The Constitutional Court has dismissed charges of ethics breaches and conflict of interests against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in connection with his continued stay at a property owned by the Royal Thai Army after his retirement as army chief.
A guilty verdict would have ended General Prayut’s premiership.
The charges against Prayut were filed by SompongAmornwiwat, leader of Pheu Thai, the main opposition party, with House Speaker Chuan Leekpaiwho forwarded it to the Constitutional Court for a ruling.
The court ruled that Prayut was privileged to stay at the residence in his capacity as former army chief – not as prime minister – as allowed by the army’s regulations. It said besides the army is also authorized by its regulations to provide him with necessary utilities.
It also agreed with Prayut’s defence that he needed to stay at the residence in the First Infantry Battalion of the Royal Guards on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road,Bangkok, because the official residence for prime minister, Baan Phitsanuloke, was still under renovation and that residing in the army compound was necessary for security reason.
In filing the case against the prime minister, Sompong cited Article 160 of the Constitution which bars holder of the premiership from engaging in conduct in serious breaches of ethnical standard. General Prayut was also alleged to have violated the anti-corruption law which prohibits state officials from receiving cash or benefits of unreasonable value.
Prayut retired from the army in 2014 but continued to live in his official residence. He did not pay rent or the utilities bills while occupying the residence.
In its defence, the army maintains that it has been a customary practice for it to provide housing facilities to senior army personnel who have made contributions to the country even after their retirement. It said besides General Prayut is also prime minister who deserves honour and security. It said similar privileges had been extended to other former army chiefs who continued to serve in the Cabinet, Privy Council and Parliament.
Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)