Lese majeste poisoning the judiciary

6 02 2013

At Asia Sentinel, academic Kevin Hewison has an op-ed that looks at the pernicious impact of lese majeste for Thailand’s judicial system. He begins:Asia Sentinel

Thailand’s repeated use of its draconian lese majeste and computer crimes laws to “protect” its monarchy is also causing serious damage to its judicial system….

Many royalists assert that Article 112 is the foundation of protection for the monarchy and, indeed, for the Thai state itself. This conviction blinds them to the fact that the use of this draconian law and the continuing trials are undermining another institution that is vital for the state: the judiciary.

He notes the role of the king in motivating the judiciary to become politically activist:

Historically, while the judiciary has been politically supine, it has not been identified as a politically activist institution. However, that changed when the king intervened following an election shambles in April 2006 to urge the judiciary to sort out the political mess. That mess revolved around royalist agitation for Thaksin’s elected government to be thrown out. To be sure, the king had long taken an interest in the judiciary, yet this was a call for a judicial political intervention. Since the military coup, the king has repeatedly urged the judiciary to remain activist.

Hewison argues that the “judiciary has responded with considerable gusto” and notes the “bizarre legal calisthenics demonstrated by the courts” in lese majeste and computer crimes cases, noting that the “list of curious convictions is long.” He adds that many of these court decisions “seem to mock the legal process and practice and rules of evidence” and are damaging for the judiciary.” He gives special attention to the politicized Constitutional Court, pointing out that its decisions on lese majeste “have been virtually inexplicable in legal terms.”

He concludes:

In short, Article 112 of the criminal code is allocated a legal position that relegates the nation’s basic law to a residual status. When the courts make unashamedly politicized decisions in lese majeste cases, the foundations of the rule of law are undermined. When there is no equality before the law and arbitrary judgments are made, then the legitimacy of the judiciary is called into question. Thailand’s judges, by elevating Article 112 above all other laws, are threatening the future of the country’s democracy.


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8 02 2013
RWB on press freedom « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] lese majeste and related computer crimes legislation that undermines the media in Thailand (and the judiciary and the monarchy itself). The recent conviction of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is just one more example […]

8 02 2013
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[…] lese majeste and related computer crimes legislation that undermines the media in Thailand (and the judiciary and the monarchy itself). The recent conviction of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is just one more example […]

14 02 2013
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[…] of his account is of the “legal calisthenics” that lese majeste and computer crime laws involve. For example, in the case of Chiranuch […]

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[…] of his account is of the “legal calisthenics” that lese majeste and computer crime laws involve. For example, in the case of Chiranuch […]

26 02 2013
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[…] and “special treatment” poisons the justice system for the poor and makes it a tool of the rich and […]

26 02 2013
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[…] and “special treatment” poisons the justice system for the poor and makes it a tool of the rich and […]

12 08 2014
Corrupt judges | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] In other words, the judges were taking bribes. As these judges bailed criminal cronies, and setting free the children of the rich, they and their judicial colleagues were locking up those accused of lese majeste and rejecting dozens of their bail applications. […]