NACC and evidence

2 04 2014

During the period following the 2006 military coup, the judiciary and “independent” agencies repeatedly trampled over principles of law in order to deliver decision that were in the interests of the royalist elite.

PPT can think of several such cases that involved double standards and the jettisoning of all legal principles. A favorite is the junta’s Assets Scrutiny Committee (or the Asset Examination Committee) which was stacked with anti-Thaksin Shinawatra appointees and its work was only ruled legal because it was undertaken under junta rules. That committee’s secretary Kaewsan Atibhodhi claimed “evidence and witnesses are useless,” with one of its panels recommending legal action without hearing 300 witnesses or considering 100 additional pieces of evidence (Bangkok Post, 9 April 2008). Another example is the 2008 judicial coup that resulted in the dissolution of several parties that formed the government, where the Constitutional Court refused to hear more than 200 witnesses in the defense of the three parties that were dissolved (a pro-royalist account of this is available).

Why do we recall all of this? Simply because a similar process is now underway at the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is making itself some kind of judge and jury but which refuses to follow normal legal procedures. The situation that reflects this is the appearance of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the NACC, where she made available “200 pages of evidence” and  “asked the NACC to consider her documents and she would be willing to provide more information if needed.” In addition, she “told the NACC that she has prepared 11 witnesses to argue against the charges in 13 points…”.

Within about 24 hours, the NACC had made a decision on this. According to the Bangkok Post, the NACC has decided to only allow Yingluck “to bring in three more witnesses in a case where she is accused of dereliction of duties involving the rice-pledging scheme.”

Yes, in about a day, the NACC apparently considers that we should believe that it has read and digested the information and requests it received. Of course, it hasn’t. Evidence doesn’t matter in the progress of the judicial coup. Rather, the NACC has taken yet another politicized decision yet again and is seeking to wrap up its role in the judicial coup as quickly as possible.

Thaksin, law and sincerity

21 05 2013

It is sometimes difficult for PPT to take the Abhisit Vejjajiva-dominated Democrat Party seriously. Sincerity is in short supply amongst many political leaders in Thailand, but seems in especially short supply when Abhisit is involved in justifying its use of the military to suppress political opposition in 2009 and 2010.

Newin and Abhisit

Abhisit’s political elasticity

On 2010,  The Nation reports that:

The ruling Pheu Thai Party yesterday demanded that opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban apologise to the families of those killed and injured in the 2010 red-shirt riots….

Pheu Thai Party deputy leader Anusorn Iamsa-ard said Abhisit and Suthep owed the red shirts a long-overdue apology because they had ordered security officials to use real bullets to shoot at the protesters during the crowd-control operation.

We think hell will freeze over before either man would admit any responsibility.

Indeed,  also at The Nation, it is reported that far from apologizing or admitting any missteps, Abhisit’s party blames Thaksin Shinawatra for everything! Their call is for:

… former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra … to admit to his alleged wrongdoings and respect the courts – to uphold the rule of law in Thailand.

They said Thaksin had been a major source of political conflict in recent years.

Not the Army, not the Democrat Party, not the palace’s old men scheming, not the royalist courts, not the military junta, not the dirty backroom deals, but Thaksin.

Their comments were prompted by Thaksin’s remarks on the “post-coup Assets Examination Committee (AEC)’s investigation against him were unfair.” There is nodoubt that they were contrived and unfair. This isn’t to say that Thaksin is squeaky clean; he isn’t. But the assets case was a fix and the cases where Thaksin should have been pursued were dropped or ignored for reasons that implicate those on the royalist side.

Abhisit is reported as stating that “he was saddened by the fact Thaksin could not admit his wrongdoings.”

Abhisit also claimed that Thaksin “should declare that he does not support a draft amnesty law proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung.”

On this latter point, Abhisit must have prepared his statement in advance for the the Bangkok Post reports that:

Deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra appeared to beat a tactical retreat on Sunday night when he told his red-shirt followers he favours an amnesty bill that excludes not only protest leaders and those responsible for the crackdowns, but also himself.

The report adds:

Thaksin’s announcement ran counter to a proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung in a bill he plans to file with the House of Representatives tomorrow.

The amnesty issue is certainly not finished, but Thaksin seems to have again demonstrated Abhisit’s failures.

