Constitutional Court and Thai-ness

15 09 2021

We wanted to draw reader attention to a short academic article at I·CONnect, the blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law. “Determining What is ‘Thai’: Thailand’s Constitutional Court and Identity Polarisation” is by law professors Rawin Leelapatana and Suprawee Asanasak.

As there is again talk of the Constitutional Court being mobilized once again in a political battle, we felt that the perspective provided by this article worthy of consideration for the attention it gives to authoritarian pasts and the rightist/royalist notion of “Thai-ness”:

Having experienced authoritarian pasts, the attempt to consolidate liberal constitutionalism, however, inevitably comes into conflict with the traditional notion of authority, i.e, Thai-ness, which emphasises the unity of Thai nation embodied in a righteous Buddhist monarchy, rather than a commitment to legality and individual rights…. As an integral part of the Thai nation, the holdover elites, the military, and royalist supporters therefore commonly assert that threats to the monarchy constitute sources of a political crisis. For them, liberal constitutionalism is a foreign – alien – product which seeks to replace the notions of strong leadership, national homogeneity, and social hierarchy underlying Thai-ness with those of legality, human rights, and equality, thus potentially threatening royal hegemony.

They conclude that:

Overall, the Thai experience has revealed how the mechanism anticipated as the guardian of liberal constitutionalism, the CC [Constitutional Court], might be manipulated and abused by conservative and nationalist actors whose values and ideology are rooted in their self-proclaimed national pride and moral superiority. The CC has embedded authoritative Thai-ness into the heart of Thailand’s liberal constitution. Nevertheless, as the CC’s judgments imply, even Thai-ness itself has to be constructed under the logic and language of liberal constitutionalism.

It is worth reading the whole article.





Updated: Cashing in on the virus

26 08 2021

With massive unemployment, masked by the fact that migrants have left and many Thais have gone back to the family farm, there are a few who have profited very nicely.

A recent report in the Bangkok Post states that for all of the talk of the virus-induced downturn, on top of the sluggish growth under the junta-cum-military-backed regime, has still seen “listed companies reported a 114% surge in net profits for the first half of the year…”. As the report notes, this partly reflects the “low base in 2020 when the economy was hit by the first lockdown.” Even so, “[c]ore profits also rose 118.6% to 804.95 billion baht while net profits increased 144.2% to 528.34 billion baht, compared to last year’s 216.33 billion baht.”

The report doesn’t explain it, but increased unemployment and increased profits fit together. Companies preserve and increase profits by getting rid of variable costs – labor.

Equally, revealing, a recent Reuters report is of a flood of taxpayer funds for the monarchy. In the current budget bill, the “allocation of 8.76 billion baht ($262 million) for the monarchy in the next fiscal year survived unprecedented calls for cuts by opposition lawmakers during parliamentary proceedings that concluded on Sunday.”

While “government lawmakers in parliament did not comment on opposition lawmakers calls for royal budget cuts,” the “budget for royal agencies for the next fiscal year is for a 2.4% cut compared to the previous year.”

Move Forward Party MPs complained that “the allocated budget lacks clear details and should therefore be subject to cuts ranging from 15% to 40% based on the budgeting of these agencies prior to the merger and because funds maybe needed elsewhere due to the COVID-19 crisis.” Becha Saengchantra, a lawmaker from Move Forward, opined that “royal agencies did not send a representative to explain the budget … there is only a seven-page document that did not explain much…”.

One explanation for the huge allocation to the royals was from the Budget Bureau, which “had earlier explained to parliament’s budget committee that 92% of the allocated budget for the ‘royal agencies’ is for the payroll of its 14,275 staff.”

Who knew that the palace had such a bloated staff!

Opposition MPs also “raised concerns over other funds related to the monarchy that were included in planned expenditure in other ministries.”

That sent PPT back to previous reports for context. We earlier posted that in 2021, the Royal Offices alone got more than 8.98 billion baht, up almost 17% over 2020.  So, next year is a slight reduction, but overall, since 2017, the royal budget has increased substantially.

We at PPT continue to wonder if the figures supplied by Reuters are complete. Does it include the budget for the hugely expensive royal projects? Our feeling is that the monarchy gorges on more than we are seeing here.

