The court agrees to hear a case brought by opposition parties who argue Prayuth Chan-ocha has reached the end of his eight-year term limit as prime minister.

The court did not say when it would issue its decision on whether Prayuth has breached the clause in the constitution on the eight-year limit.
The court did not say when it would issue its decision on whether Prayuth has breached the clause in the constitution on the eight-year limit. (Reuters)

Thailand’s constitutional court has ruled that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha must suspend his active duties while the court decides whether he has overstayed his legal term in office.

The court on Wednesday agreed unanimously there was reason to consider the petition arguing he has exceeded his term limit. 

By a vote of 5 to 4, the court members agreed to suspend Prayuth from his duties effective Wednesday until it reached a decision.

The court did not say when it would issue its decision on whether Prayuth has breached the clause in the constitution on the eight-year limit. If it rules that he did, he would lose his post right away.

A total of 171 opposition lawmakers signed the petition to oust him. 

A caretaker will be appointed to lead the government, with current Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan among the favourite candidates tipped for the role.

Legal arguments

The kingdom's 2017 constitution bars the prime minister from serving more than eight years in total, and opposition parties say Prayuth, who took power in a 2014 coup, has reached the limit.

Several hundred anti-government protesters rallied at Bangkok's Democracy Monument on Tuesday ahead of the court ruling and further demonstrations are planned.

Supporters of the 68-year-old leader argue that the clock on his rule began when the 2017 constitution was instituted, or even after the 2019 general election.

If the court follows this logic, Prayuth could technically continue to serve until 2025 or 2027 – if he wins a general election which is due by March.

The former army chief came to power in a military coup that ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's democratically elected government.

He headed the junta regime for five years and continued as PM after the 2019 national elections.

The stern, blunt-speaking Prayuth has found himself increasingly out of favour with voters. 

A recent opinion poll found two-thirds of respondents wanted him to vacate office immediately.

READ MORE: Thai PM wins last no-confidence vote ahead of elections

Source: TRTWorld and agencies