All Abhisit can do is accuse Thaksin and the red-shirt leaders of telling lies.

Adding to the remarkable ingenuousness  demonstrated by the Democrat Party when they demand Thaksin accept laws, another report at The Nation has this eye-opener:

Democrat heavyweights have threatened to sue Department of Special Investigation director-general Tarit Pengdith if he refuses to review his agency’s decision to press charges against Democrats over donations to the party.

Laws for Thaksin seem acceptable for the Democrat Party but not for them.

Authoritarian speak

3 05 2013

Thailand’s anti-democrats/authoritarians express themselves most clearly when they are most rabid and frothing about those they hate with irrational fervor.

So it is that Khao sod reports on a statement by Kaewsan Atibhodhi, a former member of the military junta-established Assets Scrutiny Committee that was meant to investigate corruption cases against ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. On the ASC, Kaewsan once made the remarkable claim that “evidence and witnesses are useless,” when one of its panels recommended legal action against Thaksin without hearing 300 witnesses or considering 100 additional pieces of evidence (Bangkok Post, 9 April 2008).

Kaewsan has also been a member of the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group and attempted to concoct legal cases against Yingluck Shinawatra during the 2011 election campaign.

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddy Tul

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddies

He has posted an “open letter” at his Facebook pages that joins the long list of increasingly sordid and irrational criticisms of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s  speech in Mongolia on Thai democracy. His claims are not only driven by the irrationality that derives from his extreme personal hatred of Thaksin but by a deep intolerance to electoral democracy. Having served as a minion for the junta, the latter should be no surprise.

In addition, as is often the case when passion takes over from reason, Kaewsan’s grasp of reality is shown to be wanting when he compares Yingluck and her family to the Kim dynasty in North Korea.

As with other ultra-royalists and anti-democrats, Kaewsan declares Yingluck’s speech “lies” and proclaims the Shinawatra clan to be holding a “dictatorship over Thai people.” Yingluck, he says,

came to power via her brother′s influence, “not unlike how Kim Jong Un inherited the throne from his father”. Mr. Kaewsan also [repeatedly]… compar[ed] the Shinawatras to the Kim dynasty that has been ruling North Korea for decades.

He went on to blame the media for the dictatorship of the Shinawatra family:

“The Thai media obediently encourages the mass to be loyal to Shinawatra family, similar to the Korean media [sic]”, according to the open letter, which was written in Thai, “when you go to North Korea, you will see faces of the Dear Leader staring out from billboards. Such is the case in Thailand. The servants of the Shinawatra family are everywhere.”

PPT has its doubts that Kaewsan is a regular visitor to North Korea or that he has thought too much about the misplaced analogy. After all, if he’d thought for even a millisecond he might have noticed that if a comparison is to be drawn between North Korea and Thailand it might better be to the cult of personality between the autocratic family of rulers in North Korea and the monarchy in Thailand.

What is more significant is that Kaewsan’s misplaced comparison is just one more yellow-shirted statement indicating this neo-fascist movement’s rejection of electoral democracy. Kaewsan has probably noticed that Yingluck won a landslide electoral victory in what amounted to an emphatic rejection of his style of politics that links royalism, military and authoritarianism. We can’t recall the Kim dynasty in North Korea winning a free election.  On the other hand, pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2000. And that seems to be the point. Kaewsan and his ilk can’t stand the idea that the majority of Thais have repeatedly and steadfastly supported pro-Thaksin parties. Hence they reject elections and electoral democracy.

Court president as royalist warrior

8 06 2012

The Nation performs a useful service with a profile of Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has made it clear that the Court has its royalist marching orders. PPT picks out the significant points (all are quotes from The Nation except where there are brackets for PPT’s comments):

