Further updated: Absurd court reaffirms its royalist credentials

11 11 2021

Section 49 of the junta’s constitution states:

No person shall exercise the rights or liberties to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.

Any person who has knowledge of an act under paragraph one shall have the right to petition to the Attorney-General to request the Constitutional Court for ordering
the cessation of such act.

In the case where the Attorney-General orders a refusal to proceed as petitioned or fails to proceed within fifteen days as from the date of receiving the petition, the person making the petition may submit the petition directly to the Constitutional Court.

The action under this section shall not prejudice the criminal prosecution against the person committing an act under paragraph one.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

The Constitutional Court surprised no one yesterday with its absurd decision that those calling for reform of the monarchy were seeking to overthrow the political system and the monarchy. Its ruling, following the first paragraph above, was all the more bizarre given that many of the reforms were a call for the status quo ante of the previous reign and of the post-1932 regime.

The Court ruled on a petition from Natthaporn Toprayoon, a former advisor to the ombudsman, who prompted the court to rule on whether “public statements, made by leaders of anti-establishment groups concerning the monarchy at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10th last year, amount to an attempt to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

Clipped from Prachatai

Even among the deranged among royalists, Natthaporn stands out as quite mad. His earlier efforts with the Constitutional Court in 2019 involved a bizarre claim that the Future Forward Party was attempting to overthrow the same “democratic regime with the king as the head of state” under the very same Section 49. The lame lawyer claimed, among many odd things, that party members were “anti-monarchy and anti-religion, is that they are part of the Illuminati.” In other words, the FFP was a part of a (fictitious) global anti-monarchist conspiracy. Many mad monarchists believed this rubbish. That action failed, so he took the same nonsense to the Election Commission, claiming an “alleged violation of the Political Party Act.”

This time, the Constitutional Court, by majority (8-1) decision:

ruled that the calls for monarchy reform and monarchy-related activities organized by Anon Nampa, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok and associated organizations were, are and will be abuse of constitutional rights and liberties as they are intended to ‘overthrow’ the democratic form of government with the King as Head of State.

Remarkably, the court determined “hidden” intentions and “inferred” meanings:

The Court ruled that Anon’s speech and Panussaya’s statement at the 10 August 2020 protest, and their participation in the protests afterward and other symbolic actions have the hidden intention of overthrowing the regime, which would cause public disorder and unrest in society….

The word ‘overthrow’ can be inferred from actions that cause a serious threat to the constitution and regime in a decisive and irreversible manner that completely obliterates them.

The court considered the demand for the repeal of Section 6 of the constitution “which guarantees the monarch’s authority, as Head of State, which no one can accuse or violate is an explicit act with an intent to annihilate the monarchy.”

Rather, the demand was:

Abolish Article 6 of the constitution, which dictates that no one can make legal complaints about the king. Add an article to give the parliament power to perform checks and balances on the king, similar to the Khana Rasadon’s constitution.

This is a call to reform and a return to a previous status quo. As an op-ed at Thai Enquirer states: “If you carefully listen, what they are asking for is the modernization of the royal institution so that it can continue to peacefully exist along with the development of a democratic system.”

And the court objected to the tone of speeches:

To demand such changes and make such attacks in public, by claiming that it is an exercise of rights and freedoms according to the Constitution, not only is bad conduct, with rude words spoken, but also violates the rights and freedoms of other people who think differently….

For good measure, the court trotted out the palace and military propaganda line on the role of the monarchy in Thailand’s history. Essentially they accused the reform movement of being offensive to (ruling class) Thai culture.

The court also ordered the three respondents and others to end their movement: “The three respondents, other organisations and networks must cease their actions…”.

The ruling carried no penalty for the three respondents but it potentially unleashes a cascade of royalist repression and cases for the royalist courts that, the regime and palace appear convinced will be the end of the monarchy reform movement.

