Justice system no longer makes sense

22 09 2017

Double standards rule in the justice system. Sure, some yellow shirts get to courts for their actions, but their cases are slowed to a crawl, subject to seemingly endless appeals and so on. But when it comes to those who are accused of lese majeste or actions the military dictatorship considers threatening or unsettling, the cases sail through courts.

Khaosod reports on the case of Piyarat Chongthep who, wearing a No Coup t-shirt, “stared down a security officer as he ripped his ballot in half while shouting ‘Down with Dictatorship, Long Live Democracy’ at a Bangkok polling station.”

He soon goes to court and is facing 10 years in jail.

While the court outcome is not yet known, there are several things worth considering in this case.

Piyarat declares that he “engaged in civil disobedience,” but he was “charged with obstructing the referendum, causing a disturbance at a polling station and destruction of state property for tearing the 25 satang ballot.”

His aim “was to draw attention to suppression of the public’s right to oppose the junta-sponsored draft charter in an unjust process that give it the veneer of democratic legitimacy.”

As Khaosod reminds us, the military dictatorship enacted “a special referendum law … that criminalized campaigning against it [the referendum].” This draconian law “criminalized all forms of campaigning, but the airwaves were filled with pro-charter messages from the regime while only opponents were arrested.”

Like others we have recently posted on (here and here), Piyarat is disillusioned by the (in)justice system:

After learning the referendum passed by a sizeable margin, he felt the law had been so twisted by the junta that Thailand’s justice system no longer made sense. As a result, when he was released from the police station, he quit his evening law classes.

It is also worth remembering that, back in 2010, in a case that went back to the 2006 election, rightist and yellow-shirted Chulalongkorn University political science lecturer Chaiyan Chaiyaporn was acquitted after he tore up ballot papers. The court found a technicality that meant it could let Chaiyan off the hook as he used the courts to highlight his anti-Thaksin Shinawatra campaign.





PAD gets a bill

21 09 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the People’s Alliance for Democracy has received a bill for its occupations of Don Muang and Suvarnabhumi airports in late 2008.

PAD’s co-leaders were assesses as causing damages worth 522 million baht.

That amount is due to the Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT). The fine seems to follow from a ruling of the Appeal Court in 2011.

The court’s award to AoT can be appealed.

The report says that criminal charges are continuing in the courts, apparently still at the stage of hearing witnesses.





Ousting Yingluck and Prayuth’s campaigning

21 09 2017

At the Asia Times Online, Shawn Crispin says that Yingluck Shinawatra’s flight – yes, we know, it still isn’t confirmed – has been good for The Dictator and his regime. Crispin says:

[General] Prayuth [Chan-ocha]’s proponents view Yingluck’s impromptu departure as a third big recent win for the authoritarian leader, following last August’s resounding passage by referendum of a military-drafted constitution that solidified a future political role for the armed forces and his perceived as smooth management of the royal succession after … King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s death last October.

He adds:

Whether Yingluck’s flight has put the country more firmly on a path to new elections, long promised by Prayuth’s junta, is less certain. While junta representatives tell foreign envoys and business representatives the country is on a track back to democracy [he means a junta-controlled election], Prayuth continues to question the wisdom of holding polls that return to power the same corrupt elected politicians he overthrew in a coup.

On Yingluck’s case and “justice,” Crispin states:

An eventual guilty verdict against Yingluck is a foregone conclusion. According to one well-placed diplomat with access to the Shinawatra family, senior junta members were in contact with Thaksin as early as May advising that the court would rule against Yingluck – a verdict that carries a possible ten-year prison sentence – and that his clan should begin to make arrangements for her departure into exile.

He seems to be suggesting that the junta may have forced her to leave for exile. And, he adds: “Some analysts and diplomats believe the royal palace may have signaled for the junta to allow for Yingluck’s unmolested passage into exile to avoid instability…”.

The broader claim is that the military junta has essentially won. There’s no hint of royal discontent with the junta or of factionalism within the military and/or junta. Yet some social media commentary sees General Anupong Paojinda under unusual pressure – we mentioned this a couple of days ago.

Certainly, Prayuth campaigning is going at full tilt. Whether this is a sign of weakness (ie., the junta is split or splitting) or a sign that the splits are a myth and the junta is forging ahead, the calls from anti-democrats like Anek Laothamatas for a “national government” suggest that there is still concern that all the “work” done does not guarantee a Thaksin-free “election” outcome.

A “national government” would have General Prayuth as premier well into the future. This prospect has seen jellyfish politicians lining up to support continuing military Guided Democracy/Thai-style democracy.

