The Ratsadon group (formerly Khana Ratsadon) built a mock-up of the Constitutional Court at Lat Phrao intersection, to ridicule the court’s acquittal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today. The court dismissed charges of ethical breaches and conflicts of interest against the prime minister over his continued stay in an Army property after his retirement as the army chief.
Anti-establishment protesters started gathering at Lat Phrao intersection before the verdict was read. At about 7pm, Atthaphol Buapat, one of the protest leaders, conducted a ritual, to protest the court’s ruling, by presenting nine bananas to a replica spirit house, before smashing it up in front of cheering crowds.
Chaithavat Tulathon, secretary-general of the opposition Kao Klai party, said that the acquittal was not unexpected, adding that it reconfirms that the justice system in Thailand is abnormal and that all the charter-mandated independent organizations, including the Constitutional Court, are merely a tool of the military junta. He went on to say that the acquittal clearly shows that the “ruling elites” in this country do not want to compromise, but want to prop up the regime of Prime Minister Prayut, which will only increase political tension.
Despite the court’s ruling, Chaithavat repeated opposition calls for the prime minister to step down, to defuse the current political conflict.
Pheu Thai party’s spokesperson, Arunee Kasayanont, said the prime minister remains mired in a crisis of confidence in the eyes of the people, adding that had previously been cleared by the same court of allegations that he is a state official and, therefore, disqualified from holding the post of prime minister and that his taking of the oath of office was incomplete.
She said that the prime minister should have been fully aware that he had no right to continue to stay at the official residence of the army commander-in-chief, in the barracks of the First Infantry Regiment of the Royal Guards on Vibhavadi Rangsit highway in Bangkok.
Despite the acquittal, Arunee said that people still question the transparency and legitimacy of the prime minister and wonder how he can carry on governing the country. The Pheu Thai party respects the Constitutional Court’s ruling, but it will continue to monitor the activities and performance of this prime minister, she added.
Pheu Thai party’s secretary-general, Prasert Chanthararuangthong, said the court ruling does not reflect the facts, as presented to the court by the party, particularly regarding the security for the prime minister. He noted that several previous prime ministers lived in their own residences and were still provided with security by police and the military, without needing to live in an army camp.