Law? Forget it

25 12 2015

red candleThere is plenty of commentary on the events of yesterday in the Koh Samui court where two Burmese migrant workers have been found guilty of murdering backpackers from Britain. Human rights groups have slammed the verdict, sentencing the two to death. Whatever else comes from this sad case, one conclusion that can be drawn is about the incompetence and lack of professionalism of the judicial process in Thailand, from beginning to end.

It is not just this case that points to failures. Many cases over the past decade or so speak to the double standards and corruption that riddles the police force and the judiciary. It is not being unreasonable to assert that the judicial process in Thailand works for the rich and the political elite.

For example, a Bangkok Post editorial refers to an “insider trading episode which involved CP All’s top executives…”. An op-ed at the Nikkei Asian Review, explains:

The insider trading incident occurred in 2013, according to a statement by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Dec. 2. Korsak Chairasmisak, the vice chairman of CP All, was at that time its chief executive. He bought over 118,000 shares of Siam Makro, a cash-and-carry chain, over a 12-day period ending on April 22 that year. The following day, CP All announced a tender offer for Siam Makro shares at 15% above the April 22 close. The regulator found that Korsak had prior knowledge of the deal and imposed a fine of over 30 million baht ($833,000). Three executives involved were also fined 3.1 million baht in total, but no criminal charges were brought.

The four executives were fined almost $1 million but no criminal convictions were recorded. That’s bad enough, but with a few weeks of that, CP thumbed its nose at all of this, stating that “its audit committee and independent directors …[would] retain the positions of its four executives, including chairman Korsak Chairasmisak, tainted with insider trading convictions by the Securities and Exchange Commission…”.

CP, owned by the country’s richest, stated:

After reviewing the facts and taking into consideration the SEC punishment and the prior behaviour and performance of the individuals and their exceptional skills and experience, which would be difficult to replace, while balancing these factors with the overall effects and benefits to the company, as well as ensuring that this situation can never happen again, we have decided that it is appropriate for the individuals to continue in the business.

The Post editorial decries this and points at a weak law:

… weak law compounded by weak enforcement may explain why only a few cases of insider trading made it to the court, letting many offenders off the hook. According to SEC records, only three major cases were brought to courts while the other cases were settled by fines with the SEC, including the CP All insider trading case.

The Nikkei op-ed gets closer to the reality, with this headline: “Insider Trading: Thailand’s old normal.” Indeed it is. This is just one more example of the impunity enjoyed by the rich and its military allies. Laws don’t matter for the rich except when they are using them for their benefit or for exploiting the poor and vulnerable. This is royalist Thailand’s normal.