It is worth noting that, like the hurried and politicized dissolution of several parties in the 2008 judicial coup, the court dispensed with witnesses. As Prachatai explains:

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) stated that, despite a request by lawyers for the three activists for them to be summoned for an inquiry along with several other witnesses to give them the opportunity to defend themselves, the ruling was made without examining witnesses and based only on the complaint itself, the objection to the complaint, and documents that the Court requested from the Office of the Attorney General, Khlong Luang Police Station, the Royal Thai Police, the National Security Office, the National Intelligence Agency, and Thammasat University.

The Court then ordered the inquiry concluded, claiming that it has enough evidence to issue a ruling.

TLHR also said that, in addition to the three activists themselves, they had requested that several academics be summoned as witnesses. They had planned to summon historians Nithi Eoseewong and Charnvit Kasetsiri to testify on Thai political history, and legal scholar Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang to argue that the activists’ actions do not qualify as using their rights and liberties to overthrow the democratic regime with the monarch as Head of State.

They also planned to summon writer Sulak Sivarak to speak about the role of the monarchy in Thai politics and President of the 1997 Constitution Drafting Assembly Uthai Pimchaichon to speak on the intention of Section 49 of the Thai Constitution, which is modelled after the same section in the 1997 Constitution.

None of the aforementioned witnesses were given a chance to testify.

On the ruling, Natthaporn gloated: “The ruling today is a starter, that peace will finally be returned to society…”. He claimed the ruling bans all activities that might be construed to threaten the monarchy. His next target is the Move Forward Party: “He said the court’s decision would lead to the Election Commission deciding whether to move for the disbandment of the Move Forward Party. Mr Natthaporn claims the party supported the protests.”

In an interview cited by Prachatai, academic lawyer and former FFP member Piyabutr Saengkanokkul saw three impacts from the ruling:

Firstly, the ruling’s broad interpretation of the law has closed the door for those who want to reform the monarchy.

Secondly, the ruling prohibits many acts, both those which have been done and those not done. This will allow those who oppose proposals for monarchy reform to flood the courts with petitions similar to the one today. Civil society organizations and political parties that rally for the amendment or abolition of the royal defamation law might be affected by this.

Thirdly, this order to gag people will not bring about reconciliation between those who think differently. It will exacerbate tensions between the old and the new generations who have different ideas about the monarchy.

“If you don’t want to enter the red zone, then don’t do it. Don’t speak. Don’t touch. Don’t do anything. Then, you will be in the safe zone. Your party won’t be disbanded. Your MPs can stay. Criminal charges won’t touch you. In public rallies, you mustn’t speak about this. Just talk about ousting Prayut. Don’t speak about these [monarchy] issues and you will be safe.”

Indeed, this decision will, despite the wording of Section 49, will be used to lock up protest leaders and it will provide justification for a regime purge of those it can now say are anti-monarchists.

Finally in this absurdist “legal” world of the country’s protectors of the status quo, we must go back to the Thai Enquirer and its comments:

Asking for the amendment of the lese-majeste law is not treasonous in any way. Overthrowing an elected government by a military coup like what General Prayut Chan-ocha and his friends did in 2014 was.

It was also unconstitutional and unlawful. But the courts have regularly sanctioned military coups. The op-ed lists other unlawful acts sanctioned by courts:

Jailing and persecuting elected parliamentarians….

Arresting, cracking down, violently using force against unarmed protesters….

Shutting down public debate, installing an unelected senate, using the judiciary to go after dissidents….

Abducting and murdering political activists….

The op-ed concludes:

The verdict was almost like the final nail in the coffin of space for fair discussions in our society. And it was perpetrated by the same court system that has done nothing for the last six years but carry out the junta’s whim and reinforce the junta’s rule.

Update 1: Usefully, Prachatai has provided a translation of the Constitutional Court’s decision. Read it in all its bizarre detail.

Update 2:The Constitutional Court has defended not hearing evidence, saying it was too late and that the investigation was complete. Interestingly, in its decision, the court does not refer to any evidence that was not from the complainant or an official security agency.


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16 01 2022
Silencing the media | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] being wound down for some time, but the Constitutional Court’s support of the regime in its ludicrous judgement on political reform now seems like a turning point, sending the country further down the repressive […]

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