6 June 2024

Embattled PM’s Office Minister Phichit Chuenban resigned this afternoon after accusations were made that he is disqualified from assuming a ministerial post due to his conviction and incarceration on bribery charges over a decade ago.

He announced his resignation despite reiterating in the morning press conference that he would not quit.

The Constitutional Court is scheduled to decide this Thursday whether to accept for consideration a petition from 40 senators, asking it to strip Phichit and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin of their ministerial statuses over Phichit’s appointment, despite his questionable background.

In the past two days, Government House has been abuzz with rumours of Phichit’s resignation.  When asked by reporters about the rumours, he simply shrugged.

This morning, an Phichit challenged the 40 senators, who sought a ruling from the Constitutional Court, to debate with him over his qualifications, as he alleged that there is an attempt by some elements to get rid of the prime minister.

He also said that he is willing to resign from the cabinet if that would put an end to the “vicious circle” that seeks to unseat the prime minister.

In the “snack box” scandal ten years ago, Phichit and his two lawyers, while working for the defence of former prime minister Thaksin, were found guilty of contempt of the court for trying to bribe court officials with two million baht in cash in a box given to court officials.

The minister claimed that nowhere in the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders did it mention that he was the person who carried the “snack box”. In its verdict, the court only mentioned that he should have known that the box contained two million baht in cash.

In criminal proceedings, he said, if there is a doubt, the benefit of the doubt should be given to the defendant, adding that the fact that he knew about the money in the snack box was just “an assumption” by the court.

Phichit said he is ready to appear before the Constitutional Court to prove his innocence in the “snack box” case, adding that the Supreme Court’s conviction has been nagging at his conscience for a decade.

Phichit also claimed that the prime minster did nothing wrong in appointing him.