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Protest planned for courthouse tomorrow as verdict on PM’s residence expected

Maya Taylor

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The Ratsadon (People’s Party) movement is planning a protest outside the Constitutional Court tomorrow as a verdict is handed down in relation to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s occupancy of a military residence, despite his retirement from the army. The ruling is expected at 3.00pm tomorrow and comes as a result of a petition lodged by opposition MPs in March, in which the PM was accused of a conflict of interest as a result of his residence.

Members of the Pheu Thai Party are leading the charge, claiming the PM should have moved out of the accommodation at the time of his retirement in 2014. For his part, the PM says he’ll move out if the court rules against him, insisting his occupancy of the military residence is not an abuse of power. According to a report in the Bangkok Post today, the military says the property has been re-classified as a “visitor’s house” and says it was provided to the PM for security reasons.

Wirat Ratana­sate from the ruling Palang Pracharath Party says members have not yet discussed a list of potential replacement candidates, should the court’s ruling go against the PM. Were that to happen, it would mean the end of his term as leader and the end of his current cabinet. Wirat remains optimistic however, that the court will find in the PM’s favour.

“We may have to discuss the matter with coalition parties. Still, let’s wait for the court’s ruling. Don’t jump to any conclusion that there will be a political accident. The outcome may turn out to be good.”

Meanwhile, authorities in Bangkok say they’re ready to handle tomorrow’s planned protest outside the courthouse. Pakkapong Pongpetra from the Metropolitan Police Bureau says officers have devised a number of security measures to maintain order during the rally and ensure events inside the courtroom can proceed as normal.

His statement comes as Ramate Rattanachaweng from the Democrat Party issues a warning to anti-government protesters that pressurising the court could lead to charges of contempt of court. He is calling on them to cancel tomorrow’s gathering.

Meanwhile, members of the opposition say they’re confident the court will rule against the PM, with the legal chief of the Pheu Thai Party, Chusak Sirinil, saying the designation of “visitor’s house” does not indicate a permanent residence.

“A visitor’s house is for temporary stays of 7 to 10 days, not forever.”

Prasert Chantararuangthong, also from Pheu Thai, dismisses the army’s explanation that the PM needs to live in a military residence for security reasons, pointing out that the army is not responsible for prime ministerial security. Meanwhile, fellow Pheu Thai MP, Arunee Kasayanont, suggests the PM should pay attention to what the people are demanding and resign immediately, regardless of the verdict.

“General Prayut can make a graceful exit by resigning before December 2 and thus respond to the demand of demonstrators.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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