Updated: Judiciary exposed

6 10 2019

Thailand’s judiciary has been a pliant and willing arm of the ruling class, and courts like the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court have been politicized. Most Thais understand that the judiciary’s standards are double standards. Justice is certainly not blind.

These aspects of the (in)justice system have been tragically on display after a judge shot himself in court. This is how Khaosod reported that event:

Yala senior judge Khanakorn Pianchana pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the chest inside a courtroom moments after he acquitted five defendants of murder and firearm charges. In a court filing leaked on social media after his suicide attempt, Khanakorn said he was pressured by his supervisor to find the men guilty despite lack of evidence.

Khanakorn’s statements were written inside a full court verdict, which is typically released to the press after a ruling.

The judge said he was threatened by regional justice chief Permsak Saisrithong to deliver a guilty verdict on the five defendants, or Khanakorn himself would be placed under a disciplinary hearing if he disobeys.

Khanakorn said he could not bring himself to condemn the men due to lack of hard evidence. If found guilty, the defendants would have faced death penalty.

The Bangkok Post reported that Khanakorn earlier posted a 25-page ruling online:

The document states the case he was hearing concerned national security and was related to secret association, conspiracy and gun-law offences.

The document allegedly described disagreements among senior judges over the case ruling, in which Mr Khanakorn reportedly decided to acquit all five defendants.

Messages reading “Return the ruling to the judges” and “Return justice to the people” were repeated three times in the document. The Court of Justice has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the circulated document.

The initial response of the Office of the Judiciary was to blame Khanakorn, saying he “had apparently acted out of stress from personal issues.” As ever, it said it would launch an investigation (read this as “launch a cover-up”).

Those who have seen the injustice of the judicial system were quick to point out the apparent meddling in the case, seemingly for political reasons. But the defense of the judicial system was strong and perverted.

Poramate Intarachumnum, chief of the Department of Thonburi Criminal Litigation, cited in the Bangkok Post, “said the public should withhold their criticism for the time being because what they read might turn out to be true.” That’s also a kind of blaming the victim. It was also part of a developing and truly bizarre deep yellow conspiracy theory-cum-plot. Supporters of the junta-cum-government claimed a political plot, masterminded by the Future Forward Party. The “evidence” being that that opposition party chairs a parliamentary committee on justice and, most grotesquely, that the judge, now recovering, had deliberately not intended to kill himself…. This lot seem ready to believe any concocted “plot.”

Meanwhile, the Court of Justice has insisted that nothing is wrong in the (in)justice system. Its Secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said “his office … would submit the case to the Judicial Commission, a panel of judges who make decisions concerning themselves by voting.” That is said to be an “independent agency” being “independent.” In fact, it is analogous to cases where the military vets itself – a cover-up results.

Of course, the judiciary is anything but independent. Rather, it is a part of the bureaucracy.

It is known that as the case was “deemed important, Mr Khanakorn had to send it to the Region 9 chief judge’s office for a review.”

When the ruling reached the regional chief judge’s office, two senior judges reviewed it first and wrote on the memo that they disagreed with it. The regional chief judge then allegedly stamped “confidential” on the memo and ordered Mr Khanakorn to rewrite the ruling based on the opinions of his superiors.

Mr Khanakorn pointed out one of the two high-ranking judges who reviewed his ruling had checked it out before and made changes only in minor details. He said he could not help but suspect he might have agreed with his ruling but something had changed his mind later.

A Bangkok Post picture

Mr Khanakorn wrote that by law, if a chief judge disagrees with a ruling, he must put it in writing in the document. It didn’t happen in this case and instead Mr Khanakorn was told in confidence to reverse the ruling to convict the five defendants.

“If I complied with his request, there would have been no evidence in the case files showing that the conviction, instead of the acquittal, was the result of the chief judge’s order. Instead, it will be on me and my panel of judges who signed the ruling,” he wrote.

“If I complied with the order, three of the defendants would have been executed for first-degree murder — there’s no lesser penalty to choose from — and two others would have been imprisoned as accomplices.

“The confidential memo also said if I insisted on acquitting them, I must detain them during an appeal, which makes no sense to me.”

He added that if he defied the order, he would be investigated and eventually he would have to quit.

In Khanakorn’s view, “the case was not related to national security or terrorism. Yet all evidence and witnesses were acquired while the five were detained under martial law and emergency laws which allow detention of up to 30 days without charges, although the laws are intended for security or terrorism cases only.” He seemed to consider that the defendants had been framed by the police. That’s not unusual for Thailand’s police and nor for the military.

Suspiciously, “a spokesman of for the Region 4 Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said security officials had never interfered with the justice system…”. He’s lying.

Update: As usually happens in regime cover-ups, those protecting themselves and their comfortable and powerful position have decided to “investigate” for so-called disciplinary offenses, and will probably charge the judge who shot himself. This blames the victim and takes the heat off those who make the problems. These are quite awful and exceptionally nasty people who have learned from their peers and their predecessors that they have impunity, so long as they line up with the great and the good.


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