Prasert Jantararuangtong, secretary-general of opposition Pheu Thai Party, told the press on Wednesday that his party has done its best by suing the premier for continuing to live in an Army residence after retiring as Army chief in September 2014.
The Constitutional Court, however, ruled unanimously on Wednesday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has not violated the charter by staying on in his Army residence and can remain in office.
Prayut was accused of violating Articles 184 and 186 of the Constitution that forbid a minister from “receiving any special money or benefit from a government agency, state agency or state enterprise apart from that given by the government agency, state agency or state enterprise to other persons in the ordinary course of business”.
In his court testimony, Prayut argued that his security team had advised him to continue living in the Army residence for his safety. Hence, he said, the lawsuit should be dismissed.
Moreover, the court was told that as a former Army chief, Prayut deserves the honour and security the residence provides.
The residence is within the First Infantry Battalion of Royal Guards compound on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.
Prasert said the court’s verdict was not in line with the facts his party had put forward, especially the question why this prime minister requires extra security when former premiers had lived in their official residence without requiring any special protection.
He said he was also concerned about verdicts in similar cases in the future, adding that Pheu Thai will also look into the so-called Army reforms claimed to have been put in place by former commander in chief General Apirat Kongsompong.
In the evening, Prasert was invited to join a talk show on Thairath TV anchored by Jomquan Lopetch to discuss the verdict, as well as the PM conflict of interest.
In the show, the secretary-general pointed out that Prayut would have been found guilty if the court focused on the Constitution instead of Army regulations.
He said Prayut currently holds a political post rather than one in the military, which means he should come under the purview of the Constitution, not Army regulations.
However, Paiboon Nititawan from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, who presented the other side in the show, insisted that Prayut had every right to stay on in the Army residence because he was once a soldier.
Thai social media, meanwhile, was full of comments slamming the verdict and Thailand’s judiciary for finding Prayut “not guilty” even though he had blatantly violated the country’s supreme law.