Suthep and Tharit on lese majeste

17 05 2012

Regular readers will recall that the Department of Special Investigation has recommended the dropping of lese majeste charges against red shirt leader and Puea Thai Party parliamentarian Jatuporn Promphan.

Since the detestable DSI chief Tharit Pengdit made the announcement, the ultra-royalists have been critical. More recently, the Democrat Party’s Southern power broker and former prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban has questioned (to use PPT’s language rather than Suthep’s words) how it was that the slippery Tharit went from being a salivating proponent of the political use of the law to a lese majeste puppy on Jatuporn.

PPT almost never agrees with Suthep. He was the architect of much of the political repression of the Abhisit Vejjaiva government, including its heavily politicized and profligate use of lese majeste to bolster the repressive royalist regime. And, we would not question the dropping of a lese majeste charge. However, Suthep’s questioning of Tharit’s political chameleon-ism deserves some attention.

Tharit has responded by saying he will not respond to Suthep’s criticism, saying: “Democrat [Party] Suthep Thaugsuban was once the DSI’s political overseer, so I will not talk back to my former boss…”.

But Tharit did acknowledge that he once thought Jatuporn guilty of lese majeste in a way that displays his political slipperiness: “Tarit conceded he had earlier suspected Jatuporn of offending the monarchy but changed his opinion after studying the investigative outcome.”

It wasn’t quite that simple. At the time of the charge being made by Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Tharit was very vocal in public in his statements and claims. Then, Tharit said at a very high-profile “press conference that his office had listened to tapes of speeches of Mr Jatuporn and 13 other red shirt leaders and found they might have lese majeste contents.” Okay, he says “might,” but at the time he also stated that DSI was to submit a “a request to the Office of the Attorney General asking it to consider revoking bail for Mr Jatuporn [on terrorism charges] and other persons who have been freed on bail.”

In other words, Tharit was engaging in political partisanship for his then boss, Suthep, and wanted Jatuporn locked up. Indeed, Jatuporn’s bail on terrorism charges was revoked within days of the calling of the 2011 election, and he was kept in jail until 2 August 2011. During this period he stood as a party list candidate for the Puea Thai Party and was elected. DIS and Tharit repeatedly called for Jatuporn to be locked up and opposed his release once he was in prison.

Now, under a new government, Tharit and his boys have “drawn the conclusion on the Jatuporn case based on evidence collected from an investigation.” That also sounds like political partisanship, for the evidence – the speech – is no different now than it was back in 2011. DSI is a deeply flawed political organization masquerading as a law enforcement agency. The simple point is that the charges should never have been laid against Jatuporn and 18 others.

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