Awzar Thi on the judiciary and lese majeste

7 09 2009

Awzar Thi, Member, Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong has an article at Jurist, a website from the School of Law at the University of Pittsburg (6 September 2009: “Thailand judiciary further discredits itself with harsh lese majesty sentence against protestor”). The article begins: “A court in Thailand inched closer to its counterparts in neighboring Burma last week when it sentenced an anti-coup protester to 18 years in prison.” Darunee of course.

Awzar says that in her speech, she “connected the 2006 military takeover to the palace, and drew parallels between events in her country and the fate of the monarchy in Nepal, which was abolished in 2008 after a popular uprising.”

On the way the trial was conducted, Awzar states: “The judges made little pretense of conducting the trial fairly. They denied bail three times, reportedly because they were worried that Darunee’s release would affect public sensibilities, which is not a justifiable reason under the Criminal Procedure Code. They closed the court on grounds of national security.”

The cases of Suwicha Thakor and Chiranuch Premchaiporn are also mentioned.

Awzar concludes with a most apt note on the judiciary: “Thailand’s judiciary has again shot itself in the foot in its hurry to defend increasingly outdated social arrangements. A court has for the umpteenth time in the last couple of years succeeded in injuring itself while scrambling to protect an entrenched political order that is less and less relevant to a fast-changing society. Although the disservice the judges did to themselves is in certain ways detrimental to everyone in Thailand – declining respect for their institution only further undermines the rule of law – it has also done a service by having the opposite effect from what it intended. Instead of silencing critics, it has triggered a new round of debate and comment at home and abroad about the limits to what can be said, let alone done, in the kingdom. The more courts try to stop people in Thailand from saying what they think, the more people will stop to ask why.”


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