A Wall Street Journal editorial:
Thailand’s Aristocratic Dead-Enders
The royalists who can’t win an election stage a judicial coup.
Royalist forces struck another blow against Thai democracy Wednesday when the country’s Constitutional Court staged a judicial coup and removed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office. Her supposed crime: having impure motives when she transferred a bureaucrat three years ago. For the third time in a decade, this unaccountable institution controlled by the aristocracy has removed an elected leader for dubious reasons.
The justices’ meddling rewards the bad behavior of the ironically named royalist Democrat Party. It boycotted the general election in February after several of its leaders led street protests aimed at overthrowing democracy and installing a ruling council made up of the country’s elite….
The Constitutional Court’s decision this week is a last gasp of the old regime, discrediting itself as it fights to hold back the forces of democracy. One can hope that a wiser leader will emerge from the royalist camp who will realize this and stop trying to overthrow democracy…. For now, though, it appears the aristocracy is not ready to give up its claim to a divine right to rule Thailand and accept the more modest role of loyal opposition.
Academic Paul Chambers:
“This court has a tradition for making ridiculous decisions…. Thailand has become a juristocracy.”
Chambers at Khaosod:
“I think once again we have a judicial coup in Thailand,” …
“Thailand has a form of democracy [sic.], but there is no real balance or checks…. What we have here is juristocracy – the judicial branch is head and heels above the legislative and executive branches of the government, and it’s supported by traditional institutions.”
… “This constant replay of courts issuing ridiculous verdicts may cause people who have believed in Thailand’s democracy to stop believing in it,” said Professor Chambers.
Chiang Mai University law lecturer Somchai Preechasilpakul:
“The verdict appears to indicate that all Prime Ministers who do not come from the Democrat Party will be eventually removed by the so-called independent agencies…”.
Professor Kevin Hewison at The Conversation:
Because the country’s judiciary is so highly politicised, decisions that defy legal logic have become the norm, with the judiciary consistently acting against elected governments. In essence, such decisions, sometimes based on flimsy accusations and charges by opposition activists, undermine the very democratic processes the judiciary is supposed to protect.
There was never any doubt that the Constitutional Court would oust Yingluck once the case was referred to it. Indeed, the court reached its decision – which took almost two hours to read – within a day of hearing the last of Yingluck’s evidence and witnesses. That is evidence enough that the court had its verdict before hearings were concluded.
Such obvious political bias also suggests an orchestration with those opposed to the government. The decision will reinforce views among the government’s supporters that Thailand’s political system is inherently supportive of the royalist elite. They see this elite as not just opposed to the will of the majority as expressed in elections but also as manipulating law and politics to protect their economic and political power.
South China Morning Post:
Ultimately undone by Thailand’s courts, Yingluck Shinawatra laboured under claims she was a stooge for her exiled brother. Yet the kingdom’s first female prime minister also displayed unexpected resilience during a turbulent stay in office….
“History will give Yingluck great credit for her conduct since November,” said Dr Michael Montesano at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
“She has scrupulously avoided the use of state violence … maintained the dignity of her office and displayed humanity rather than arrogance while under great pressure.”
Update: Duncan McCargo at FT:
The conflict is pitting an entrenched elite that is destined to lose power against new political forces whose rise seems inexorable. Ousting Ms Yingluck on a technicality was an act of desperation, not a show of strength.
Update 2: A Coup by Another Name in Thailand By The Editorial Board of The New York Times:
It was the third time the justices have removed the head of the government in recent years using dubious legal reasoning…. Thailand, which has managed to grow despite its chaotic politics and frequent coups, appears to be approaching a breaking point.
Update 3: The Daily Beast:
An ‘iron triangle’ made up of the army, senior judges, and royalist supporters continues to deconstruct Thailand’s democratically elected government by means of a rolling judicial coup,” says a retired U.S. diplomat. “It is this iron triangle rather than the country’s electorate that determines who will govern here in Thailand. This iron triangle has deposed three democratically elected prime ministers since 2006 and is on the cusp of deposing a fourth.