Prime Minister Not a Gov’t Official, State Agency Rules

Photo: Uncle Tu Fighting / Facebook

BANGKOK — Pre-election legal skirmishing continued Thursday with new developments and threats in the home stretch leading to Election Day.

Junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha escaped potential prosecution with the release of one legal opinion as his party was hit with a fresh challenge alleging abuse of state power to buy votes.

Though Prayuth travels the world representing Thailand and meeting heads of state, the state ombudsman today ruled that the prime minister is, in fact, not a government official. The Ombudsman Office’s unanimous ruling therefore meant the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party did not violate regulations by nominating Prayuth to be its candidate.

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Secretary-General Raksagecha Chaechai said being a government official requires four characteristics: being legally elected, possessing active law enforcement authority, being under the state, and receiving regular payment.

The office determined Prayuth didn’t meet two of the criteria as he wasn’t elected, and his junta operates outside of state authority.

The ruling came in response to a complaint filed last week by transparency gadfly Srisuwan Janya.

In another case, a Pheu Thai MP candidate in Lopburi filed complaints today alleging Prayuth and his party violated election law by campaigning there in a way that amounted to vote buying.

Party secretary Sonthirat Sonthijirawong was caught on video promising at a February rally there that Phalang Pracharat would increase credits on public welfare cards if it wins.

Sonthirat has said making such promises are routine on the campaign trail.