  • When asked if the Constitution Court was acting as a tool of the “ammart” (aristocrats), Wasant said the real head of the ammart was the prime minister, as she was the most powerful person in Thailand [PPT: He means the somnolent Yingluck Shinawatra, who is scorned by the real amart].
  • At the age of 20 he graduated with an honours degree. One of his classmates was Klanarong Chantik, now a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission. [PPT: Klanarong has also been one of the leading anti-Thaksin officials/activists. He was a member of the military junta appointed Assets Scrutiny Committee].
  • Wasant became a trained lawyer at the firm of MR Seni Pramoj, the former premier and Democrat Party leader.
  • He passed the Thai Bar examination before turning 21. A classmate at this time was Apichart Sukhagganond, the current Election Commission chairman. [PPT: Like the other EC commissioners, Apichart was appointed the day after the 2006 military coup, and the EC has been a major player against pro-Thaksin parties].
  • Wasant was one of the judges who convicted Thaksin Shinawatra in the Ratchadapisek land case, which saw the former PM given a two-year jail term.
  • He was also a judge on the case involving members of the anti-corruption commission, who gave themselves a pay hike. The Supreme Court’s division for political office-holders sentenced the NACC members to two-year suspended jail terms.
  • Wasant voiced his opinion at a Supreme Court judges’ general meeting that the ballot booth should make the marking of voters’ ballots secret and others should not be allow anyone to see how people vote. His idea led partly to nullification of the April 2, 2006 election.
  • Wasant was also a defendant’s witness when Prasong Soonsiri was sued by a majority of Constitution Court judges for criticising the ruling that found Thaksin not guilty of concealing his ownership of shares in 2001. [PPT: Prasong is a self-proclaimed member of the palace-military cabal of coup planners in 2006 and a remarkably outspoken royalist].
  • Wasant was selected to be a Constitution Court judge on May 28, 2008.

That’s quite a royalist pedigree. It is clear why he apparently feels no qualms in breaking the law for the monarchy.

Further updated: The Constitutional Court simply has to be politically biased

8 06 2012

Kaewsan Atibhodhi has a long history of anti-Thaksin Shinawatra activism followed by deep engagement with the military junta after the 2006 military coup. He is a former member of the junta’s Assets Scrutiny Committee that was charged with investigating Thaksin and the claims of unusual wealth, policy corruption and so on.

He has recently joined the ultra-royalist Siam Samakkhi group that has insistently rallied against constitutional amendments.  In March, at one of its rallies, along with its head, who is a former member of the post-coup military junta, and joined by a range of elite supporters like Tul Sitthisomwong and Chirmsak Pinthong, they cheered two thugs who had beaten up Nitirat’s Worachet Pakeerut. So much for rule of law amongst Siam Samakkhi and its supporters!

Kaewsan and his ultra-royalist buddy Tul

With all of this background, Kaewsan – a lawyer – is the perfect advocate for the Constitutional Court’s political and illegal intervention and his argument deserves attention.

At the Bangkok Post, Kaewsan states that those who petitioned the Court see “efforts to pass the charter amendment bill as an attempt by some legislators to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.”

The “evidence” for this claim is the attempt to “amend Section 291 of the constitution, which would allow a Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to be set up to rewrite the charter.”

In fact, this move by the government is attempting to meet an earlier demand by the Democrat Party and other ultra-royalists for increased consultation beyond that currently in the constitution, where all the emphasis is on parliament.

Despite this concession, the ultra-royalists are unhappy and (again) conjure an anti-monarchy plot claim. Kaewsan says the:

“complainants believe the Pheu Thai Party will exert undue influence on the CDA as it is set up. They also expect the party to influence the public hearing process and the types of changes which will be made to the charter by their hand-selected assembly. The petitioners say they are concerned these amendments will eventually bring about the overthrow of the constitutional monarchy.

In other words, the case made by the petitioners is a sloppy collection of cockeyed ideology, guesses, and suppositions.

Even so, Kaewsan’s understanding is that the Court is on board with these beliefs and suspicions: “I understand that the Constitution Court wants to know how the charter will be rewritten.”


Of course, the Court has no legal power to do this (see below). So Kaewsan “explains” that in:

“reviewing the petition, the court may interpret Section 68 of the constitution mainly in the political aspect, not the legal aspect.

If that isn’t clear, Kaewsan then embarks on a discussion of why the Court must be political:

If we consider the case in a purely legal light, it is correct … that the court does not have authority to suspend parliament’s readings of the constitution amendment bills.

Let’s repeat that: the Court has no legal authority. None. But that doesn’t stop the ultra-royalists like Kaewsan:

if we take into account the petitioners’ concerns about political manoeuvring, it is a different matter and the court’s decision to suspend proceedings can be understood….

He’s right. The Court’s illegal but political decision is easily understood as a politically-driven intervention based on royalist ideology and conspiracies:

The court made its decision because groups of people told the judges that moves are afoot to overthrow the constitutional monarchy.

