Thai court to rule on premier’s term-limit case in two weeks

THAILAND’S Constitutional Court will rule on Sept. 30 whether Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha should permanently step down over an eight-year term limit challenge brought by his political opponents, saying it had gathered enough preliminary evidence to proceed with a review.

The ruling will come just over a month after the top court suspended Prayuth’s prime ministerial powers and called for evidences to determine whether the retired general must leave office before the government is due to complete its four-year term in March.

“The court has discussed and found the case to be a legal challenge and there are enough witnesses and evidences to consider a ruling,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.

The former coup leader’s legal team had argued his premiership didn’t start on Aug. 24, 2014 — the day he was appointed prime minister of a military government.

Prayuth, who continues to discharge his duties as the defense minister, will respect the court verdict, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement.

The legal review was based on a debate over whether his years as junta leader before the current charter became effective in 2017 should be counted against the limit stipulated in the post-coup constitution.

The nine-member court has gathered statements from Prayuth and two members of the constitution drafting committee on the term-limit dispute, as well as a report and minutes of one of the committee’s meetings held in 2018.

Supporters of the retired general have argued either that Prayuth’s start date should be when the charter became effective in 2017 or that it should be from when he became the head of an elected government in 2019.

Analysts have said a favorable ruling for the suspended premier is more likely as choosing political continuity over a strict legal interpretation would help avert a political vacuum that might prove troublesome for the royalist military establishment.

Thailand is due to host the leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in November. –BLOOMBERG