Unlike Elected PMs, Prayuth to Retain Full Power Until Vote

Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks to reporters Jan. 22, 2019.

BANGKOK — The government on Thursday rejected calls for junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down in the weeks leading up to the election.

Instead of serving as a caretaker prime minister with limited power – as has been the case when governments call general elections – Gen. Prayuth will continue to wield his authority as the sovereign leader until voters go to the polls March 24.

“This government will not be in a caretaker status but will continue to perform its duties until a new cabinet is place,” deputy prime minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters. “This government will continue to have full power.”

Read: Prayuth’s Ex-Deputy Says Junta Leader Shouldn’t Be PM Again

Unlike a pre-election caretaker government, Prayuth can sign government projects, transfer officials, greenlight emergency funds and propose legislation to the interim legislature.

Most of all, Section 44 of the 2014 charter – which granted Prayuth absolute authority to enact any law he deems fit – will remain in place.

In the past, elected prime ministers were required to assume caretaker status because their parliamentary term was considered expired. Leaders that have come to power through coups have been exempt from such limitations, since there was no formal parliament in the first place.

Like Prayuth, Gen. Surayud Chulanont, who was made prime minister by the coup-makers of 2006, remained in full control of the government until the polls opened in December 2007.

Thai Raksa Chart Party politician Chaturon Chaisang was among critics urging Prayuth to relinquish power. Speaking to reporters today, Chaturon said Prayuth’s government may interfere with the upcoming election if it retains full authority.

“This government came to power under special circumstances,” Chaturon said. “Please don’t stay and work under special circumstances. It would be taking an advantage over other political parties.”

He also slammed the four cabinet members under Prayuth who continue to hold office even as they serve as leaders of a pro-junta party called Palang Pracharat.