Of course, their ultra-royalist allies at the Constitutional Court believe such nonsense, so when they get the order to intervene they are more than willing to take politically-biased and illegal decisions. Kaewsan cheers them:

The court should consider overall conditions when making its decision, not just the legal aspects. Based on this overall premise, the court has authority to suspend the process.

Yes, the Constitutional Court is not about the law. It is about politics and double standards. Kaewsan makes this crystal clear.

What do the complainants (and the Court) see as the threat to the monarchy under a process of constitutional reform? Kaewsan says they:

believe the [Puea Thai] government will use off-parliamentary power _ the red-shirt groups _ to augment its majority in parliament to acquire a level of state power which may exceed what is provided in the constitution.

More supposition, ignoring the fact that, today, following the initial acts of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, even the Democrat Party has its own extra-parliamentary “power.”

As we noted, Kaewsan is a lawyer, so we might wonder why he condones illegalities and the destruction of the Courts by ultra-royalists. In fact, he has a long history of playing fast and loose with law. Back when he was with the ASC, he made the remarkable claim that “evidence and witnesses are useless,” when one of its panels recommended legal action against Thaksin without hearing 300 witnesses or considering 100 additional pieces of evidence (Bangkok Post, 9 April 2008).

Nothing much changes when it comes to the ultra-royalist opposition to Thaksin, to elections and to ideas about popular democracy. The “protection” of the monarchy and the system it symbolizes trumps law, constitution and the voice of the people.

Update 1: As an antidote to this ultra-royalist dissembling, two articles in The Nation may assist. The first, cites four legal experts: “Somchai Preechasilapakul, from the Law Faculty of Chiang Mai University said he wondered if the judiciary had any power over the legislature, the power of which is connected to the public”; “Chulalongkorn University law lecturer Manit Jumpa also said he disagreed with the court’s decision to accept the petitions…”; “Mano Thongpan, an academic on law who is formerly an executive of the Law Society of Thailand, said that he did not think this case required urgent attention from the Constitution Court”; “Political scientist Likhit Dhiravegin, speaking at the same seminar, also questioned the court citing Article 68 for its decision to accept the petitions directly from the people, not a state agency.” The second story involves the statement from the real agency responsible for assessing the constitutional reform/amendment=conspiracy to overthrow the monarchy claim, the attorney-general:

The Attorney General’s Office said yesterday that government-sponsored bills to amend the Constitution were not aimed at overthrowing the political system, as has been alleged in petitions filed separately by five groups of people.

Winai Damrongmongkolkul, a spokesman for the agency, told a press conference last night the Attorney-General decided not to forward the petitions to the Constitution Court. “The amendment bills will not result in changes to the political system that are unconstitutional,” he said.

Update 2: PPT has been watching Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s non-involvement as an indicator of her lack of attention and fortitude for anything controversial. The Nation reports today: “… PM Yingluck Shinawatra has decided to avoid what could be a contentious debate, saying she has a busy schedule until next week.” What’s so pressing? What trumps the Constitutional Court’s launching of yet another judicial coup? Well, there’s flood stuff. Visiting people and looking at flood preparations. Yes, floods and preventing them are important, but missing this debate is a capitulation.


We are still not surprised

21 05 2011

Following up on PPT’s earlier post, the Bangkok Post has a story that says: “Yingluck Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s top party-list candidate, has the right to stand in the July 3 general election as long as she has not been convicted of a criminal offence or sentenced to imprisonment, Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond says.”

But the devil is in the detail of the report.

The EC’s Apichart “said the EC was obliged to accept her application if there was no such court ruling on the day she applied. Pheu Thai’s candidates on the party list system were registered with the EC on Thursday.” He then added that “any complaint against Ms Yingluck’s candidacy must be filed with the EC within 10 days of registration. After that, the EC would endorse her candidacy and any complaint against it has to be filed with the Supreme Court.”

Apichart stated that Yingluck’s involvement in the Thaksin Shinawatra assets seizure case “does not amount to a criminal case.”

As we noted yesterday, veteran anti-Thaksin campaigner Kaewsan Atibhodhi, a former member of the junta’s Assets Scrutiny Committee, said Yingluck could face three charges of perjury. He “also called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to take legal action against Ms Yingluck.”

