Thai court asked to rule if prime minister must step down

International

Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Monday received a petition from opposition lawmakers seeking a ruling on whether Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has reached the legal limit on how long he can remain in office.

The petition, signed by 171 members of the House of Representatives, asks the nine-member court to rule on an article in the constitution limiting prime ministers to eight years in office.

The court is widely expected to announce on Wednesday whether it will rule on the petition. It is uncertain whether the court, if it accepts the case, would temporarily suspend Prayuth from his duties until it issues a ruling.

At issue is the date that should be used in determining how long he has been in office. Prayuth, then army commander, seized power in May 2014 after toppling an elected government in a military coup. He led a ruling junta and was installed as prime minister on Aug. 24, 2014, under a provisional post-coup constitution. His critics and several legal experts contend this means he will complete eight years in office on Tuesday.

His supporters say the country’s current constitution, which contains the provision limiting prime ministers to eight years, came into effect on April 6, 2017, and that should be used as the starting date. An even more generous interpretation is that the countdown began on June 9, 2019, when Prayuth took office under the new constitution following a 2019 general election.

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