Court re­jects oath pe­ti­tion

Op­po­si­tion vows to grill Prayut in de­bate

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - MONGKOL BANGPRAPA NATTAYA CHETCHOTIR­OS

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court yes­ter­day re­jected a pe­ti­tion lodged by the Om­buds­man on the in­com­plete oath of of­fice re­cited by Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha in July.

The court re­solved unan­i­mously that it was “not in its author­ity” to make a rul­ing on the oath-tak­ing dur­ing the cab­i­net swear­ing-in cer­e­mony be­fore His Majesty the King.

The pe­ti­tion was lodged through the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man on Aug 20 by Panupong Chu­rak, a Ramkhamhae­ng Univer­sity stu­dent, who cited Sec­tion 213 of the char­ter on the right of cit­i­zens to com­plain if they con­sider their con­sti­tu­tional rights are vi­o­lated.

Mr Panupong claimed the in­com­plete oath could in­val­i­date the cab­i­net’s for­ma­tion and its state­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of pol­icy, af­fect­ing the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to work for the peo­ple’s ben­e­fit.

On Jul 16, Gen Prayut led cab­i­net min­is­ters at the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony be­fore HM the King at the Am­bara Villa in Dusit Palace.

How­ever, the prime min­is­ter failed to re­cite the fi­nal sen­tence of Sec­tion 161 of the con­sti­tu­tion, which re­quires the oath-taker to up­hold and abide by the con­sti­tu­tion.

The omis­sion prompted ques­tions over the va­lid­ity of his pre­mier­ship among op­po­si­tion par­ties and po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists.

How­ever, the court said “the oath­tak­ing con­cerns an ac­tion which re­flects a ‘spe­cific re­la­tion­ship’ be­tween the cab­i­net and the King and is con­sid­ered a po­lit­i­cal is­sue un­der an act of gov­ern­ment, stated in Sec­tion 47 of the or­ganic law on Con­sti­tu­tional Court pro­ce­dure.

“The court thus can­not ac­cept the pe­ti­tion for con­sid­er­a­tion,” it said.

The court went on to explain that af­ter Gen Prayut and his cab­i­net com­pleted the oath-tak­ing, His Majesty the King re­sponded by of­fer­ing his moral sup­port to the gov­ern­ment in car­ry­ing out its du­ties in line with the oath it had made.

Then, on Aug 27, amid grow­ing crit­i­cism di­rected at Gen Prayut for fail­ing to com­plete the oath, His Majesty the King is­sued a writ­ten mes­sage of sup­port to the prime min­is­ter and cab­i­net, invit­ing them to per­form their du­ties in line with their oaths of of­fice.

Gen Prayut and cab­i­net mem­bers re­ceived the mes­sage in turn be­fore a por­trait of the King at Gov­ern­ment House.

The mes­sage was the speech the King had de­liv­ered to them dur­ing the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony at Am­bara Villa.

The court yes­ter­day also dropped a sim­i­lar com­plaint over an alleged mis­take the pre­mier made dur­ing the oath-tak­ing.

The re­jected pe­ti­tion was filed by Ruangkrai Leek­it­wat­tana, a for­mer mem­ber of the dis­solved Thai Raksa Chart Party.

Mr Ruangkrai had ac­cused Gen Prayut of vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion, an act tan­ta­mount to in­fring­ing upon the con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy, by fail­ing to iden­tify fi­nan­cial sources to sup­port the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed poli­cies, as re­quired by the char­ter’s Sec­tion 162, dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary ses­sion.

The court said it found no ev­i­dence to back Mr Ruangkrai’s sus­pi­cion.

Op­po­si­tion chief whip Suthin Kh­langsaeng said the court’s re­jec­tion of the pe­ti­tion had not set­tled doubts, so par­lia­ment was still bound to go ahead with its planned de­bate on the oath-tak­ing.

Mr Suthin, Pheu Thai MP for Maha Sarakham, said the dis­missal of the pe­ti­tion also re­lieved the op­po­si­tion of con­cerns it would not be able to per­form its duty fully dur­ing the de­bate.

Op­po­si­tion par­ties had feared the court re­view would limit what could be said in par­lia­ment, he said.

“But now that the court has dis­missed the pe­ti­tion, the de­bate can pro­ceed with­out re­stric­tions. We’ll be able to scru­ti­nise the mat­ter, and

‘‘ The oath­tak­ing ... re­flects a ‘spe­cific re­la­tion­ship’ be­tween the cab­i­net and the King and is con­sid­ered a po­lit­i­cal is­sue. CON­STI­TU­TIONAL COURT

the prime min­is­ter now has no ex­cuse to avoid [an­swer­ing the ques­tions],” he said.

Mr Suthin also said the prime min­is­ter would have a more dif­fi­cult time de­fend­ing him­self and would have to take po­lit­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity over the oath.

The op­po­si­tion chief whip said the is­sue un­der­lined the need to amend the con­sti­tu­tion so that a po­lit­i­cal act deemed un­con­sti­tu­tional is ex­am­ined by an in­de­pen­dent agency.

How­ever, Jade Don­a­vanik, for­mer ad­viser to the Con­sti­tu­tion Draft­ing Com­mit­tee, warned yes­ter­day the de­bate may vi­o­late Sec­tion 112 of the Crim­i­nal Code on lese ma­jeste, as the court had ruled the is­sue was be­tween the King and the cab­i­net.

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