Thailand's Constitutional Court suspended Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Wednesday to decide whether he violated the country’s term limit for office.
Prayuth ruled as head of a military council after he led the overthrow of the elected government in 2014. He became a civilian prime minister in 2019 following an election held under a constitution written with military supervision. It set an eight-year limit for the prime minister.
The court said it will consider a request from the main opposition party seeking his ouster. The opposition argued that Prayuth's time as head of a military government ruling the country should count towards his eight-year term under the constitution. In a statement, the court said that Prayuth has 15 days to answer the decision. The court said in a five-to-four ruling that his suspension would start on Wednesday.
A government spokesman said Prayuth respected the court's decision and had suspended active duty as prime minister. But he will remain in his other position as defense minister. The spokesman added that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan would take over as acting prime minister. He said the suspension would not affect the government's work.
But those who want Prayuth gone do not want Prawit in power either.
“No Prayuth. No Prawit. No military coup government,” a leading protest group said in a statement after the court decision Wednesday. The group known as Ratsadon, or The People, issued a new call for protests, but only a small number of people appeared.
Prayuth could return to his position when the court rules. But the court’s decision threw Thai politics into more disorder.
A recent public opinion study suggested that nearly two-thirds of Thais want Prayuth out of office by this month. Many blame him for mishandling the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to demand that Prayuth and his Cabinet resign. They also called for the constitution to be amended and the monarchy to be reformed. The conflicts between the student-driven protest movement and the government became violent.
“Gen. Prayuth has stayed for a long time and had no vision to develop the country at all,” said Wuttichai Tayati, a 28-year-old who was protesting in Bangkok on Wednesday. “At least taking him out for now might make Thailand move forward a bit.”
Thailand's next general election is expected no later than May of next year.
I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.
Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English with reporting from The Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
coup –n. a sudden attempt by a small group of people to take over the government, usually through violence
mishandle –v. to supervise or deal with poorly or incorrectly
monarchy –n. a form of government that is ruled by king or queen
vision –n. a clear idea of what should be done or planned for the future
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