ANN/THE STRAITS TIMES – Prayut Chan-o-cha resumed official duties as Thailand’s prime minister yesterday after the country’s top court lifted a five-week suspension and settled in his favour 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 yesterday and met with a couple of foreign envoys later in the afternoon.
He will visit the flood-ravaged rural northeast today, 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.
Yesterday, 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 favourable 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 monthlong deliberation on the case had fuelled speculation that Thailand’s royal establishment was looking to replace Prayut ahead of the next election, which is to be called by March.