Lese majeste evidence censored by court

24 07 2012

This post refers to events a few days ago that were reported in the Bangkok Post. PPT wanted to get back to it for the light it projects on the way lese majeste cases are handled by the courts.

During the third day of the now suspended trial of Akechai Hongkangwarn, accused of selling CDs and WikiLeaks documents that are allegedly insulting of the royal family, the judges halted the day’s trial “multiple times as judges asked whether the evidence should be presented in the courtroom.”

In other words, the judges want to have a trial where evidence is censored by the court. The reason for this is quite clear: all of the evidence is produced by persons close to the royal family and is damning of them, and most especially of the crown prince.

The Criminal Court “had to break the session on a few occasions to seek clarifications on the defence approach and a push by prosecutors to show the evidence in court.” The trial was said to have “been interspersed with informal discussions on how to proceed.” Further, as the “trial proceeded, the judges could be heard at one point telling the defence and prosecutors that this is a delicate and sensitive lawsuit in which ‘no one wanted to proceed recklessly’.”

Clearly, the royalist judges were in a twilight zone, between legal and constitutional rights and their need to “protect” the monarchy. Their response was to tutor the defense team, saying the “best approach should be to focus on intent.”

This dilemma is why the royalist legal system seeks guilty pleas from those charged with lese majeste; they do not want truths about the monarchy aired in any public forum.

The report states that: “So far the court has not allowed the evidence to be shown, but it is still kept in the list of exhibits.” In other words, the censorship remains in place.

The “horror” facing the judges include the defense team’s intention to call Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, Privy Counselor Siddhi Savetsila, and royalist ideologue Anand Panyarachun to testify in relation to a Wikileaks cable. In the face of the judges claiming that this approach was an error, the legal defense team agreed to postpone this. In return, the defense got the court to agree to forward its claim that the lese majeste law “breached freedom of expression and civil liberties and so violated the constitution.”

The conduct of the trial – tutoring the defense and prosecution, keeping evidence secret and so on – are revealing of the inability of the judiciary to function lawfully and logically where the monarchy is concerned. The monarchy is an impediment to rule of law.