Further updated: The Constitutional Court simply has to be politically biased

8 06 2012

Kaewsan Atibhodhi has a long history of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activism followed by deep engagement with the military junta after the 2006 military coup. He is a former member of the junta’s Assets Scrutiny Committee that was charged with investigating Thaksin and the claims of unusual wealth, policy corruption and so on.

He has recently joined the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group that has insistently rallied against constitutional amendments.  In March, at one of its rallies, along with its head, who is a former member of the post-coup military junta, and joined by a range of elite supporters like Tul Sitthisomwong and Chirmsak Pinthong, they cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut. So much for rule of law amongst Siam Samakkhi and its supporters!

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddy Tul

With all of this background, Kaewsan – a lawyer – is the perfect advocate for the Constitutional Court’s political and illegal intervention and his argument deserves attention.

At the Bangkok Post, Kaewsan states that those who petitioned the Court see “efforts to pass the charter amendment bill as an attempt by some legislators to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

The “evidence” for this claim is the attempt to “amend Section 291 of the constitution, which would allow a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to be set up to rewrite the charter.”

In fact, this move by the government is attempting to meet an earlier demand by the Democrat Party and other ultra-royalists for increased consultation beyond that currently in the constitution, where all the emphasis is on parliament.

Despite this concession, the ultra-royalists are unhappy and (again) conjure an anti-monarchy plot claim. Kaewsan says the:

“complainants believe the Pheu Thai Party will exert undue influence on the CDA as it is set up. They also expect the party to influence the public hearing process and the types of changes which will be made to the charter by their hand-selected assembly. The petitioners say they are concerned these amendments will eventually bring about the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy.

In other words, the case made by the petitioners is a sloppy collection of cockeyed ideology, guesses, and suppositions.

Even so, Kaewsan’s understanding is that the Court is on board with these beliefs and suspicions: “I understand that the Constitution Court wants to know how the charter will be rewritten.”

Kaewsan

Of course, the Court has no legal power to do this (see below). So Kaewsan “explains” that in:

“reviewing the petition, the court may interpret Section 68 of the constitution mainly in the political aspect, not the legal aspect.

If that isn’t clear, Kaewsan then embarks on a discussion of why the Court must be political:

If we consider the case in a purely legal light, it is correct … that the court does not have authority to suspend parliament’s readings of the constitution amendment bills.

Let’s repeat that: the Court has no legal authority. None. But that doesn’t stop the ultra-royalists like Kaewsan:

if we take into account the petitioners’ concerns about political manoeuvring, it is a different matter and the court’s decision to suspend proceedings can be understood….

He’s right. The Court’s illegal but political decision is easily understood as a politically-driven intervention based on royalist ideology and conspiracies:

The court made its decision because groups of people told the judges that moves are afoot to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

Of course, their ultra-royalist allies at the Constitutional Court believe such nonsense, so when they get the order to intervene they are more than willing to take politically-biased and illegal decisions. Kaewsan cheers them:

The court should consider overall conditions when making its decision, not just the legal aspects. Based on this overall premise, the court has authority to suspend the process.

Yes, the Constitutional Court is not about the law. It is about politics and double standards. Kaewsan makes this crystal clear.

What do the complainants (and the Court) see as the threat to the monarchy under a process of constitutional reform? Kaewsan says they:

believe the [Puea Thai] government will use off-parliamentary power _ the red-shirt groups _ to augment its majority in parliament to acquire a level of state power which may exceed what is provided in the constitution.

More supposition, ignoring the fact that, today, following the initial acts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, even the Democrat Party has its own extra-parliamentary “power.”

As we noted, Kaewsan is a lawyer, so we might wonder why he condones illegalities and the destruction of the Courts by ultra-royalists. In fact, he has a long history of playing fast and loose with law. Back when he was with the ASC, he made the remarkable claim that “evidence and witnesses are useless,” when one of its panels recommended legal action against Thaksin without hearing 300 witnesses or considering 100 additional pieces of evidence (Bangkok Post, 9 April 2008).

Nothing much changes when it comes to the ultra-royalist opposition to Thaksin, to elections and to ideas about popular democracy. The “protection” of the monarchy and the system it symbolizes trumps law, constitution and the voice of the people.

Update 1: As an antidote to this ultra-royalist dissembling, two articles in The Nation may assist. The first, cites four legal experts: “Somchai Preechasilapakul, from the Law Faculty of Chiang Mai University said he wondered if the judiciary had any power over the legislature, the power of which is connected to the public”; “Chulalongkorn University law lecturer Manit Jumpa also said he disagreed with the court’s decision to accept the petitions…”; “Mano Thongpan, an academic on law who is formerly an executive of the Law Society of Thailand, said that he did not think this case required urgent attention from the Constitution Court”; “Political scientist Likhit Dhiravegin, speaking at the same seminar, also questioned the court citing Article 68 for its decision to accept the petitions directly from the people, not a state agency.” The second story involves the statement from the real agency responsible for assessing the constitutional reform/amendment=conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy claim, the attorney-general:

The Attorney General’s Office said yesterday that government-sponsored bills to amend the Constitution were not aimed at overthrowing the political system, as has been alleged in petitions filed separately by five groups of people.

Winai Damrongmongkolkul, a spokesman for the agency, told a press conference last night the Attorney-General decided not to forward the petitions to the Constitution Court. “The amendment bills will not result in changes to the political system that are unconstitutional,” he said.

Update 2: PPT has been watching Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s non-involvement as an indicator of her lack of attention and fortitude for anything controversial. The Nation reports today: “… PM Yingluck Shinawatra has decided to avoid what could be a contentious debate, saying she has a busy schedule until next week.” What’s so pressing? What trumps the Constitutional Court’s launching of yet another judicial coup? Well, there’s flood stuff. Visiting people and looking at flood preparations. Yes, floods and preventing them are important, but missing this debate is a capitulation.

 


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3 05 2013
Authoritarian speak | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] has also been a member of the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group and attempted to concoct legal cases against Yingluck Shinawatra during the 2011 election […]

3 05 2013
Authoritarian speak | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] has also been a member of the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group and attempted to concoct legal cases against Yingluck Shinawatra during the 2011 election […]

9 10 2014
Rewarding the anti-democrats II | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] 2012, Chirmsak supported the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group. At one of its rallies, he joined with a range of royalists including Tul Sitthisomwong and Kaewsan […]