A national government under The Dictator

The Nation reports that The Dictator, Thaksinizing his campaigning in rural areas of Suphanburi and Ayutthaya, has been promising all kinds of benefits and handouts to farmers if they support him and his dictatorship.

The two-day trip by Prayuth and his junta and a couple of civilian toadies was a massive PR exercise promoting military government.

Prayuth again warned potential voters to only “elect” those he considered the right people.

More significantly, The Dictator met with the owners of parasite political parties. In this case it was the Chart Thai Pattana Party, owned by the Silpa-archa family. They have created a franchise of gravel haulers and dumpers that can only politically prosper when attached to a dictator or a larger party or coalition of parties.

Prapat Pothasuthon polished Prayuth’s already shiny posterior: “I would only ask the government to distribute some of the budget from high-speed railway projects to help farmers. As long as people’s wellbeing is sustained, you can stay for another eight or 10 years and I won’t blame you for anything.”

Warawut Silpa-archa lapped at Prayuth’s boots: “The election will be decided by you. We’ll just wait to play by rules.”

This concocted meeting with politicians has been used to further Prayuth’s ambitions for ongoing political control. The Bangkok Post reports: that The Dictator is picking off the little parties, presumably to create a military party/national government.

Prayuth explained “democracy”:

We are making Thailand a democratic country, and special means are needed to achieve that goal. If we use normal means, is it really possible? I am well aware that the method to reach the goal is not democratic, but the problem needs to be fixed in this way….

Keeping the pressure on the Shinawatras and their supporters, The Dictator “warned Ayutthaya residents not to become pawns of some political groups encouraging them to gather in the capital.” He seems worried that they may disrupt the dead king’s funeral:

You can go to Bangkok to pay respect to the late King, but if you are going for other purposes or if anybody tries to persuade you to go, don’t go. Please stop it, in every province….

His persistent talk of threats permits deepening militarization and suppression, which makes the “election” a foregone conclusion.





Giving up on the justice system

20 09 2017

At about the same time that human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul challenged the courts on lese majeste, there has been a second lese majeste-related poke at Thailand’s seriously flawed and deeply politicized “justice” system.

Viboon Boonpattararaksa, father of the convicted lese majeste victim, Jatuphat, has declared that he “has given up hope in the Thai justice system, saying there is no point in trying to appeal the court’s verdict” on his son’s case. Given that Viboon is a lawyer and his activist son a law student, that’s quite a statement.

Viboon said “he will not submit an appeal request for his son.” The reason? He explained:

If I have a choice and the Appeal Court maintains justice without prejudice and try the case in accordance to the evidence and logic, I do not want to put an end to my son’s case at the Court of First Instance. But the channel to go forwards does not exist, so there is no use to do it….

He added that his son agrees with him.

Viboon said “he presumes that the upper counts will confirm the same sentence of two years and six months imprisonment handed down to his son.” And, if there was an appeal, as before, his son would be denied bail and would be kept in jail.

There is no justice when it comes to lese majeste. Lese majeste is a festering sore eating away at the courts.





2006 military coup remembered

19 09 2017

2006 seems a long time ago. So much has happened since the palace, led by General Prem Tinsulanonda, the military and a coterie of royalist anti-democrats (congealed as the People’s Alliance for Democracy) brought down Thaksin Shinawatra’s government on 19 September 2006.

Yet it is remembered as an important milestone in bringing down electoral democracy in Thailand and establishing the royalist-military authoritarianism that has deepened since the 2014 military coup that brought down Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government.

Khaosod reports:

Pro-democracy activists are marking the 11th anniversary of the 2006 coup on Tuesday evening on the skywalk in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre.

Representatives from the police and BTS Skytrain were ordering them to clear the area because it belongs to the rail operator.

The location, frequented by commuters and tourists in a highly visible location, has become a de facto location for protests since the 2014 coup.

“It’s unbelievable how far back we’ve gone for the past 11 years,” said Siriwit Seritiwat, the prominent activist known as Ja New. “The country doesn’t suck by itself, but it sucks because of the wicked cycle.”

The 2006 coup was no surprise given that Thaksin had faced determined opposition from PAD and from General Prem, who reflected palace and royal household dissatisfaction with Thaksin. The coup came after Thaksin had been re-elected in a landslide in February 2005 with about 60% of the vote.

Thaksin had many faults and made many mistakes often as a result of arrogance. The February 2005 election reflected Thaksin’s popularity and this posed a threat to the monstrous egos in the palace. Of course, they also worried about Thaksin’s combination of political and economic power and his efforts to control the military.

