October 03, 2022: -On Friday, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha had not exceeded the maximum eight years permitted in office, paving the way for his return from a five-week suspension.
The court announced its decision in a case filed by the opposition Pheu Thai party, having sought clarity on whether Prayuth’s time as leader of a junta formed after a coup he taught eight years ago should count in his overall tally.
In a 25-minute reading of the verdict, the court said Prayuth’s tenure as prime minister should be counted from 2017, when a current constitution was promulgated.
The decision choice enhance Prayuth, a staunch royalist whose premiership has been beset by attempts to unseat him, including four house censure motions, a conflict-of-interest case, and significant protests challenging his leadership and the monarchy.
Prayuth, 68, was suspended from office while the court deliberated the case.
The Pheu Thai party and a government spokesperson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday’s ruling.
An opinion poll in early August delivered Prayuth’s popularity waning, with nearly two-thirds of people surveyed wanting him to leave office, while a third preferred to wait for the court ruling.
The retired general was junta leader and prime minister from 2014 until an election in 2019, after which a new parliament chose him to stay as premier.
The Pheu Thai party, which led the government ousted by Prayuth in 2014, believes he reached the eight-year milestone last month and petitioned the court to set the record straight.
Prayuth’s supporters, however, had argued his premiership started when a new constitution was promulgated in 2017, while different say it started after the 2019 election.
The court’s decision means Prayuth could remain premier until 2025 if re-elected. An election must be held by May 7 next year at the latest, according to the election commission.