Paetongtarn reluctant to become PM amid Srettha’s legal issues

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, expressed her reluctance to step into the role of prime minister if Srettha Thavisin is removed from office due to a case involving the appointment of a minister with a prison record.

Despite her hesitation, Paetongtarn remains optimistic about the Constitutional Court ruling in the Bangkok-born Srettha’s favour.

“There should be no problem with the prime minister. He will continue to work to fix economic problems affecting people. I myself will carry out my job as the party leader and as chair of the government’s national soft-power development committee to the best of my abilities.”

The Constitutional Court recently accepted a petition seeking PM Srettha’s removal over the appointment of Pichit Chuenban as PM’s Office Minister. The judges requested the Thai premier explain within 15 days but did not suspend him as prime minister pending their ruling.

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The court also rejected a similar petition against former PM’s Office Minister Pichit Chuenban, following his resignation earlier this week. Pichit’s resignation was seen as an attempt to shield PM Srettha from potential legal issues related to his appointment, despite questions about his eligibility.

Forty caretaker senators had previously asked the Constitutional Court to consider whether PM Srettha and Pichit should be removed from office under Section 170 (4) and (5) of the charter, which concerns the ethics of Cabinet ministers.

Pichit, who once served as ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyer and Srettha’s adviser, faced scrutiny over his suitability for the Cabinet role due to his prior imprisonment.

Pichit served jail time for contempt of court in 2008 after attempting to bribe Supreme Court officials in connection with a controversial land deal case involving Thaksin. The Supreme Court sentenced Pichit and two colleagues to six months in prison on June 25, 2008, for handing over a paper bag containing 2 million baht in cash.

Ruling on Srettha

Prapan Koonmee, one of the senators who submitted the petition, believes the court should not take long to reach a decision, expecting a ruling within three months.

“The case is not complicated as sufficient facts and information have been provided in the petition.”

Romtham Khamnurak, deputy spokesman of the Democrat Party, mentioned that even if the 62 year old Thai PM is removed, the rest of the Cabinet will remain in office until a new prime minister is elected by Parliament, reported Bangkok Post.

“The petition submitted by the senators only singled Srettha out for removal.”

Sakda Noppasit, a former Pheu Thai spokesman, suggested that the petition against Srettha is actually a reaction to Thaksin’s increasing political influence since his return to Thailand last August. Thaksin’s jail term was later commuted, and he was paroled in February.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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