The Post reports that “NACC member and spokesman Klanarong Chanthik yesterday said the authority to handle the perjury case against Ms Yingluck rests with the Office of the Attorney-General…”.

In addition, even if Yingluck was found guilty of perjury, the Post reports a source saying this “would be only a civil offence, which would not affect her candidacy.”

PPT doesn’t think the yellow-hued will let this rest yet. The Post cites “Wirat Kalayasiri, a Democrat [Party] candidate in Songkhla, said the party would not ask the EC or the relevant authorities to look into Ms Yingluck’s alleged involvement in the Thaksin assets seizure case.” Very nice of them, perhaps, but he added: “others might come forward and lodge complaints.” And Democrat Party fellow traveller and rabid campaigner against all that is red-shaded, “Bangkok senator Rosana Tositrakul said that even if Ms Yingluck did not violate the law directly, it cannot be said that she is faultless in this case.”

PPT is looking for a fat lady who can sing, but we can’t see or hear her yet.

Why we are not surprised I

20 05 2011

PPT was not at all surprised to read in the Bangkok Post that “legal questions haunt Yingluck [Shinawatra].” It is almost as if the Post has hit the campaign trail, along with the usual cast of characters and what we like to call the mainstream media.

In this case, the story on the front page is not the red shirt rally or the other events that marked the one-year anniversary of the bloodletting of 19 May 2010, but the story of the continued celebration of the use the judiciary to hack away at Thaksin Shinawatra and his past (and future?) election victories. The remarkable bias in the presentation is further seen in the fact that the headline photo in the online version is not of Yingluck but of Abhisit Vejjajiva.

On the political use of the judiciary, the problem for the judicial spoilers is that they demonstrate, again and again, that double standards apply and that votes simply don’t need to be counted.

In the story, the Post cites a Sondhi Limthongkul-associated news service on a “new controversy” on Thaksin’s assets case that “could lead to her being disqualified from the election.” It is claimed that “Yingluck may be prohibited from applying to be a candidate if it is found she has violated Section 102 of the constitution which prohibits a person whose assets have been ordered seized by the courts, a person who is unusually rich or a person whose assets have increased in a dubious way from applying for election candidacy.”

And who does the Post go to for a comment? None other that prominent anti-Thaksin lawyer Kaewsan Atibhodhi, a former member of the military junta-established Assets Scrutiny Committee. While he says this case is not a problem for Yingluck, he then makes a claim that Yingluck “may face three charges of perjury pertaining to when she testified before the court about the assets seizure case, when she testified before the ASC and when she made a statement about share transfers when testifying before the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

Kaewsan seems to be urging a court to hear them. As far as PPT can tell, no such cases currently exist.

Of course, Puea Thai Party representatives wave off the assets case, saying that “the court ordered the seizure of Thaksin’s assets, not Ms Yingluck’s assets so the court’s verdict would not affect her election candidacy.”

So the election campaign has kicked off with attacks on the opposition by the military, the imprisoning of a Puea Thai candidate, a murderous attack on a Puea Thai candidate, Abhisit claiming that a vote for Puea Thai is unacceptable to the elite and now the judicial card is thrown of the table. How high are the odds to be stacked against the opposition?

Just to be clear: PPT is not arguing against the application of the law. What we are saying is that the application of the law in Thailand appears like politics by judicial means. It looks lop-sided, biased and unfair. Perception will eventually matter a heck of a lot, and we suspect that it is this kind of bias that leads to frustration, anger and rebellion.

The elite’s Songkhran gift that corrupts democracy

13 04 2011

The gift is 73 senators appointed under the junta-appointed Surayud Chulanont government’s 2007 constitution.

Surayud was prime minister after he was plucked from the Privy Council that advises the king in order to rollback the gains of the 1997 constitution and the legacy of elected governments under Thaksin Shinawatra. The 2007 constitution sought to embed a less representative form of government (a process that continues today under the royalist Abhisit Vejjajiva regime).

As The Nation explains, the “list of 73 newly chosen senators announced by the Election Commission yesterday did include many with strong links to the 2006 coup-makers’ Council for National Security and defectors from Thaksin Shinawatra’s group.” The junta’s representatives will hold the balance of power in parliament for a further six years. In other words, the 2006 coup group seeks to continue to control politics in the interests of the royalist elite until at least 2017, meaning more than a decade of military and fellow travelers will have effectively been, if not formally in charge, then a veto block, for a decade.

