12 July 2023

Prayut Chan-o-cha:
“I am announcing my retirement from politics...”

Democracy Monument

Prime Minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha has confirmed that he will leave politics once a new Thai government has been formed. He released a statement yesterday saying: “I am announcing my retirement from politics and resigning as a member of the United Thai Nation Party”. Prayut has dominated Thai politics for almost a decade, though his party won only thirty-six seats in this year’s election. A parliamentary vote will take place tomorrow to select his successor, though the front runner, Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, is facing suspension as an MP pending a ruling by the Constitutional Court on a legal technicality.

Prayut declared martial law on 20th March 2014, which was unconstitutional as only the monarch has the prerogative to invoke martial law nationwide. At the time, he claimed that “[t]he invocation of martial law is not a coup d’etat”, though he launched a coup two days later. He was appointed Prime Minister by the rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly established by the junta, and gave himself absolute power under article 44 of the interim constitution. Prayut’s party lost the long-delayed 2019 election, though he was reappointed as Prime Minister thanks to the votes of the senators his junta had selected.

Thai prime ministers are limited to two terms—or eight years—in office, and last year the Constitutional Court ruled that Prayut had served as PM for only five years rather than eight, thus enabling him to remain in power. (The court’s verdict discounted his first three years as PM, before the new constitution came into effect.) But in his resignation statement yesterday, Prayut said: “Throughout the past nine years as Prime Minister, I have dedicated myself to the benefit of the beloved people”, confirming that, in fact, he had exceeded the two-term limit.

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