Suspended Thai PM Prayuth says to continue as defence minister

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a news conference after a cabinet meeting at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, September 22, 2020. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/

BANGKOK, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Suspended Thai leader Prayuth Chan-ocha said on social media he will continue in his role as defence minister, in his first direct address to the public since a court ordered him to cease his duties as prime minister while it reviews his term limit.

"I will continue to do my duty and responsibility as defence minister for the people and Thailand every day," Prayuth said on the Twitter account of the prime minister's office on Thursday.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday decided to hear a petition brought by the main opposition party arguing that Prayuth's years spent as the chief of a military junta after he took power in a 2014 coup, should count toward his overall time in office. The constitution stipulates a term limit of eight years for the prime minister. read more

It remains unclear when the court will deliver a decision on the review.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is serving as acting premier of Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy. He declined to answer journalists' questions on his first day in the prime minister's office on Friday.

The controversy over Prayuth's term limit is the latest eposide in nearly two decades of intermittent political turmoil, including two coups and violent protests, stemming from opposition to military involvement in politics and demands for greater representation as political awareness grows.

A government spokesperson, Anucha Burapachaisri, said on Friday the cabinet continues to function as normal.

(This story was refiled to clarify Prayuth statement posted on government Twitter account in paragraph 2)

Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Richard Pullin

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.