Effective today 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha is set to return to his old job of being the Prime Minister after the Constitutional Court votes 6:3 to allow him to return to the position saying that his term as the Prime Minister started after the 2016 constitution was implemented on April 6, 2017.
The judgment by the court was anything but expected, as the court has in the past made such justifications for things it wants to push though as was the case on May 5, 2021, when the same court allowed an ex-jailed convict to remain a minister despite the constitution specifically stipulating that a convict is not allowed to be Member of Parliament let alone a minister.
The ‘justification’ that the Constitutional Court had given for the 1994 convicted drug dealer – Thammanat Prompao, was that he did not commit the crime in Thailand and therefore he was eligible to continue as the Deputy Agriculture Minister.
During yesterday’s ruling as well, the court came out to justify on how a Prime Minister is chosen and that despite late HM King Rama IX signing off on the appointment of the Gen. Prayut as the Prime Minister on August 24, 2014, the court said that the Gen. Prayut had not gone through the process of being nominated as the candidate for Prime Minister and that the vote to be Prime Minister was also not undertaken as per the rules put in place in the 2016 constitution.
The letter to appoint Prayut as PM on August 24, 2014
This justification by the Constitutional Court also means that the doors are now open to anyone to return as the Prime Minister because the counting for all Prime Minister candidates starts from scratch.
Good For Prayut, Bad For Country
The decision by the Constitutional Court would have put a smile back on the face of Gen. Prayut but is the move the best for the country, that is a question one needs to ask themselves.
Gen. Prayut has run the country’s economy to the ground over the 8-years of his governing the country. He has changed Finance Minister every 19 months during the past 8-years of governing the country.
Thailand’s revolving door of Finance Ministers has had no stability since Apisak Tantivorawong moved out in 2019 and the current minister – Arkhom Termpittayapaisith is more of a yes man who has basically not been able to revive the economy.
In a situation like the today, the country needs a forward-looking minister to help propel the economic growth for the country that has only started to recover from the impact of the pandemic induced lockdowns that the country went through during 2020/2021.
Instead, what Thailand has is its economic ministries that are distributed among various coalition partners of the government and each one has their own agenda.
Gen. Prayut is reportedly the ‘economic head’ of the government but if the words of former economic head – Somkid Jatusripitak, are anything to go by, it is assured that the country’s economy is unlikely to go anywhere far.
Somkid, after the unceremoniously sacking from the ruling Phalang Pracharath Party (PPRP), had come out to say to many of his close friends that the reasons why he could not manage the economy properly was because each ministry had their own ways of handling issues as per their party’s guidelines.
The Ministry of Commerce along with Ministry of Agriculture are handled by the Democrat party, the Ministry of Transport and also the Ministry of Sports & Tourism are by the Bhumjai Thai party, the Ministry of Finance is under the quota of the Prime Minister i.e. PPRP and so on. This Somkid said was a problem as managing the different interests of the parties was next to impossible.
Gen. Prayut took control of being the de-facto head of the Economic team although Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow is the official one, but the country has not been able to move forward.
With the world now heading for an economic recession, having the reigns of the country in Gen. Prayut’s hands is one of the last things that the country can afford.
Opposition Celebrates Prayut’s Victory
Although on the surface the opposition may come out to say that it is disappointed with the ruling, but withing the party circles it is a known fact that the opposition parties are popping the champaign bottles.
A highly unpopular Gen. Prayut is good news for the opposition, especially Pheu Thai party, which has continued to call for a ‘landslide’ win in the upcoming general elections.
Pheu Thai, the single largest political party in the parliament today, is set to benefit from Gen. Prayut returning to the hot seat. Afterall the ‘Caretaker Prime Minister’ General Prawit Wongsuwon had galvanized the PPRP and had in the 5-weeks as ‘acting’ Prime Minister undertaken trips across the country and garnered the support of the various factions within and now outside the PPRP.
Even the likes of the drug dealing convict Thammanat, who broke away with about 20 MPs in his group, started to cozy up to the borrow of watches worth millions of dollars from dead friends – Gen. Prawit.
Even the usually frail looking Gen. Prawit somehow had managed to revive and show to the people that if given the power, he can be active. Prawit who in the past needed assistants to help him walk, get out of the vehicle and barely spoke had turned around and was walking up and down the flight of stairs, was talking to journalists about issues instead of saying ‘I don’t know, I don’t know’.
Although the opposition filed the petition to bring down Gen. Prayut in hopes that such a move would fracture the incumbent coalition, the survival of Gen. Prayut may in fact help the opposition get a bigger win margin, once the elections take place.
The feeling among the opposition is that Gen. Prayut would not be able to pull out a magic wand and fix the country’s problems, instead with the oncoming economic downturn that is spooking the world could push the people to look for a party that has in the past managed to wade through these rough seas.