Updated: Constitutional Court’s “logic”

22 09 2019

Wasant Techawongtham is a former news editor of the Bangkok Post. He writes:

I’m no legal expert, so I may not fully comprehend the legalese language of many court rulings, some of which just go right over my head, not because of the language itself but the logic within them.

While the Court has threatened those who question its decisions, Wasant states:

The two latest rulings by the Constitutional Court have just left me scratching my head with bewilderment and frustration. In this, I’m not alone. Many legal experts have had to scamper to their law textbooks to make sure they have not missed some important principles.

He writes of the Court’s 11 September determination that “it has no authority to rule on the question of whether Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has violated the constitution” on his unconstitutional oath.

Despite a clear and precise statement of the content of the oath in the Constitution, the Court said that the oath was a matter between the king and executive.

Wasant points out the constitutional fallacy of this “decision”:

As I understand it, we have three pillars of democracy — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. Each provides checks and balances against the others, and each has the duty to respect and protect the country’s constitution.

The fact that Gen Prayut failed to utter a complete oath is no longer in dispute. Such an act is a violation of Section 161 of the constitution which requires that a minister “must” make a solemn declaration as specifically stated before the King.

As everyone in neo-feudal Thailand must, Wasant protects his posterior by trying to “explain” that the king could not possibly have been involved in Gen Prayuth’s unconstitutional oath: “The King cannot be held responsible or complicit in this act.”

He concludes: “I can see no reason why the Constitutional Court could not rule on the matter.” Anyone who is fair and reasonable can only comprehend this ruling as yet another politicized decision by the Court.

Wasant then turns to the other recent ruling by the Constitutional Court on Gen Prayuth’s status as a state official and thus ineligible for the prime ministership. He describes the Court’s rejection of this petition as a “victory for the beleaguered general-turned-politician.” He adds: “it is also one of the most fuzzy and confusing rulings that is extremely difficult for laymen to understand.”

He quotes Political scientist Prajak Kongkirati who asked the right questions:

… [Gen Prayut] uses state power but he is not accountable to the state? He was not appointed by any law but issued and enforced laws concerning all public and private entities as well as the people? He was not legally a state official but received a salary from the public purse? He held on to power temporarily but stayed on for more than five years, longer than any elected government in Thai political history?

Wasant adds a question: “[Gen Prayuth] … wore official [state] uniforms to attend official [state] functions but was not a … [state] official?”

He concludes that:

Bolstered by the two court decisions, Gen Prayut must have felt he could do no wrong. On the day of the House debate, he walked away from the meeting without answering the central question: How would he take responsibility for the constitutional blunder he created after he had said publicly he would solely bear the responsibility?

Thailand is left with Gen Prayuth as The Dictator and prime minister following a coup, political repression, unbridled power as head of a junta, a rigged election and and rules thanks to politicized court decisions.

For several years the Constitutional Court has delivered politicized decisions based on clear double standards. Its attention now turns to the Future Forward Party. We would be hugely surprised if the Court doesn’t consign the party’s leader and the party itself to its dustbin of dissolved political parties. Of course, these dissolved parties are all pro-Thaksin Shinawatra or anti-junta.

Update: While mentioning op-eds at the Bangkok Post, Veera Prateepchaikul is unhappy with “the prime minister [who] did not himself clarify why he omitted to recite an important part of the oath as stipulated in the constitution…”. He handed over to deep swamp slime mining creature Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam to concoct something that sounded legal. As Veera sees it – and most everyone else –

In his clarification … Wissanu was as slippery as an eel as he beat about the bush before referring to the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the swearing-in ceremony was an affair between the government and … the King. In short, he offered no clarification as to whether the omission of the final part of the oath by the prime minister was intentional or unintentional.

And, of course, said nothing about who might have ordered Gen Prayuth to omit reference to the constitution. Veera says Gen Prayuth’s “attitude can only be seen as a lack of acceptance of the opposition’s role as a check-and-balance mechanism of the executive branch, if not his contempt for it.” While that contempt is well-known, the whole story of the unconstitutional oath is also suggestive of the king’s contempt for parliament and the constitution.

Sadly, Veera then gets into some obscurantist royalism:

It is a straightforward and non-complicated issue that could be fixed with an honest explanation, which any good leader should offer. It is not a sensitive issue as claimed by Mr Wissanu because it is separate from the swearing-in ceremony.

Clearly, it isn’t. If this unconstitutional oath was an error, then it would have been easily fixed. Because it hasn’t been fixed and because those involved won’t say anything, the finger is pointing at the king.


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