BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday declined to rule on a controversy over the new prime minister omitting a vow to uphold the constitution when he was sworn in as a civilian leader, five years after he toppled an elected government.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and 35 cabinet ministers pledged their loyalty to King Maha Vajiralongkorn at a ceremony at a Bangkok palace on July 16 but they left out the last sentence of the official oath, on upholding and complying with the constitution.
That caused uproar among opposition parties, who say it implies that Prayuth, who led a military junta for five years, may not feel bound by the rule of law.
Prayuth was sworn in as a civilian prime minister in July, more than three months after a disputed election that opposition parties complained was skewed to all but guarantee victory for Prayuth’s pro-army party.
Last month, the independent Office of the Ombudsman said that Prayuth and his cabinet breached the constitution by failing to recite the full oath of allegiance in the ceremony, which was televised and showed the officials reading from a piece of paper.
It asked the Constitutional Court to rule on what needed to be done because an incomplete oath could mean that all of the government’s actions could be seen as unconstitutional.
However, the Constitutional Court issued a statement on Wednesday saying the swearing-in was between the king and the cabinet.
“The oath to the king is therefore not under the review authority of any agencies under the constitution,” the statement said.
Prayuth scrapped the previous constitution when he seized power in a 2014 coup. He was army chief at the time.
He was not immediately available for reaction on Wednesday.
The current constitution was drawn up at his behest. It gives the military a significant role in politics, to the disappointment of pro-democracy activists.
On Aug. 8, Prayuth said he took full responsibility for the omission and apologised, while assuring the country that the government would function as normal. He did not specify how he would rectify the situation.
Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Hugh Lawson