Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggests that the debate should be held behind closed doors due to sensitive issues that may arise as MPs plan to explore the circumstances surrounding the oath taken by the prime minister on July 16 last when the cabinet was sworn in before the Thai King.

Thailand’s political parties are meeting over the next few days to finalise details for a hearing in parliament to examine the circumstances of the oath sworn by the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on July 16th last when the cabinet was sworn in before the Thai King. This follows a decision by the Ombudsman to refer a complaint on the matter filed on August 20th, to the Constitutional Court this week.

The controversy over the oath sworn by Thailand’s Prime Minister on July 16th when the cabinet was sworn in grows louder. The leader of the Pheu Thai Party Sompong Amornwiwat (right inset) is asking for a public hearing on the matter but promises that the intent of the opposition is not to bring down the government. The Office of the Ombudsman (inset right bottom) this week referred the issue to the Constitutional Court for hearing following a complaint received from a Thai student on August 20th.

The simmering row over concerns that the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chanocha failed to recite in full the oath specified under the 2017 constitution during the swearing-in of the new Thai cabinet on July 16th became more pronounced this week after the Thai Ombudsman on Tuesday indicated that the issue should be forwarded to the Constitutional Court for consideration.

Debate to take place in parliament probably on Friday

A debate in parliament is likely to take place on the issue next Friday as both the government and the opposition groups seem to agree on the date. What they do not agree on, however, is the mode of the debate with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggesting on Friday that the hearing should be conducted behind closed doors due to sensitive issues that may arise.

Pheu Thai leader opposes a closed-door format

This is being opposed by the leader of Pheu Thai, Sompong Amornwiwat because he claims the public has a vested interest in knowing the outcome of the matter. He assured the government parties that the opposition’s intent in relation to any debate was constructive and that it did not intend to use the issue in order to try to bring down the current administration.

It is understood that a meeting of whips will take place shortly to agree on the date and format for the hearing. It is also reported that the prime minister will attend personally and answer questions relating to the issue.

Little appetite among the public for the issue but legal experts say rule of law must be upheld

Recent opinion polls have suggested little appetite among the public to pursue the affair but many academics and legal experts point out that the opposition has a duty to maintain the rule of law and that the sworn oath built-in to the constitution is fundamental to the legal status of the prime minister and therefore his cabinet. 

Of course, this will be a matter for the constitutional court to decide in due course. Government sources have reportedly indicated that the matter will be rectified and that it is not an issue that should occupy minds.

Sompong says his party will represent the public in questioning the PM – vows that the opposition is not trying to unseat the government

The Pheu Thai leader Sompong has said that the opposition will represent the interests of the public on the matter when the parliamentary hearing is held. The hearing has come about after 214 opposition MPs signed a request under Article 152 of the constitution requesting to address and question the prime minister on the subject. This was delivered some time ago to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.

Ombudsman refers the issue to the Constitutional Court after it ruled that it could be a violation

On Tuesday last, the Ombudsman met in Bangkok. The secretary-general of the body Raksagecha Chaechai said after the meeting that the body took the view that any failure to recite the full oath by the prime minister would be a violation of the 2017 constitution.

Student at Ramkhamhaeng University filed a complaint that was examined by the body on Tuesday

The Ombudsman had taken up a complaint filed on August 20th by a student at Ramkhamhaeng University. Panupong Churak in a written submission to the body made the complaint under section 213 of the constitution, pointing out that the failure by the prime minister to complete the oath properly affected his rights. This was on the basis that it could plausibly lead to the abrogation of the cabinet and therefore the government policy statement leading to no viable government in the kingdom.

Oath taken by the PM and all cabinet minister under Section 161 of the 2017 Constitution

The oath to be taken by the Prime Minister is prescribed under Section 161 of Thailand’s Constitution and reads as follows: ‘I (name of minister) swear I will be loyal to His Majesty and perform my duties honestly for the benefit of the country and the people. I will also uphold and comply with the constitution of the kingdom in every aspect.’

Currently, those questioning the matter are pointing out that the prime minister appeared on July 16th not to recite the second sentence of the oath.