequently, the premier would be removed from office and his powers as of 23 August. His supporters, however, intend to pursue the argument that the duration of his premiership should be calculated from the entry into force of the current Constitution on 6 April 2017, thus granting him almost absolute power until 2025.

Opposition MPs in recent days addressed a petition to the President of the Lower House, former Premier Chuan Leekpai, asking the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the matter. The Court today granted this petition, thus immediately suspending Prayut and initiating an internal debate that could last up to a month before reaching a judgement.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, another former general loyal to Prayut, will be leading the government. He is a target of the opposition for his rigidity as well as for a lifestyle not marked by moderation.

Among the unknowns of the new situation created by today's decision of the judges is the reaction of the armed forces to this new challenge to their grip on the nation. Public opinion, on the other hand, remains divided between the desire to finally end the game of controlling the military - which has lasted practically uninterrupted for ninety years - and the desire to avoid friction that could lead to a new season of instability and violence.

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