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The Thai Constitutional Court has accepted a petition filed by a group of caretaker senators, seeking to remove Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin for appointing a person with a prior criminal charge to a cabinet position.

The Constitutional Court on Thursday (23 May) accepted the petition, filed by a group of 40 caretaker senators earlier this month, against the PM. However, the Court voted not to suspend Srettha from his duties during their deliberations. The petition claimed that the PM violated the Constitution by giving lawyer Pichit Chuenban a Cabinet post as Minister Attached to the PM’s Office. The Senators claimed that Pichit lacks integrity and violates the ethical standards required by the Constitution for those who hold ministerial positions. The petition sought the removal of both Srettha and Pichit from their respective roles.

Pichit is a former lawyer with a close relationship with the Shinawatra family. He was entrusted with countering lawsuits against Thaksin. During the former PM Yingluck Shinawatra administration, he served as both an MP and leader of the legal team to represent her in the rice-pledging scheme scandal.

Pichi was jailed for contempt of court in 2008 and had his law license suspended for 5 years after he allegedly attempted to bribe Supreme Court officials with 2 million baht hidden in a paper bag while he was representing former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his ex-wife Potjaman Na Pombejra in the Ratchadaphisek land case. Thaksin was sentenced to 2 years in prison in 2008. Pichit and two of his colleagues were given 6-month jail terms.

Pichit announced his resignation from the ministerial position on Tuesday (21 May) to insulate Srettha from the case brought against him, saying that despite his confidence that he has the appropriate qualifications for the position, the petition referenced the PM as well. To prevent any adverse impact on the executive branch and allow the country to progress smoothly, he decided to step down. The Court accepted only the petition against the PM and ordered him to provide an explanation within 15 days. 

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