Former senior military junta leader General Somjed Boonthanom said he was “proud to be selected.” And why wouldn’t he be? The junta established a regime of repression and control that sought to protect the country and monarchy from the electoral masses, and he is now in such a position. He can seek to ensure that full representative democracy is never allowed under his watch.

Who selected these offspring of the junta and coup? Those charged with selecting were: Constitutional Court president Chut Chonlavorn, Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond, Chief Ombudsman Pramote Chotemongkol, National Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Panthep Klanarongran, Supreme Court Justice Montri Sriiamsa-ard and Supreme Administrative Court Justice Kasem Komsattham. None are particularly partial to democratic politics and all are proud servants of the crown and backers of royalist rule.

To further cement the network of opposition to representative politics, the committee also selected and re-selected senators who are close to the People’s Alliance for Democracy, businesspeople who were close to the junta and who backed the PAD, and a former member of the Assets Scrutiny Committee that was a yellow-hued, semi-legal body that investigated Thaksin and his family after his overthrow and was close to the junta. Other selected senators are known to be close to the current Abhisit government, including the younger brother of Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, others with links to Newin Chidchob’s Bhum Jai Thai Party and defectors from pro-Thaksin parties and the usual bunch of yellow-hued academics known for their ability to hawk themselves to those in power.

The Bangkok Post concludes, somewhat unremarkably, that “Many of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s staunchest opponents were among 73 new members of the Senate announced by the Election Commission…”. By the Post’s calculation, 23 of the re-appointed senators were from the staunchly anti-Thaksin group of 40.

The selection committee still manages to mumble something about having “their dignity and could not be influenced”. PPT isn’t sure about dignity, but it may well be true that they weren’t “influenced.” After all, they are paid-up members of the royalist elite, so they know what they had to do. Then again, we doubt the grey hairs were prepared to allow the selectors to operate without appropriate guidance.

Calls for an elected senate have come from the Puea Thai Party and even via a Bangkok Post editorial. Such calls will not be heeded as the royalist elite is desperate to maintain control and to protect their interests.

One thing that is clear is that any elected government that is not pro-royalist is going to have a very hard time and will be prevented from governing in its own right. That’s the point of all of this. and the many other changes being hastily implemented before an election is called.

Jaruvan just won’t go away

14 08 2010

The Bangkok Post reports on the case of auditor-general Jaruvan Maintaka and her refusal to step down at the Office of the Auditor-General. Jaruvan has been in her position since 2001 and at every point, from her initial appointment, she has been embroiled in controversy. A look at her Wikipedia entry shows that:

  • The chairman of the State Audit Commission who submitted a list of three candidates for the post of auditor-general to the Senate, instead of the SAC’s one choice, was later sentenced by the Criminal Court to 3 years in jail for malfeasance on this case.
  • The Constitutional Court later ruled the selection process that led to Jaruvan’s appointment  was unconstitutional. Confusing things, though, the  court didn’t say she had to step down (as any reasonable person would have).

By this time, Jaruvan was seen as an opponent of then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and when she refused to resign on the basis that she was “royally-appointed” and thus required a “royal dismissal,”she became one of the heroes of the developing People’s Alliance for Democracy and the royalists. She joined with PAD in petitioning the king to use Article 7 of the 1997 Constitution to replace Thaksin as premier. This act confirmed the political nature of her actions.

Jaruwan’s action and the fact that she simply stayed were indicative of a disdain for the law by not just her but by all of her yellow-shirted supporters, including those in the palace. When the SAC nominated a replacement for Jaruvan, which was approved by the senate in May 2010, the king withheld his royal assent from the appointment, effectively backing the illegal retention of the position by Jaruvan.

It was yet another political intervention from the palace that finally, in February 2006, made her appointment “legal.”  The SAC confirmed  Jaruvan as auditor-general after a memo from the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary demanded that the situation be resolved. The SAC concluded that the royal command that appointed Jaruvan was still in effect, despite the Constitution Court’s ruling that her appointment was unconstitutional.

Of course, the military junta kept Jaruvan in office after the 2006 coup. She soon became a leading member of an Assets Scrutiny Committee that was given wide powers to investigate alleged corruption in the Thaksin government. Her interventions were at times bizarre and highly public, but the ASC did the job the junta tasked it with and several cases were progressed. When the Democrat Party-led coalition was shoe-horned into place in 2008, “corruption fighter” Jaruvan suddenly seemed to become disinterested in corruption allegations against the government she’d worked hard to get into place.

