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Thai court rejects petition seeking to disqualify PM


THAILAND'S Constitutional Court rejected a petition from 110 lawmakers that claimed Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha is ineligible for office.

Mr Prayuth was entitled to seek to become premier after the March general election, according to a televised judgment on Wednesday in Bangkok.

The petition argued Mr Prayuth was a state official when he won the parliamentary vote for premier in June, and as such was ineligible to stand under constitutional rules.

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"Today's decision signals the court continues to support this government," said Paul Chambers, a Thai politics expert at Naresuan University's College of Asean Community Studies. "This government is not going down any time soon."

The court's decision is the second in a week to go in favour of the prime minister. On Sept 11, the judges declined to accept a complaint that Mr Prayuth and his Cabinet breached the charter by failing to recite the full oath of office.

The court said the July 16 swearing-in ceremony that took place in front of King Maha Vajiralongkorn lay beyond its jurisdiction, and was a matter for the monarch and the Cabinet.

Former army chief Prayuth led a military coup in 2014 and went on to rule with absolute executive power at the head of a junta. The long-delayed general election took place earlier this year. The disputed poll ushered in a pro-military, civilian administration led by Mr Prayuth.

He remained junta chief until he was sworn in as a civilian leader, leading to the lawmakers' complaint. The ruling said the junta wasn't a state agency and therefore Mr Prayuth didn't count as a state official.

Critics have decried what they describe as the military's ongoing grip on power and continue to jab at the ruling coalition, which has a razor-thin parliamentary majority.

For instance, the opposition grilled the premier in Parliament on Wednesday over the swearing-in controversy in an attempt to undermine the government's legitimacy. Some lawmakers called on him to step down.

Opposition lawmakers said the incomplete oath showed his "ignorance of the constitution", and questioned whether he can be trusted to uphold the rule of law. It has "destroyed public confidence as well as his credibility", Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary general of the youth-driven Future Forward Party, said. "Prayuth's incomplete oath-taking makes the public doubt whether he will uphold and comply with the constitution."

The omission could also mean that the ex-junta chief "may have thought of staging another coup", said Thai Liberal Party leader Sereepisuth Temeeyaves. BLOOMBERG, AFP