30 Sep 2022, 12:27

Thai court to decide suspended prime minister's fate

BANGKOK, Sept 30, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - A Thai court is set to rule Friday on

whether suspended prime minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha should be reinstated, or
thrown out of office permanently, with a verdict in his favour likely to
trigger protests.

The former army chief, who came to power in a 2014 military coup, was
suspended last month while the court examined a legal challenge mounted by
opposition parties who argued he had reached his term limit in power.

Under the 2017 Thai constitution, a prime minister cannot serve more than
eight years in office, but Prayut's supporters and critics disagree as to
when his term began.

The court ruling is expected to be announced at 3 pm (0800 GMT) Friday.

His supporters argue the clock started when the 2017 constitution was enacted
-- or even after the 2019 general election, in which Prayut stayed in power
thanks to the army-scripted constitutional provisions which critics say gave
him an advantage.

If the court agrees, he could continue to serve until 2025 or 2027 --
depending on an upcoming national poll, which must be held within months.

Naresuan University political scientist Napisa Waitoolkiat said she expected
the ruling to go in Prayut's favour.

"There is really a high, high chance he will survive," she told AFP ahead of
Friday's ruling.

- 'Lose face' -

Following Prayut's suspension in August, his deputy Prawit Wongsuwan took
over as caretaker prime minister, while Prayut continued to serve as defence

The suspension has been hugely damaging to Prayut, Napisa said, causing him
to "lose face" in the eyes of voters.

The ruling comes ahead of the national elections, which must be called by
March 2023.

Prayut and his Palang Pracharat Party are increasingly out of favour with
voters, as an underperforming Thai economy hurts households.

A survey of 2,500 people earlier this month by the National Institute of
Development Administration found that only 10.5 percent of respondents
supported Prayut, who ranked a lowly fourth as a potential prime ministerial

If the court ruling goes in his favour the city could see protests, Napisa

"I think there will be protests in the street and demonstrations in Bangkok
against the ruling," Napisa said.

At least three protest groups -- which came to prominence during 2020's
massive pro-democracy rallies -- said Thursday they would demonstrate should
Prayut carry the day.

Deputy national police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told AFP officers
would be deployed to provide security near the court and in Bangkok's
shopping mall district, a popular location for previous protests.

Meanwhile, officials announced late Thursday there would be a restricted zone
around the court.



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