Now, she seems to have worn out her welcome and to have become a burden for the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. That she is loopy has never been in contention, but her usefulness as a loopy royalist now seems at an end.

The current issue is that she is now past retirement age, but just keeps coming to the office an “performing” as if she should still be auditor-general, despite an interim replacement having been appointed. Her replacement says it is all “too damaging” now. The Council of State has ruled that she should have stepped down upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65 on 5 July, but she just keeps refusing. She gives orders despite having no legal authority.

The Post adds: “Since her arrival in the top job, Khunying Jaruvan has appointed her son Kittiwat as a personal secretary on a salary of 40,000-50,000 baht a month. Khunying Jaruvan is paid about 200,000 baht a month.” It could have added a string of other allegations related to nepotism and corruption that have been made against her, including regarding her very large and new family home.

This is an example of what happens when the only standard used is one that is political – is the person involved a “loyalist” and ally in the fight against Thaksin? By that standard, the current government’s foundations are in a cesspool of “loyalists” that include some who are bizarre – like Jaruvan – some who are remarkably corrupt and dangerous – like Newin Chidchob – and, of course, many who are armed. All of them expect “pay-offs.”

Korn, Kasian, verdict and coup

6 03 2010

A mini-debate has emerged following the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case. It involves questioning the 2006 coup and the role of the military junta in the justice system. This was sort of set off by Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij’s recent bloggings at his Facebook page.

That post is now largely reproduced by the Bangkok Post (5 March 2010) as an op-ed piece.

Korn begins on something of a sour note, with a misrepresentation. He says: “It is now a week since the celebrated ruling on Thaksin Shinawatra’s private assets was announced, and I have yet to air my opinion on the verdict. This is partly because I felt that many people have already been talking about the issue, but it is also because this is an issue close to my heart as I have been personally involved for some time. I also wanted my own opinion and emotions to crystallise before I spoke out..”

PPT points out that this is untrue. Korn posted at Facebook earlier. Even the Post has an earlier report expressing surprise (The Bangkok Post (3 March 2010) where it states: “Finance Minister Korn said if it wasn’t for the military coup, justice wouldn’t have been served, that dictatorship is perhaps better for justice than democracy – causing a stir of debate – but what did he actually mean?

There are several issues in the Korn op-ed that warrant some comment. The first relates to his personal involvement in the assets case. He explains that from the time of the sale of Shin Corp, “all of Thaksin’s actions at that time indicated that he was the real owner of the assets and had hidden all of his shareholdings all along.” As a result, he took two actions: “First, I pointed out that there was evidence at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) indicating that Thaksin secretly owned his Shin Corp shares via an account at Singapore UBS Bank. Second, I filed a complaint with the Revenue Department that the transactions involving the transfer of shares to Thaksin’s children carried a tax liability.” He complains that his actions were thwarted by an unresponsive bureaucracy. At the same time, it would be interesting to know how Korn had information from UBS Bank.

There is then a gap in the narrative, with Korn explaining that “[w]hen the ASC was set up, I brought all the evidence to them, helped them analyse the information, and explained to them on matters regarding securities and securities trading, which was quite complicated and difficult to understand” (emphasis added).

Korn’s second and most significant issue is in this question: “The question I would like to raise is, if the coup did not happen in 2006 and the Assets Scrutiny Committee (ASC) had not existed, would we see justice being served in this case?” He restates it as: “if there had not been a coup, would justice have prevailed?” And then he thinks a bit more: “why can’t Thai society … achieve justice without having to rely on coup-makers initiating the process? Does this mean that sometimes ‘undemocratic’ actors place more emphasis on truth and justice than democratic ones?”

Korn doesn’t explicitly answer the first question although it is absolutely clear that he is a coup supporter and believes that justice has been brought by the 2006 military coup. Of course, the question is hypothetical as the coup prevented any further attempts to deal with Thaksin’s alleged corruption under the 1997 Constitution. We’ll never know the answer.