Update: Recall that Ruangkrai Leekitwattana has complained to the Election Commission about the Move Forward Party’s questions over the royal truckloads of taxpayer loot. He wants the party dissolved by the Constitutional Court. There’s a fuller story on this corrupt buffalo’s posterior at Prachatai.





Reflecting the regime I

24 08 2021

Some recent reports would be funny if they weren’t serious. These reports shed light on the nature of the regime.

Thai Enquirer reports on a turncoat politician. This time it is not the execrable Suporn/Seksakol Atthawong but “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former party-list MP for the Pheu Thai Party turned member of the pro-junta and ruling Palang Pracharath Party, is not the brightest bulb in parliament.”

It may be that Ruangkrai is a complete lug nut or he might just be reflecting the level of impunity afforded the regime and its members when he is “telling everyone that he received two Mercedes from ‘kind adults’ since he switched sides.”

Clipped from Thai Enquirer

Author Erich Parpart is right to wonder “what is the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) doing?” He might have added the National Anti-Corruption Commission, but we all know that they are hopeless accessories of the regime.

Like Suporn, Ruangkrai is a useful political stooge. He has recently petitioned the “Election Commission (EC) to investigate the Move Forward Party (MFP) for bringing up the palace bureau during budget debate” and wants the party dissolved by the Constitutional Court. Both organizations are also regime accessories.

While mentioning the hopeless NACC, let’s nod to the story that the agency needs another “16 months to complete its investigation into alleged mishandling, by 15 officials, of the controversial hit-and-run case against Red Bull heir, Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidhya, including both retired and active high-ranking police officers and senior prosecutors.” No one who has followed this story of the escaped but very rich (alleged) cop killer would be at all surprised. After all, the cases against Vorayuth have gone on and on since 2012, with many of them expired and the rest of them buried, delayed and forgotten.

Both Ruangkrai and Vorayuth show how the legal system in Thailand is not just corrupt but provides a means to escape justice. Under the junta-cum-military-backed regime, what we used to call double standards in the judicial system has been transformed into a sytem of political repression with limited attention to anything resembling justice.





Health honchos

22 08 2021

We at PPT have just seen Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s new Secret Siam column on public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul, his wealth and his politics. This is a subscriber-only post, but is well worth a read.

It begins with an extended look at Anutin’s “lavish rural hideaway … Rancho Charnvee,” which is a resort that has rooms that can be booked by the public. With its lavish accommodation, private airport, and 18-hole golf course, it is a landmark to his family’s huge wealth.

Clipped from the Rancho Charnvee website

That wealth “… comes from the family conglomerate Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction, founded in 1952 by his father Chavarat.” The latter:

… was deputy minister of finance from 1996 to 1997 in the disastrous government of prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh that presided over the collapse of the Thai economy, which in turn caused a financial meltdown across Southeast Asia. So the current coronavirus catastrophe is not the first time that a member of the Charnvirakul clan has been in a key government position at a time of crisis and failed woefully to deal with it.

In 2008, Chavarat was back, as Minister of Public Health and then as Deputy Prime Minister under Somchai Wongsawat’s pro-Thaksin Shinawatra People’s Power Party government when it was dissolved by the Constitutional Court on 2 December 2008, in a judicial coup.

The Constitutional Court ordered the dissolution of the People’s Power Party and other coalition parties, at the same time banning their chief executives. The incumbent Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, was then removed along with several other members of the Cabinet. Chavarat was spared because he was not a party executive or an elected MP. He became caretaker prime minister and sank what remained of the elected government, working with the military to hand over power to Abhisit. The turncoat was rewarded by being appointed Interior Minister in Abhisit’s cabinet, a post he held until 2011. As part of his political treachery Chavarat became the leader of the Bhum Jai Thai Party, a party tied to the dark influence Chidchob family in Buriram. He was succeeded as leader by Anutin in 2012.

Marshall observes that, in 2010, Chavarat “was caught embezzling money from a 3.49 billion baht computer leasing project, and the controversy threatened to tear apart the coalition, but in the end, Abhisit didn’t dare fire him.”

Anutin unmasked. Clipped from Der Farang.

