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Political uncertainty in Thailand with PM’s suspension

BANGKOK (AP) Thailand entered a phase of political uncertainty on Thursday, using its prime minister suspended and his deputy overtaking in his stead pending a ruling from the top court on if the premier has already reached his constitutional term limit.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha found power in a military coup in 2014, and could have hit the 8-year term limit earlier this week if the clock started when he seized power.

The Constitutional Court suspended Prayuth, the armys commander during the coup, on Wednesday since it considers arguments in his case.

His supporters argue that his term as prime minister ought to be calculated from when he won the work legally following a general election in 2019, or, if nothing else, from once the term-limit provision became area of the current constitution in 2017.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan has assumed the role of acting prime minister, overtaking Prayuths duties.

Prawit, 77, is closely linked to the military clique behind the 2014 coup, and is likely to toe exactly the same line as Prayuth.

On Thursday, Prawit chaired a gathering of a committee on communications during national disasters he once was scheduled to wait.

Prayuth, who has kept his other Cabinet position as defense minister, attended a monthly meeting of the governments Defense Council for the reason that capacity, participating via video.

No date has been set for the courts ruling, but Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkoks Chulalongkorn University, said there exists a good possibility they’ll decide and only keeping Prayuth as prime minister despite the fact that public sentiment sometimes appears to favor the literal interpretation of his eight years in office.

Considering the way the court has always ruled in his favor, it could not be considered a surprise if the Constitutional Court arises with a technicality, he said. We should remember it had been appointed through the military regime.

Prayuths popularity has been falling over accusations he botched Thailands reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and mishandled the economy, but his coalition government survived four no-confidence votes.

Prayuth has argued against his detractors that his government has successfully steered the economy through the pandemic, and can now reopen and begin generating the tourist revenue where it relies heavily.

If he could be allowed to stay in power by the court, it risks invigorating a protest movement which has long sought to oust him and reopening deep fissures in Thailand.

Following the courts ruling on Wednesday, opposition politicians needed Prayuth to resign and make method for new elections.

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition PROGRESS party, said the leadership swap with Prawit completing meant Thailand was still going nowhere politically, likening it to sailing a boat in a tub.

While there have been multiple protests by thousands in 2020 demanding Prayuth and his Cabinet resign, the court decision on Wednesday attracted just a couple of demonstrators in Bangkok.

Thitinan said it had been likely dissent will grow because the court ruminates over its decision.

The grievances which have underpinned the protests haven’t gone away, he said. Theyve only been swept beneath the carpet, the grievances have already been accumulating theres plenty of unhappiness in Thailand under Prayuths watch.

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Associated Press journalist Jerry Harmer contributed to the report.

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