The Constitutional Court and its work

20 02 2019

Prachatai has an interesting story on the Constitutional Court, well worth reading in full.

The Constitutional Court hasn’t had so much politicized work to do under the military junta, so some have forgotten how central it was to undermining elected governments from 2007 to 2014 and evening engaging in what many saw as a judicial coup in 2008.

But it is the politicized Constitutional Court that now holds the fate of the Thai Raksa Chart Party in its tainted hands.

The Prachatai story includes brief details on some nine cases that have gone against pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties.

This reminds us that there is a more detailed analysis of the Constitutional Court by Björn Dressel of the Australian National University and Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang of the Faculty of Law at Chulalongkorn University. Coloured Judgements? The Work of the Thai Constitutional Court, 1998–2016,” behind a paywall, is summarized:

Created in 1997 as part of a major constitutional reform, Thailand’s Constitutional Court has since become embroiled in several high-profile political controversies. Since the 2006 coup, because a number of such decisions have favoured one political camp and considering obvious close and long-standing relations between judges and political elites, questions have arisen about the court’s ability to act as an independent arbiter. Is this view justifiable? To answer that question, this article first analyses how the court has behaved across political administrations in 32 high-profile cases since 2001. It then turns to the socio-biographic profile of the bench, the politics of nominations and changes to its composition, particularly since 2006. Finally, the article considers data on participants in classes offered by the Constitutional Court, which makes it possible to better understand the links between Thai political and judicial networks. The analysis finds evidence of politically biased voting patterns and increasingly partisan nominations to the court, though formally appointment procedures are apolitical, which suggests the politicisation of the court and growing ties between judicial and political elites. These findings raise new questions about the public’s perception of the Constitutional Court’s legitimacy and prospects for the rule of law.

Thai Raksa Chart is not in the hands of an unbiased, apolitical court. It is a court that has done the work of royalists, stunting the development of electoral politics.