Thailand’s Constitutional Court has temporarily suspended Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha from office.
The decision was announced on Wednesday to allow the court to rule on a petition filed by opposition parties that the former army chief served beyond the maximum eight-year period allowed by the constitution.
“The court decided by a 5-4 vote to suspend General Prayuth from the office of prime minister from August 24 until the court reaches a [final] verdict,” the court said in a statement.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan will serve as interim prime minister, said Wissanu Krea-Ngam, another deputy prime minister and legal expert in the government.
But in fact, this suspension will not affect the current government, because General Prayuth Chan-ocha will still be allowed to attend the Council of MinistersCabinet meetings as Minister of Defense, a position he holds jointly with that of Prime Minister.
Thailand’s constitution drafted by the military and promulgated in 2017 limits the duration of the term of prime minister to eight years: a legal controversy has arisen over the starting date of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s term.
The opposition argues that Prayuth’s years as prime minister must be counted from August 24, 2014, when he officially received royal approval signed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, following a military coup ousting the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.
Ruling party members say his term began in 2019, when he was elected prime minister after the first general election held under the last constitution.