Enforcing the law

9 01 2010

The Nation (9 January 2010) has an article which is rather oblique in its language. This usually means that the monarchy is involved. PPT reports the story and will wait to see if it relates to the monarchy. There seems a push to keep monarchy and politics stories out of the press.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has said that “he would take legal action against all wrongdoers equally in accordance with the law.” Of course this relates to red shirts for Suthep went on to say that he had “received evidence of red-shirt leader Arisman Pongruangrong’s speech in Chiang Mai on December 22, and the recording showed clearly that his words might be against the laws [sic.].” Readers are left to guess which law or laws.

Meanwhile, in the same report, there is brief mention of a small red shirt protest at the Election Commission, demanding action on the Democrat Party case alleging the party “hired witnesses to falsify charges” in the dissolution case against the Thai Rak Thai Party.

In the same paper there is another report about the “Office of the Attorney-General yesterday dropped the case against Privy Councillor Surayud Chulanont for alleged illegal encroachment of land on Khao Yai Thiang in Nakhon Ratchasima province.” The reason provided was that “Surayud had not intended to break the law.”

That’s an excuse that should be kept in mind. Of course, it has been used before. PPT recalls something back in 2001 regarding a certain new prime minister. But can any reader imagine using such an excuse if you weren’t a big shot?

Immediately, the Peua Thai Party and supporting red shirts were able to “double standards, pointing out it had taken legal action against ordinary citizens many times in the past for similar incidents in the same area.”

This story is useful for some of the background to this Surayud story. The complaint against Surayud was lodged in October 2007, by Khumphong Phumpukhiew. Khumphong claimed that the then prime minister had encroached on land in “a violation of the National Reserve Forest Act of 1964 and the Forest Act of 1941.”

The land at Khao Yai Thiang was allocated to a local Bao Sinnok. He sold it to “Noppadon Pitakwanit in 1995. The land was later handed to Surarith Chatrapitak, a military officer. Surayud’s wife, Jitrawadi, has occupied it since 2002.” Under the terms of the original allocation, “Surayud and his wife have no right to the land, but since they did not intend to violate the Cabinet resolution, the OAG decided to drop the case…”.

The Bangkok Post (9 January 2010) continues the story, saying the “land was initially two adjacent land plots allocated under the cabinet resolution [of 1975] to villager Bao Sinnok and his son-in-law who sold it to Noppadol Pitakwanit in 1995. Ownership was transferred in 1997 to Maj-Gen Surarit Jantrathip, then a Channel 5 director, who sold the plot to Khunying Chitravadee, Gen Surayud’s wife in 2002. The land’s registered owner has now changed to Chul Chulanont, Gen Surayud’s son.”

It adds that the OAG has said that the “Forestry Department under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry could face charges of dereliction of duty if it fails to take back the 14-rai plot … from the privy councillor.”

An OAG spokesman said that “neither Gen Surayud nor Mr Bao face punishment for flouting the cabinet resolution.” He added: “There is no punitive measure for those who violate the [cabinet] resolution.”

Responding to red shirts accusations that “the Abhisit government is ignoring alleged infringement on the forest reserve by Gen Surayud and his wife, when many villagers on Khao Yai Thiang have been sued for trespassing in the forests and forced to leave their land…”, the OAG said that those villagers “who were prosecuted had encroached on forest reserve lands which were not covered by the cabinet resolution.”

There is probably more to this story than is currently being reported and it will be interesting to see where it goes. Perhaps Suthep wants to revisit his claim about taking legal action against all wrongdoers equally in accordance with the law.

Update: 2Bangkok.com has this to say about red-shirt leader Arisman’s speech in Chiang Mai: “As far as we can tell the comments are the public threats to firebomb the houses of EC members if they do not dissolve the Democrat Party. There have also been calls to burn down Privy Councilor Prem’s houses in Bangkok, Korat, and Songkhla.”

The author adds: “Arisman is a significant Red Shirt as he is one of the few willing to personally lead protest activity on the ground (as opposed to others who threaten and posture on radio and at rallies). Arisman led the charge into the Asean Summit in Pattaya last April. If Arisman has fled the country as is rumored, this is a boon for the government as it removes a personality who has shown the willingness and ability to lead aggressive protests.”

And this: “There has been a much higher ratio of talk to action in the last two months and the Thai-language press is beginning to question the Red Shirts’s ability to bring numbers together and take real action. Even the rally at the EC on Friday turned out to be a convoy of just 30 taxis.”

Also see this in the Bangkok Post – www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews/164710/suthep-orders-action-against-arismant



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