On the second question, Korn is more effusive and highly PAD-like. He says that it is possible that “the majority of Thais do not sufficiently care about truth and justice. As long as our businesses are doing well and there is food on the table, we Thais appear willing to live with corruption.” That sounds like a critique of Thai culture. But then Korn makes it clear which Thais he means: “Truth and justice cannot fill empty stomachs. Perhaps, therefore, only the wealthy have the time and inclination to ponder on matters such as justice while the poor, who have to struggle to feed their families, do not have that luxury. And when the majority is made up of poor people and the majority voice is what counts in a democracy, the resounding answer is seemingly ‘We don’t care’.”

Yes, Korn adds a throwaway line about “many businessmen and the well-to-do” who also don’t care, but the message is clear. It is those horrid people who vote for Thaksin who are to blame for the failures of the justice system. Korn must never have met average Thais in a normal situation. He must not know how they fell about injustice and double standards that allow Korn’s “thinking elite” to get special treatment in a system designed to prevent justice being blind to position and wealth.

Not unexpectedly, as the Bangkok Post (4 March 2010) reports, Puea Thai Party politicians have reacted strongly, pointing out that Korn is: (i) in a position to influence future investigations of Thaksin and his family through the Ministry of Finance, and he has taken a personal and political position that shows considerable ill-will. In other words, he should have kept his feelings of elation and self-justification to himself; and (ii) a member of parliament supporting undemocratic political interventions. Even the Chart Thai Pattana Party spokesman Watchara Kannika pointed out “that as a politician in a democratic system Mr Korn should not support any military coup.”

Not necessarily a part of this debate, but reflecting on some of the same issues, Kasian Tejapira, political science lecturer at Thammasat University has commented (Prachatai, 3 March 2010): “Don’t use a coup to solve the problems of corruption. That will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice system. It’s really a high price to pay…”. Kasian’s perspective is far less elitist and a lot more thoughtful than Korn’s view.

Kasian, who strongly opposed Thaksin before the coup, reportedly stated that the “coup was meant to ‘reform democracy to be safe for the monarchy’, as implied right from the start by the original name of the coup makers, the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, because the Constitutional Monarchy was insecure under Thaksin’s rule.” Kasian clarifies this comment, meaning that “The point was to maintain the hegemony to lead the country in one direction under the monarchy. Under Thaksin’s rule, hegemony was shifted to Thaksin, the Thai Rak Thai Party and their cliques.”

For Kasian, this means that what we are seeing is “measures … taken to secure hegemony where it was. This means it was necessary to destroy Thaksin’s power, crushing the two most important bases of his power, his money and his party…”. The process in train is, Kasian says, “obvious. Once Thaksin’s hegemony is destroyed, no other alternative hegemony is likely to emerge in Thai society.”

Kasian also points out that the 26 February assets judgment is also about “scaring big capitalists away from entering politics.” In fact, even before the coup, PPT has already seen big capitalists moving back to being behind-the-scenes funders of the Democrat Party and big-time supporters of the monarchy’s various fund-raising schemes, from polo to pearls and pathetic “art” and design.

Like PPT, Kasian sees a decline in liberal ideas and positions and a tendency to a “despotic” hegemonic regime. Thaksin might have been headed in this direction, but Kasian seems to lament that failure to reign him in: “Thaksin held state power, and sometimes stayed above the law. To bring the most powerful Prime Minister to court is an attempt to bring about the rule of law.”

After the 2006 coup, however, “influential figures” have been a problem: “the rule of law has been distorted by these influences. The police dare not, or take too long, to investigate the Suvarnabhumi Airport case; it has been over a year now.  The prosecutor has not brought them to court, claiming a lack of intention. This is where the allegation of double standards has been spawned.” And, there’s no transparency, not least in the judiciary.

Kasian worries that there is “judicial rule, because more and more people from the judiciary have taken political positions, through the 2007 Constitution.” The “2007 Constitution has institutionalized judicial rule, and that is locked in. It cannot be turned back.” On the verdict, Kasian says: “Many people cannot say for sure that the Thaksin government was innocent, and many believe that it was corrupt. However, after the process that has been followed, the lesson can be learned that to stage a coup to tackle corruption will destroy the legitimacy of the whole justice process…”.

At present, Kasian says that compromise is impossible because “one side is not in the mood to talk, … no changes are allowed. They trust nobody, neither the red shirts, nor Thaksin. It’s a feeling of insecurity, a fear for normal democracy. The abnormality must be made secure under their control…”.

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