Thaksin’s reliance on votes and the fact that he accumulated them as never before was an existential threat to the powers that be. The elite feared for its control of political, economic and social power.

Behind the machinations to tame Thaksin lurked the real power holders in the military brass, the palace and the upper echelons of the bureaucracy who together comprised the royalist state. Some referred to this as the network monarchy and others identified a Deep State. They worried about their power and Thaksin’s efforts to transform Thailand. Others have said there were concerns about managing succession motivating coup masters.

We are sure that there were many motivations, fears and hallucinatory self-serving that led to the coup. Wikileaks has told part of the story of the machinations.

Coup soldiers wearing the king’s yellow, also PAD’s color

A way of observing the anniversary of the military-palace power grab on 19 September 2006 is to look again at Wikileaks cables that reflect most directly on that coup. Here they are:

There are more cables on the figures circling around the coup and the events immediately before and after the coup, giving a pretty good picture of how the royalist elite behaved and what they wanted the U.S. embassy to know.

The royalist elite came to believe that the 2006 coup failed as pro-Thaksin parties managed to continue to win elections. The result was the development of an anti-democracy ideology and movement that paved the way for the 2014 coup and the military dictatorship that is determined to uproot the “Thaksin regime” and to eventually make elections events that have no meaning for governing Thailand.





Military business is always corrupt

19 09 2017

With virtually all of the various corruption complaints made since the military came to power through its illegal coup in 2014 having been dismissed, perhaps it is no surprise that the military is now using its taxpayer-funded facilities in money-making ventures.

Of course, some of this has been seen in the past, with military property used by state enterprises in the past, including for airports. The corruption that dogs Thai Airways and the Airports Authority are, in part, a result of the military connection.

Of course, as absolutely everyone knows, under the military dictatorship, the National Anti-Corruption Commission is not concerning itself with military corruption. The NACC does not want to be bothered by anyone other than Shinawatras and certainly doesn’t want to get in trouble with its political bosses.

But, really, is no one officially interested in the already rewarded submariners in the Navy constructing “a new ferry terminal at Chuk Samet deep-sea port in Sattahip, part of the infrastructure development for the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC)”?

Why on earth is the Navy investing taxpayer money for the development of “a port serving cruises, cargo vessels and ferries linking Pattaya, Chon Buri and Rayong with other destinations, including Koh Chang in Trat and Hua Hin district across the Gulf in Prachuap Khiri Khan province”?

The land is also state land, paid for by taxpayers.

The investment space “will have souvenir shops, a food court, ticket counters and boarding areas…. It one of 13 projects with total estimated cost of 2 billion baht to be undertaken by the navy under the EEC blueprint.”

Now we know why so many business suits are Navy blue. But, seriously, this sounds like a recipe for more military corruption.





Challenging the courts on lese majeste

18 09 2017

One of the Stolen history 6, human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul (57) has challenged the courts on lese majeste.

Prawet is one of six persons detained on 29 April 2017 for alleged lese majeste for apparently sharing a Facebook post by Somsak Jeamteerasakul on the theft of the 1932 revolution plaque on about 5 April 2017. The junta has “blacklisted” the exiled Somsak and considered the post to favor republicanism. Other charges thrown at Prawet included computer crimes and sedition.

He has been in custody since the military grabbed him.

While little is known of the fate of the other five, Prawet, who has been critical of the military dictatorship and the lese majeste law and has defended lese majeste victims, faces a total of somewhere 171 years in jail, depending on the charges finally brought (although maximum sentencing in Thailand is 50 years).

According to the Bangkok Post, Prawet “has told the court [on 18 September] he did not accept the Thai judicial system and forfeited his right to examine witnesses and evidence against him.” Prawet said that as he did not accept the judicial system on lese majeste, then he “did not wish to examine witnesses and evidence against him.”

Prachatai states that Prawet’s challenge is to the court’s “impartiality … in his case, as it is related to the monarchy.” It reports that he prepared a statement on this lack of impartiality:

“Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case,” Prawais wrote, adding that he will not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Facing 50 years in prison, he believes that it will not make any difference whether he pleads guilty or innocent because he will not be able tell the truth anyhow.

The court, seemingly flummoxed, fell back on its usual approach on recalcitrant lese majeste victims and decided to drag things out and punish-torture Prawet. His next scheduled hearing will be on 8 May 2018.  Presumably, the court hopes that having him jailed will change his mind and he will plead guilty. If not, the court seeks to silence his criticism.

Prawet’s stand is brave and he’s undoubtedly correct. As far as we can recall, he is the first to challenge the courts in this way.