Politics and justice

20 01 2013

Steve Finch, a freelance journalist based in Bangkok, has a story at The Diplomat that is getting some attention on some of the yellow-shirted social media. The reason for this is because he asks if the cases piling up against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva are politically motivated.

While the yellow ones and their Democrat Party allies might get excited by this question, it is somewhat trite. We say this because so many legal cases in Thailand are politically-motivated. Quite a few red shirts remain in jail as political prisoners from Abhisit’s time in power, when hundreds were charged with political crimes. Just last week we witnessed yet another political sentencing as Yoswaris Chuklom or was sentenced for “implied” lese majeste. Lese majeste is a political tool used mainly by the elite to protect its state. And, of course, the judiciary is highly politicized. And, it cannot be forgotten, that all of the charges brought against Thaksin Shinawatra and his various parties were generated under a military junta.

There are a couple of other points in the story that get some attention.

One is the claim attributed to “senior human rights lawyer Sarawut Pratoomraj.” Sarawut is an  activist lawyer and “senior program director for the International Commission of Jurists.” PPT couldn’t find any mention of him at the ICJ, although he’s also listed in this position here. We did note that within two months of the Yingluck Shinawatra government being elected, he was penning critical commentary predicting human rights atrocities by the new government. It seems that some lawyers don’t need evidence when making political claims.

In this story, Sarawut says that”holding Abhisit to account for some of the 91 deaths and more than 2,000 people injured during the violence in 2010 would be unprecedented.” THat’s true, but Sarawut seems to be lamenting this when he adds: “This is the first time in Thai history that our PM has been treated like a criminal…”. In fact, the claim to the “first” is not correct. Pridi Phanomyong was unjustly treated as a criminal even without being dragged through the courts and Thaksin has certainly been treated as a criminal.

At least Sarawut “argues that the army should also be included in any judicial process but [this] so far that appears to be unlikely, at least at the highest level.” It seems obvious to PPT that the Army should not escape charges for killing civilians yet again.

Another point is when Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut claims “We are willing to go through the juristic system,” which is remarkably disingenuous. We see claims by the Democrat Party that Thailand is becoming a police state when it was the Democrat Party-led government that came closest to this. We see the Party’s lawyers bringing charges against those who laid the charges against Abhisit and his cronies and seeking the cover of their own decree which they claim absolves them of responsibility for protesters’ deaths. We see media campaigns to absolve Abhisit. And Abhisit has made it clear that he supports the illegal coup of 2006.

Jakrapob Penkair, a red shirt, is more realistic when he observes that “ultimately charges against Abhisit are also seen as a test of whether the Thai judiciary can be reliable.” By “reliable,” we take it he means that the judiciary is not the politicized kangaroo court of the present day. He adds:  “Abhisit’s trial would be seen as the very first step to get Thailand back on track…. Thaksin’s comeback should be at the bottom of our priorities…”.


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