With 2 updates: Constitutional Court, Democrat Party and shifting blame

23 10 2010

The Democrat Party and the Constitutional Court are to be complimented for their ability – aided by some in the friendly puppy-like mainstream media – to deflect criticism over the leaked video clips that appear to show negotiations to support the Democrat Party in its current cases before the court.

It is revealing to see how they have done this.

A couple of days ago, the Bangkok Post had an editorial that was, surprisingly, quite strong. It said: “The country … has the right to raise doubts over just what was occurring during the four conversations taped and posted for the world to see. Many media, internet chat forums and blogs have raised highly pertinent questions, and it will not do for either the Democrat Party hierarchy or the members of the Constitution Court to try to wave them off. Yet this is what they tried to do in the first couple of days after … a photo set and four videos [were posted] to the popular video service.

But wave them off they have. The first move to deflect blame and cover the evidence trail came when 5 judges held a press conference to say that a Constitution Court secretary – Pasit Sakdanarong – who appeared in one of the videos had been sacked.

But as the Post editorial observes, “the important points do not revolve around who took the video or arranged the meetings. The videos seem to show judges and court officials discussing the Democrat Party case in ways that appear inappropriate. Are the conversations real, and if so, do they fairly portray the deliberations in a case where testimony was not even completed?”

The next move was to avoid these issues by burying them under a series of official investigations, none of them independent, and most seemingly intent on punishing the whistle blower/s rather than any wrong doing by the judges/court or the Democrat Party.

Part of this twist and dissemble strategy also involves dismissing the evidence. For example, MCOT News says that the Constitution Court judges “reaffirmed its impartiality in considering the ruling Democrat Party dissolution case, saying that a panel has been set up to probe the release of video clips of a Democrat MP allegedly lobbying a court official over the case.”

That’s the judges themselves – the ones seen in the videos, apparently negotiating a corrupt deal – “reaffirming” their neutrality. That seems not just unlikely but a lame account.

The court also stated that it had “set up a panel to probe the case, but refused to disclose the names of the panel, citing its confidentiality.” The word “lame” again comes to mind, although “corrupt” and “nonsense” also seem appropriate. When the anonymous “investigation panel” is said to be in search of truth, PPT would have expected reporters to be rolling around laughing. Apparently not.

The Democrat Party, as well as claiming set-ups and “political motives” at work, decided to “investigate” as well. In the same MCOT report, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said “his party has set up a panel to investigate the case of Mr Wiruch [Wirat Romyen] who is a member of the party’s legal team and if any inappropriate action is found, further action will be taken against him.”

What of the Party itself? Was Wirat operating as an individual? Almost certainly not, but that is the impression the Democrat Party wants to cultivate.

To further cover tracks, blaming others always helps. The Bangkok Post says that Abhisit’s spokesman, Thepthai Senpong, has “questioned if Puea Thai was involved in making the clips.” That was a fact already known, but his point is to claim wrong doing on the part of the opposition to deflect criticism from his own party.

The Nation says that Thepthai claims “Abhisit has told me to coordinate with Wiruch and allow him to sue anyone for defamation on a personal level.” Legal cases like this just throw up more dust to cover tracks. That the Democrat Party “investigation panel” is a snow job is seen in its stated aims: The Nation says that the panel would see if Wirat “had done anything illegal such as getting knowingly involved in an attempt to influence the court, and if so, whether he had any collaborators. If found guilty, Wiruch would be punished in accordance with the party’s rules…”. That’s sure to mean just a little more than nothing.

At the premier’s and other cabinet ministers’ urging, the Bangkok Post reports that the police have also begun an investigation. Another layer of legal sand is laid on the real story as evidenced by this police statement: “From a preliminary investigation it was believed an offence had been committed,  but exactly what the charges would be  was still uncertain…”. This is charges against who and for what? Maybe they can make up charges as has been their wont.

Then, the grand old man of the Democrat Party and leader of its legal team, Chuan Leekpai was wheeled out to blame the whistle blowers and to take the heat off the allegedly corrupt activities by members of his own team and the judges. Indeed, the Democrat Party has even lodged a complaint against the person who uploaded the videos to YouTube. Indeed, a later report states that the police are investigating the uploading and will seek ti use the Computer Crimes Act to get the poster.

The Nation says that the Democrat Party went even further on this shifting of blame and guilt. It was thus “thinking about taking legal action against other parties that are resorting to unlawful methods against the Democrats. He said the party’s legal team was considering action that could lead to the dissolution of the Pheu Thai Party or any others involved.” He claims the Democrat Party has been “damaged.” Well, it has, but by their own actions.

