Korn, Kasian, verdict and coup

6 03 2010

A mini-debate has emerged following the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case. It involves questioning the 2006 coup and the role of the military junta in the justice system. This was sort of set off by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij’s recent bloggings at his Facebook page.

That post is now largely reproduced by the Bangkok Post (5 March 2010) as an op-ed piece.

Korn begins on something of a sour note, with a misrepresentation. He says: “It is now a week since the celebrated ruling on Thaksin Shinawatra’s private assets was announced, and I have yet to air my opinion on the verdict. This is partly because I felt that many people have already been talking about the issue, but it is also because this is an issue close to my heart as I have been personally involved for some time. I also wanted my own opinion and emotions to crystallise before I spoke out..”

PPT points out that this is untrue. Korn posted at Facebook earlier. Even the Post has an earlier report expressing surprise (The Bangkok Post (3 March 2010) where it states: “Finance Minister Korn said if it wasn’t for the military coup, justice wouldn’t have been served, that dictatorship is perhaps better for justice than democracy – causing a stir of debate – but what did he actually mean?

There are several issues in the Korn op-ed that warrant some comment. The first relates to his personal involvement in the assets case. He explains that from the time of the sale of Shin Corp, “all of Thaksin’s actions at that time indicated that he was the real owner of the assets and had hidden all of his shareholdings all along.” As a result, he took two actions: “First, I pointed out that there was evidence at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicating that Thaksin secretly owned his Shin Corp shares via an account at Singapore UBS Bank. Second, I filed a complaint with the Revenue Department that the transactions involving the transfer of shares to Thaksin’s children carried a tax liability.” He complains that his actions were thwarted by an unresponsive bureaucracy. At the same time, it would be interesting to know how Korn had information from UBS Bank.

There is then a gap in the narrative, with Korn explaining that “[w]hen the ASC was set up, I brought all the evidence to them, helped them analyse the information, and explained to them on matters regarding securities and securities trading, which was quite complicated and difficult to understand” (emphasis added).

Korn’s second and most significant issue is in this question: “The question I would like to raise is, if the coup did not happen in 2006 and the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) had not existed, would we see justice being served in this case?” He restates it as: “if there had not been a coup, would justice have prevailed?” And then he thinks a bit more: “why can’t Thai society … achieve justice without having to rely on coup-makers initiating the process? Does this mean that sometimes ‘undemocratic’ actors place more emphasis on truth and justice than democratic ones?”

Korn doesn’t explicitly answer the first question although it is absolutely clear that he is a coup supporter and believes that justice has been brought by the 2006 military coup. Of course, the question is hypothetical as the coup prevented any further attempts to deal with Thaksin’s alleged corruption under the 1997 Constitution. We’ll never know the answer.

On the second question, Korn is more effusive and highly PAD-like. He says that it is possible that “the majority of Thais do not sufficiently care about truth and justice. As long as our businesses are doing well and there is food on the table, we Thais appear willing to live with corruption.” That sounds like a critique of Thai culture. But then Korn makes it clear which Thais he means: “Truth and justice cannot fill empty stomachs. Perhaps, therefore, only the wealthy have the time and inclination to ponder on matters such as justice while the poor, who have to struggle to feed their families, do not have that luxury. And when the majority is made up of poor people and the majority voice is what counts in a democracy, the resounding answer is seemingly ‘We don’t care’.”

Yes, Korn adds a throwaway line about “many businessmen and the well-to-do” who also don’t care, but the message is clear. It is those horrid people who vote for Thaksin who are to blame for the failures of the justice system. Korn must never have met average Thais in a normal situation. He must not know how they fell about injustice and double standards that allow Korn’s “thinking elite” to get special treatment in a system designed to prevent justice being blind to position and wealth.

Not unexpectedly, as the Bangkok Post (4 March 2010) reports, Puea Thai Party politicians have reacted strongly, pointing out that Korn is: (i) in a position to influence future investigations of Thaksin and his family through the Ministry of Finance, and he has taken a personal and political position that shows considerable ill-will. In other words, he should have kept his feelings of elation and self-justification to himself; and (ii) a member of parliament supporting undemocratic political interventions. Even the Chart Thai Pattana Party spokesman Watchara Kannika pointed out “that as a politician in a democratic system Mr Korn should not support any military coup.”

