22 June 2024

The Constitutional Court voted 6:3 today to accept for consideration a petition, by a group of 40 senators, challenging the legitimacy of the appointment of Phichit Chuenban as PM’s Office minister, but voted 5:4 to reject the senators’ call to suspend Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin pending the court’s final decision.

The prime minister was given 15 days to submit his written rebuttal to the court.

The court also voted not to accept the senators’ petition seeking a ruling on the legitimacy of Phichit’s appointment, on the grounds that he resigned from the cabinet on Tuesday.

The three dissenting judges were Nakharin Mektrairat, the president of the court, Udom Ratamarit and Sumeth Roikulcharoen.

In the petition, the 40 senators ask the court to deliberate under §170 (paragraph 3) and §82 of the Charter, about the ministerial statuses of the prime minister and Phichit, to determine whether their statuses will end in, accordance with §170 (4) and §160 (4) and (5).

The senators claim that the prime minister should have been aware that Phichit was unqualified to become a minister, after being sentenced to six months in jail for contempt of court over the “snack box” scandal by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Post Holders.

Acting senator Direkrit Janekrongtham defended the senators’ move yesterday, saying that it is a matter of principle and they did so to lend legitimacy to the government.

He said that he was not pressured to quit the House Political Development and Public Participation Committee, but admitted that several senators admonished them for being nonsensical and acting beyond their authority, as the terms of all senators have already expired and they are now serving only as acting senators, until a new set of 200 senators is elected.