On Anutin, Marshall notes his relationship with Vajiralongkorn:

Anutin was even willing to risk playing the dangerous game of trying to get into the inner circle of the volatile future king Vajiralongkorn. He began donating large sums to the crown prince, and sought to establish himself as a friend of Vajiralongkorn, making regular trips to visit him in Europe. Vajiralongkorn was famously obsessed with flying during this period, spending most of the year staying at the Kempinski Hotel at Munich Airport where he always had at least one personal Boeing 737 parked ready for joyrides in the skies over Europe. Adopting flying as a hobby was a great way for Anutin to bond with his new royal friend.

A leaked secret US cable from 2009 identified Anutin as a new member of Vajiralongkorn’s inner circle….

We wonder how that relationship is today, with Anutin seeking to lay off blame for the Siam Bioscience-AstraZeneca failures while he’s been health minister. How did he get that position? Marshall speculates that: “It’s all because of marijuana.” And the rural-based mafia he represents, who are working to make marijuana a valuable cash crop. Marsall again:

When the pandemic struck, Thailand’s minister of public health was an unqualified political dilettante whose only healthcare experience was making wild claims
about the medical wonders of marijuana.

If readers can, look at the whole story at Secret Siam.

Incidentally, Anutin is not the only minister engaging in heath entrepreneurialism. With scant evidence, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin has promoted the production of green chiretta herbal pills. While there is some evidence about some of the qualities of the product, much of this is from Thai scientists keen to promote herbal medicine. Somsak’s “evidence” comes from giving pills to prison inmates and claiming “results” while clearly misunderstanding how clinical trials operate. The initial use of the pills in prisons came when the virus was raging among prisoners and vaccines were in short supply.

For ministers, there seems to be a profit motive at work rather than science and public service.





Updated: Arrogance rewarded

2 07 2021

Anyone following social media will have noticed the flood of complaints and invective associated with the photo below, clipped from The Nation. It shows Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and “his entourage dining at a beachside restaurant in Phuket on Thursday.”

Corrupt and arrogant

While the regime brings charges against protesters, almost all masked up, for flouting the emergency decree that is lodged in virus control, he and his “entourage” can flout the decree with impunity.

The photo shows these arrogant men “eating and sitting close together, while some members of the party are without a mask.”

Meanwhile, today authorities reported 61 virus-induced deaths – a record – and 6,087 new infections – the second highest recorded for the country.

Of course, Phuket is not currently a red zone, but these are people who are meant to set an example. In any case, many are from Bangkok, which is a red zone.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stumbled along, defending the miscreants boss, blabbering about “everybody in the photo was actually sitting a fair distance from one another and that they have all been vaccinated against Covid-19.” So we guess that the message is that anyone who is vaccinated can skip off to Phuket, avoid quarantine, and do as they wish.

The general/prime minister is arrogant. He obviously knows he is untouchable. After all, the Constitutional Court has again let Gen Prayuth off a case on a technicality. The Constitutional Court seems to belong to Prayuth. His control of parliament and “independent” institutions fertilizes his arrogance.

Update: For the seriousness of the situation in Bangkok, see a couple of stories in the Bangkok Post. One begins:

While the government is upbeat about its Phuket reopening scheme, health personnel in Greater Bangkok are struggling to deal with a surge of new Covid-19 infections and deaths.

Another story slams the regime and Siam Bioscience:

The Rural Doctors Society yesterday called on the government to enforce the law to require Siam Bioscience, a local authorised pharmaceutical manufacturer, to deliver vaccine supplies as planned.

On its Facebook page, the network claimed Siam Bioscience was likely to deliver only 4 million doses of vaccine this month, instead of 10 million doses as planned by the government.

That’s the king’s company, and we guess the situation is dire if normally royalist doctors make such calls. Just in passing, we note that the monarch is scarcely seen.

That rises to 10 million doses per month from July until November, with the last 5 million jabs arriving in December.

The society said “the government was deemed reluctant to negotiate with the company or enforce any legal tools to secure the delivery of 10 million doses per month.”

That’s because it is the king’s company.

So, in the end, we have a failed vaccination strategy, a king’s company seemingly unable to communicate or deliver, a regime unable to pressure it, and a prime minister off with the fairies in Phuket.