Conveniently, for those who want to dissemble and whitewash,  The Nation reports that the investigation was “expected to focus on the involvement of [Judge] Chat’s secretary Pasit Sakdanarong who has fled to Hong Kong.”

This situation allows the Democrat Party’s Wirat to insist, according to the Bangkok Post, the recorded “meeting was a set-up. He said Mr Pasit approached his aide, Worawut Nawaphokin, to arrange a meeting with Mr Wirat at a restaurant in the Bang Sue area. Once there, Mr Wirat said Mr Pasit asked him ‘leading questions’.” The implication is that Pasit was on the other side, luring Wirat into appearing like a crooked politician. Slinging dirt at someone else means added confusion for those trying to understand the events.

But the fouling of the story doesn’t finish there. As the Bangkok Post reports, the Constitution Court judges now claim to “have received death threats and called for protection.” That move may be in response to threats but is also neat and convenient if it draws some sympathy to the allegedly corrupt judges and manages to link red shirts and Puea Thai to violence.

The judges are also said to have “demanded the government create conditions that allow them to work freely and safely.”

PPT assumes this means that they want to be able to cut deals without having to worry that they might be outed.

This claim came at the time when Puea Thai parliamentarian Jatuporn Promphan “said he would release new footage next week featuring three panel judges involved in alleged fraud while recruiting court officials.”

The last bit of fouling PPT read of was the claim that the “Democrat Party is gathering evidence to seek the dissolution of the Puea Thai Party for submission to the Election Commission by the end of this month…”.

This is a strategy called “turning the tables,” where a guilty party attempts to say others are really the guilty ones. The Democrat Party claims that “the released footage was falsified and intended to mislead the public.” PPT has no doubt that the Party will be able to find experts, probably amongst their allies in the Department of Special Investigation, to support this allegation.

But all the covering up is not preventing some juicy news getting through. The Nation reports that the “Constitution Court president was rebuked by his colleagues over the video-clip scandal involving his now-removed secretary, a source said yesterday. A fellow Constitution Court judge even implied that the court’s chief, Chut Chonlavorn, should take responsibility for the scandal that has compromised the court’s credibility and step down, according to the source.”

According to reports, Pasit is also seen in a negative light, and is seen to have “caused much suspicion among his colleagues at the Constitution Court. His claim that he was a doctor working for a private hospital was later found to be false. He had never worked for Chut when the latter served as a Supreme Court judge. And Pasit changed his name four times, which was quite unusual, the source said.”

The Bangkok Post adds that “Pasit worked for Mr Chat for over a decade, going back to the time he was deputy permanent secretary for justice. The secretary’s post is not a permanent civil service position, although sources at the Constitution Court said Mr Pasit had been very influential there over the past three years and had played a key role in the transfer of senior officials. Officials at the court are now pushing for an investigation into the past transfer of other officials. They also want an inquiry into a computer procurement project worth 13 million baht, a software installation project worth 66 million baht, and the hiring of certain permanent officials at the court.”

These stories, while significant indicators, are of limited impact as the government, Democrat Party and the Constitution Court judges pile on the allegations and investigations that confuse the real nature of any crimes that might have been committed. PPT thinks the elite will fall in with its government, a process that is already beginning.

By the beginning of next week, the story may well be the hunt for those “criminals” who shot and posted the videos of the judges and Democrat Party organizing a court decision of national significance.

Update 1: The Nation reports that Wirat has now sued Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit and Pasit Sakdanarong, former private secretary to the Constitution Court president, for defamation. That action is clearly meant to further muddy the real issues in this case that involves the corruption of the justice system at the highest level.

Update 2: Oops, PPT was wrong. Above, we posted this: “By the beginning of next week, the story may well be the hunt for those ‘criminals’ who shot and posted the videos of the judges and Democrat Party organizing a court decision of national significance.” Yep, completely wrong, for the Abhisit government has managed this on the weekend, before the time we predicted. The Bangkok Post has the story: “A criminal investigation has been launched into the release of controversial video footage that the Democrat Party claims is part of a plot to discredit it and the Constitution Court.” What can we say? This authoritarian-military-dominated clique does exactly as expected. Abhisit’s choice as police chief has launched the investigation and says it “must be concluded within 30 days.” Apart from the Computer Crimes Act, these bozos have decided that the release of the “footage could also violate the Official Information Act, which prohibits the unauthorised release of the state’s confidential data.” We chose the word “bozo” carefully (for meaning 2 and noun 1).

This is politics at its most rancid, with the Democrat Party’s backers scared witless that having been outed on what appears to be an “old boys’ club” attempt to corrupt a set of judges, they now want to take the heat off their boys who, for all their prattle about law and order, are showing their true colors.

 


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