Srettha unperturbed by pending charter court deliberation

MONDAY, MAY 20, 2024

The prime minister believes appointment of Thaksin’s lawyer, Pichit, to PM’s Office should not pose many legal problems

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin expressed confidence that there should be no legal problems related to his appointment of Pichit Chuenban, despite the Constitutional Court getting ready to consider a case against them.

Speaking to reporters while visiting Italy, Srettha said he had not done anything wrong when appointing Pichit as PM’s Office Minister. “I’m confident that I’ve done the right thing with honest intentions,” he said on Monday.

Despite rumours that Srettha will be suspended if the court’s deliberations on Thursday result in a trial, the premier said he does not believe the court will issue a suspension order immediately.

He said he believes that if the court does decide to proceed with the case, it will hold another meeting to deliberate on his suspension. The PM added that he would respect the court’s decision no matter what, adding that this case was not distracting him from the mission of his trip to Europe.

He was referring to a petition filed by some 40 senators last week, asking the charter court to remove him and Pichit from office for allegedly violating the Constitution and political ethics.

The senators claim that Pichit is unqualified for the job and was once convicted, while Srettha gave him the job despite knowing his background.

Srettha unperturbed by pending charter court deliberation

Meanwhile, a Government House source said Pichit should consider stepping down before Thursday to stop the court from taking up the petition. The source said that by quitting, Pichit could save Srettha from being suspended.

The source added that Pichit was considering the idea, based on several previous cases in which the court dismissed petitions calling for the disqualification of Cabinet members or MPs when they resigned before the court began looking into the petition.

Last week, a group of 40 outgoing senators filed a complaint via Senate President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, seeking a court verdict on whether Srettha and Pichit are still qualified to remain in office as per the Constitution’s Articles 170 (4) and (5).
The court is scheduled to deliberate on Thursday whether to go ahead with the case.

According to the source, there have been at least three cases in recent history where the Constitution Court dismissed qualification cases after the accused quit first.

On May 15, the court dismissed a petition against former Move Forward Party MP Nakhonchai Khunnarong after he resigned in July last year as Rayong MP. The Election Commission (EC) had sought to annul Nakhonchai’s election victory on the grounds that he had been jailed once and thus was not qualified to contest the May 14 election last year.

In 2022, Nipon Boonyamanee quit as deputy interior minister, prompting the Constitutional Court to dismiss a petition against him about his qualifications.

In another case, three former Democrat Party ministers – Puttipong Punnakanta, Thavorn Senneam and Natapol Teepsuwan – resigned from the Cabinet after a petition was sent to the court on their qualifications. The three had been given jail terms in February 2021 over their part in the Shutdown Bangkok protests.

Separately, Pichit was jailed in 2008 for contempt of court after he tried to bribe officials of the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions. At that time, he was representing former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-wife, Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, in the Ratchadapisek land purchase scandal.

Thaksin was given a two-year jail sentence that year.