Not necessarily a part of this debate, but reflecting on some of the same issues, Kasian Tejapira, political science lecturer at Thammasat University has commented (Prachatai, 3 March 2010): “Don’t use a coup to solve the problems of corruption. That will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice system. It’s really a high price to pay…”. Kasian’s perspective is far less elitist and a lot more thoughtful than Korn’s view.

Kasian, who strongly opposed Thaksin before the coup, reportedly stated that the “coup was meant to ‘reform democracy to be safe for the monarchy’, as implied right from the start by the original name of the coup makers, the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, because the Constitutional Monarchy was insecure under Thaksin’s rule.” Kasian clarifies this comment, meaning that “The point was to maintain the hegemony to lead the country in one direction under the monarchy. Under Thaksin’s rule, hegemony was shifted to Thaksin, the Thai Rak Thai Party and their cliques.”

For Kasian, this means that what we are seeing is “measures … taken to secure hegemony where it was. This means it was necessary to destroy Thaksin’s power, crushing the two most important bases of his power, his money and his party…”. The process in train is, Kasian says, “obvious. Once Thaksin’s hegemony is destroyed, no other alternative hegemony is likely to emerge in Thai society.”

Kasian also points out that the 26 February assets judgment is also about “scaring big capitalists away from entering politics.” In fact, even before the coup, PPT has already seen big capitalists moving back to being behind-the-scenes funders of the Democrat Party and big-time supporters of the monarchy’s various fund-raising schemes, from polo to pearls and pathetic “art” and design.

Like PPT, Kasian sees a decline in liberal ideas and positions and a tendency to a “despotic” hegemonic regime. Thaksin might have been headed in this direction, but Kasian seems to lament that failure to reign him in: “Thaksin held state power, and sometimes stayed above the law. To bring the most powerful Prime Minister to court is an attempt to bring about the rule of law.”

After the 2006 coup, however, “influential figures” have been a problem: “the rule of law has been distorted by these influences. The police dare not, or take too long, to investigate the Suvarnabhumi Airport case; it has been over a year now.  The prosecutor has not brought them to court, claiming a lack of intention. This is where the allegation of double standards has been spawned.” And, there’s no transparency, not least in the judiciary.

Kasian worries that there is “judicial rule, because more and more people from the judiciary have taken political positions, through the 2007 Constitution.” The “2007 Constitution has institutionalized judicial rule, and that is locked in. It cannot be turned back.” On the verdict, Kasian says: “Many people cannot say for sure that the Thaksin government was innocent, and many believe that it was corrupt. However, after the process that has been followed, the lesson can be learned that to stage a coup to tackle corruption will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice process…”.

At present, Kasian says that compromise is impossible because “one side is not in the mood to talk, … no changes are allowed. They trust nobody, neither the red shirts, nor Thaksin. It’s a feeling of insecurity, a fear for normal democracy. The abnormality must be made secure under their control…”.


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8 03 2010
Korn, Rule of Law, and Democracy « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] expresses some surprise that his earlier post on the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case verdict, which PPT commented on here, caused so much of a fuss. He claims to have been misunderstood and to have been misrepresented by […]

4 04 2010
Korn shows his true colors (again) « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He has also  his quiet support for the 2006 coup. In other words, Korn is firmly located in the far right of the Democrat Party and while a member […]

5 08 2012
The Democrat Party: an idea-free zone « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] As PPT noted in an earlier post, Korn Chatikavanij has become an activist Democrat Party leader. The last time we saw him campaigning was when he was supporting PAD’s illegal actions in 2008. PPT has long pointed out more than once that Korn is a supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. This English born, public school and Oxford educated scion of an aristocrat families who has also supported the use of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He was also  a quiet support for the 2006 coup. […]

5 08 2012
The Democrat Party: an idea-free zone « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] As PPT noted in an earlier post, Korn Chatikavanij has become an activist Democrat Party leader. The last time we saw him campaigning was when he was supporting PAD’s illegal actions in 2008. PPT has long pointed out more than once that Korn is a supporter of the People’s Alliance for Democracy. This English born, public school and Oxford educated scion of an aristocrat families who has also supported the use of draconian measures against protesters (but not his PAD buddies, of course). He was also  a quiet support for the 2006 coup. […]




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