Updated: Ultra-royalist cartography

29 06 2021

In recent days there has been justified alarm regarding royalist vigilantism mapping the names, addresses and photos of about 500 people, many of them children.

Reuters reports that in this Google-based mapping some of the photos showed students in their university and high school uniforms.

Google has taken “down two Google Maps documents on Monday that had listed the names and addresses of hundreds of Thai activists who were accused by royalists of opposing the monarchy…”. According to Reuters, a spokesperson for Alphabet’s Google said “the issue is now fixed”, adding: “We have clear policies about what’s acceptable for user generated My Maps content. We remove user generated maps that violate our policies.” But these maps had received at least 350,000 views while they were available.

The maps showed the “faces of those named had been covered by black squares with the number 112, in reference to the article under the country’s criminal code [lese majeste] which makes insulting or defaming the monarchy punishable by up to 15 years in prison.”

Songklod as Fascist

Rightist vigilante Songklod

Reuters located one ultra-royalist, rightist, activist claiming to be running this vigilante operation. “Retired” army captain Songklod Chuenchoopol said “he and a team of 80 volunteers had created the maps and planned to report everyone named on them to police on accusations of insulting the monarchy.”

Songklod said that he and his team “sought to highlight those they accused of breaking that law.” He said that his “volunteers” hunt “something offensive posted on social media,” and they then log it to the map. He referred to his vigilante work as a “psychological warfare operation,” was meant “to dissuade people from online criticism of the monarchy.”

He described his “operation targeting opponents of the monarchy” as a “massive success.”

Songklod has a history of rightist/royalist activism. He was previously reported as being the “founder of the right-wing ‘Thai Wisdom Guard’ [and] spends most of his day trawling for evidence to file a case under the strict computer crimes act or other laws.” He was said to have then brought a case “against more than 100 people for sharing a post he deemed critical of the Constitutional Court.”

His history suggests that he probably has support from military groups like ISOC, which has a history of supporting rightist/royalist vigilante groups.

These vigilante operations are meant to silence critics through fear of attack and violence, an outcome seen several times in recent years.

Update: A report at Prachatai links Songklod to the so-called Thailand Help Centre for Cyber-bullying Victims. THis seems a reasonable link to rightist, royalist, child abusers.





Updated: Lawfare and constitution

26 06 2021

The regime is now a lawfare regime. This means that it misuses the legal system against an “enemy,” seeking to delegitimize them, wasting their time and money, and repeatedly harassing them. Like other repressive regimes, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government seeks to prevent and discourage civil society and individuals from claiming their legal rights, even when these are supposedly granted by the junta’s 2017 constitution.

Such lawfare is “especially common in situations when individuals and civil society use non-violent methods to highlight or oppose discrimination, corruption, lack of democracy, limiting freedom of speech, violations of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law.” It is rule by law rather than anything remotely close to rule of law.

King PenguinAs democracy activists seek to reactivate a movement that was attacked by a myriad of legal cases and detentions, their rallies are now met with multiple legal cases: the pure definition of lawfare.

Like other despotic regimes, the protesters face, according to Deputy Royal Thai Police Spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen, a “health safety announcement issued by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.” We guess that the leaders of one of the rallies, who are on bail, will find themselves targeted for more jail time. It is the way authoritarians use the law.

It is worth recalling that the protesters chose to rally on what used to officially be National Day. As the king has demanded, 1932 is a memory that only the public can keep alive, with the regime simply ignoring the date after years of removing its symbols.

1932 began an era of constitutional innovation and ended absolute monarchy, with small steps taken to establish the rule of law.

As the relatively small rallies went on, in parliament, a farce played out. The regime has, from time to time, indicated that it wants some constitutional change, mainly to further its already mammoth electoral rigging. But, as anyone who has followed politics since 2007 knows, the royalists, rightists and military allow no changes that might level the playing field. The lies on constitutional change began with the 2007 constitutional referendum and the brickwall to change has been strengthened by a biased Constitutional Court.

