Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.


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