11 July 2024

Former Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, who stepped down in August after nine years in office, has become the latest member of the Privy Council, as announced in the Royal Gazette on November 29.

His appointment, by command of His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), brings the number of Privy Council members to 19 – the limit set by the Constitution. Altogether, 23 people have been named privy councilors during the current reign, including replacements for those who have left office. Membership comes to an end either upon death, resignation, or removal by royal command.

The Privy Council serves as the body of advisors to His Majesty the King. It is tasked with “rendering advice to the King on all matters pertaining to his functions on which he may consult, and other duties as stipulated by the Constitution”, the charter states.

Selected and appointed by the King, the council is composed of one president and no more than 18 privy councilors. Their office is in the Privy Council Chambers, located at Saranrom Royal Garden near the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Thailand’s first Privy Council – inspired by European monarchies – was established by King Chulalongkorn or Rama V (1853-1910) in May 1874, at a time when the kingdom was called Siam.

Duties of councilors

Constitutional clauses outline privy councilors’ roles and responsibilities, most of which concern matters surrounding the monarchy. They include the appointment of a regent when necessary, acknowledgement of an heir to the throne, and proclamation of a successor to the throne.

Privy councilors also carry out tasks as determined or assigned by the King. These include attending functions or performing duties on behalf of the King or the royal family, along with other duties involving the royal household and royal projects.

Councilors cannot be partisan and are prohibited by the Constitution from being affiliated with a political party, being an MP, a senator, a political office holder, a Constitutional Court judge, a member of an independent organization or state enterprise, or even a public official at any agency other than the Royal Household Bureau.

Current council

Former prime minister General Surayud Chulanont serves as the current Privy Council president. Surayud, an ex-Army commander-in-chief and armed forces supreme commander, has held the position since May 2019, following the death of his predecessor, General Prem Tinsulanonda, at the age of 98.

The 18 other privy councilors are:

·         Former education minister Kasem Wattanachai

·         Palakorn Suwanarat, former Interior Ministry deputy permanent secretary and ex-director of the Southern Border

         Provinces Administrative Centre

·         Former Supreme Court president Atthaniti Disatha-Amnarj

·         Former Supreme Court president Supachai Phungam

·         Royal Thai Air Force former commander-in-chief ACM Chalit Pookpasuk

·         Former deputy Army chief General Dapong Ratanasuwan

·         General Paiboon Koomchaya, former deputy supreme commander of the armed forces

·         Charantada Kannasoot, former director-general of the Department of Fisheries

·         General Kampanart Ruddit, former assistant Army commander-in-chief

·         Admiral Pongthep Nhuthep, former deputy permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry and former chief-of-staff of the                   Royal Thai Navy

·         Chirayu Isarangkun Na Ayuthaya, former lord chamberlain of the Royal Household Bureau

·         Ampon Kitti-ampon, former secretary general of the National Economic and Social Development Council

·         Former Army commander-in-chief General Chalermchai Sittisart

·         Former Air Force commander-in-chief ACM Johm Rungswang

·         Former Constitutional Court president Nurak Marpraneet

·         Prof Kasem Chankaew, former director-general of the Royal Forest Department

·         General Bundit Malaiarisoon, former superintendent of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

·         General Prayut Chan-o-cha, former prime minister and former Army chief

Facts and figures

Ten out of the 19 privy councilors have military backgrounds, having served as senior commanders in the armed forces, while two (Surayud and Prayut) have served both as Army chiefs and prime ministers.

Most of the incumbent privy councilors are in their 60s or 70s. The youngest is ACM Johm, at 65, while the oldest are Prof Kasem and Gen Bundit, both 85, with the former one month older than the latter.

The Privy Council under this reign has featured three former prime ministers – Prem, Surayud, and Prayut. Prem also served under the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) along with two other ex-premiers, Sanya Dharmasakti and Thanin Kraivixien. Of the five former prime ministers, four became Privy Council president – Sanya, Thanin, Prem, and Surayud.

The Privy Council president receives a monthly salary of 121,990 baht while other members receive 112,250 baht per month, as per the 2008 royal decree on stipends for privy councilors and statesmen.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk