Thai PM resumes duties after court lifts five-week suspension

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Prayut Chan-o-cha resumed official duties as Thailand’s prime minister on Monday after the country’s top court lifted a five-week suspension and settled in his favor a dispute surrounding his term limits.

The 68-year-old premier attended a meeting to review the flood situation in some parts of the country on Monday and is scheduled to meet with a couple of foreign envoys later in the afternoon.

He will visit the flood-ravaged rural northeast on Tuesday, according to his office. Prayut was cleared to resume his duties after the Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that he was not in violation of the eight-year term limit as his premiership began in April 2017, not in 2014 when he seized power in a military coup.

The ruling clears the way for him to remain the leader until 2025 if he’s picked to lead the ruling coalition again and it returns to power after a general election expected next year.

But analysts have said his inability to serve another full four-year term due to the term limit may make him a less preferable candidate.

On Monday, Prayut lauded the success of the nation’s Covid-19 task force that he chaired until it was dissolved at the end of last month.

Thailand has seen a steady decline in new Covid-19 cases and deaths, allowing it to remove all pandemic-era restrictions on travel and businesses.

“We never wavered in our efforts and did the best we could to take care of our big family of 70 million people,” Prayut said on Facebook.

“No matter how big a crisis, it cannot win over the power of unity and great sacrifice in all our hearts.”

The favorable court ruling ended the hardest challenge yet for Prayut, who had faced and survived a series of no confidence votes.

Shortly after the court verdict, Prayut said he would spend the “precious time” left for the government to finish projects that he had started.

But the court’s month-long deliberation on the case had fueled speculation that Thailand’s royal establishment was looking to replace Prayut ahead of the next election, which is to be called by March.

His popularity has slumped for at least four straight quarters as his government struggles to shore up an economy still reeling from the pandemic.

Although election rules still favor the military-backed group to retain power, it faces stiff competition against the Pheu Thai party backed by former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allies have won the most seats in every national vote over the past 21 years.

Prayut ousted Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014.

 

 

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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