PC: Suspense Crime
The prime minister of Thailand has been suspended by the country’s Constitutional Court on Thursday, according to news reports. The decision marks the latest development in an ongoing conflict over the direction of Thai government and comes after months of protests and political conflict that have affected tourism and the economy in Asia’s second-largest economy. What happens next, however, remains unclear.
According to a government spokeswoman, Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has temporarily relinquished his position as leader but continues to serve as the nation’s defence minister.
The extraordinary leadership change comes in response to a decision made by Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday, which ordered Prayut to step aside while it examines whether he violated the recently enacted eight-year term limit.
Following a military takeover in 2014, Prayut assumed the position of prime minister before winning a contentious general election in 2019.
In the interim, he directed a revision of the kingdom’s constitution that forbade the prime minister from holding office for longer than eight years. Now, though, the focus is on whether Prayut has exceeded his own boundary.
The court acknowledged a plea earlier this week from 172 opposition MPs asserting that Prayut’s authority began in 2014, when he seized power in the coup. The court will probably take into account whether his term began formally in 2017, when the constitution was amended, or perhaps 2019, following the election.
On Wednesday, five of the nine judges on the constitutional court concurred that Prayut should be suspended while the court deliberates the case, but they did not specify when they would rule. Once Prayut formally receives the court document, he has 15 days to write a counter statement explaining why he should keep his job.
Prayut’s administration issued a statement stating that he respects the court’s ruling.
According to the statement, the order “would not disrupt the country’s administration, work done by civil officials, or the government’s ongoing programmes.”
Now who is in charge?
Anucha Burapachaisri, a government spokesman, told reporters on Wednesday that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan will take over as acting prime minister while the court considers its ultimate decision. As a former army commander and ardent defender of the Thai monarchy, Prawit.
The current prime minister still retains the authority to call early elections by dissolving the elected House of Representatives, even if new elections are scheduled to take place by May of next year as required by the constitution.
According to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, Prayut has survived four motions of no confidence in the past few months and is poised to retain his position as prime minister through the elections.
However, detractors claim it is high time he left.
Since he has been the prime minister for the past eight years—or since he has been referred to as the prime minister—Thailand has struggled economically and politically, according to Thitinan.
Recent youth-led protests appear to have subsided, but, according to him, this is because some of the movement’s leaders were charged with crimes and there are still unresolved issues with the Prayut government.
Why is Prayut not well-liked?
Growing authoritarianism and rising inequality have damaged Prayut’s tenure as prime minister after leading a military coup.
After six months of instability and violent street protests, the scandal-ridden administration of Yingluck Shinawatra was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 2014, bringing the former military commander to power.
Prayut, however, outlawed any political campaigning, including political rallies with more than five persons, shortly after assuming power. Hundreds of activists have been detained and accused of violating harsh laws like sedition or the lese majeste, which forbids mocking the royal family, throughout his tenure as leader.
Despite threats from the military-backed administration, young people all around the nation took to the streets in 2020 to demand Prayut’s departure. The widespread demonstrations were sparked by broken promises to restore democracy and what protestors claim is a violation of civil liberties and rights.
Calls for Prayut to resign were also fueled by the military government’s poor management of the coronavirus pandemic and economy, cronyism, and a lack of transparency and accountability.
Long after 2021, discontent with the military leadership and the monarchy of the kingdom persisted.
As Thailand battled the coronavirus pandemic, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended to the throne in 2016 and was anointed in May 2019, is thought to spend a significant amount of time abroad.
Since becoming king, Vajiralongkorn has received billions of dollars’ worth of assets held by the Thai Crown, strengthening his control over royal finances and greatly boosting his personal wealth, which has angered the populace who are expected to respect the monarchy.