Pretending to promote constitutional change, 13 constitutional change bills were introduced. All but one was rejected by a joint sitting of the elected lower house and the junta-appointed senate. The legislation this hybrid “parliament” approved “would raise the number of constituency MPs from 350 to 400 and restore the old selection formula for 100 list MPs.” All this does is make regime thugs like Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and Thammanat Prompao more powerful as they redevelop money politics.It also opens the opportunity for MP and party purchasing on a grand scale.

Those who link this change back to earlier times, miss the changes that have taken place under military regimes and ignore the way that state resources and the misuse of law have made the the regime all but impregnable in the next election.

These commentators should also consider that the appointed senate makes a mockery of parliament. The senators, who all owe their positions to the military junta and the thugs running the current regime, essentially voted as a bloc.

Bencha Saengchan of the Move Forward Party correctly states: “Last night’s vote shows that parliament is a drama theater that lacks sincerity towards the people…”. But that’s way too mild. This regime will have to be forced out, laws changed, constitutions rewritten, monarchy tamed or deleted, and the thugs imprisoned. It is the only way to roll back 15 years of rigging and corruption.

Update: For an example of horrendous “journalism,” see the Bangkok Post’s About Politics column. It is usually rightist tripe, but this week’s column is a doozy. Somehow it manages to ignore all of the regime’s efforts to rig constitution and elections and to blame the opposition for failed constitutional reform. Quite an act of political contortion.





Constitutional conservatives

20 06 2021

Since World War 2, Thailand’s royalist, conservatives and rightists have long tried to use constitutions to prevent change and to maintain their political dominance. That’s why recent and current battles over the constitution are important.

Since the military re-established itself as chief constitution drafter with the 2006 coup, the two resulting constitutions have been written to ensure that military-backed regimes of royalists control things. The 2007 constitution wasn’t enough for that, so the 2014 coup and the resulting 2017 constitution were an effort to enforce the ruling elite’s preferred arrangements. This includes the 20 year “reform” period that seeks to fully embed military-backed authoritarianism.

The last time the opposition tried to amend the constitution was swiftly swatted away – as were efforts to amend the 2007 constitution. To do this, the Constitutional Court was required to rule that amendment should be made all but impossible. Where amendment was possible, it could essentially be by the regime, making things more comfortable for itself and its progeny.

The current attempts to amend the constitution are moving in the direction of giving the regime and its parties even more electoral advantage while rejecting the opposition’s efforts to  make the military junta’s constitution look a little fairer.

Emblematic of the resistance to change is the role of the junta’s appointed senate that made Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha premier. For some background on this, see Bunkueanun Paothong’s op-ed at Khaosod.

For more detail on the current efforts to amend the constitution, look at Prachatai’s Explainer. There’s also an effort at explaining at Thai PBS.

On the rejection of opposition suggestions, see here and here.

For the regime’s continued constitutional rigging , see here.





The heroin minister and protecting “the system”

10 05 2021

We decided to wait a couple of days to see how the Constitutional Court’s decision to protect Thammanat Prompao, deputy minister and convicted heroin trafficker, liar, nepotist, and thug before commenting further.

It seems he is untouchable. We assume this has something to do with the claim he made when arrested for heroin smuggling in Australia:

When Thammanat was sitting across from detectives making a statement in Parramatta jail on November 10, 1993, the first thing the young soldier put on the record was his connection to royalty.

After graduating from army cadet school in 1989 he “was commissioned as a bodyguard for the crown prince of Thailand” as a first lieutenant. “I worked in the crown prince’s household to the beginning of 1992,” he said, staying until deployed to help suppress a political conflict that culminated in an army-led massacre in Bangkok.

The crown prince is now King Vajiralongkorn, but the name landed like a thud: the judge made no mention of it when sentencing Thammanat over his part in moving 3.2 kilograms of heroin from Bangkok to Bondi.

Among the first reactions came from the reprehensible Wissanu Krea-ngam. Wissanu, who operates as a mongrel cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice, long ago proclaimed that Thammanat’s “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.”

The court agreed. No surprise there.  Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam stated that “the court’s decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government’s legal adviser, regarding MPs’ qualifications.”

The “Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released…”. We have to admit that we did not see this in the reporting of the court’s decision.

Wissanu made the extraordinary claim that “the decision does not ‘whitewash’ the PPRP MP’s [Thammanat] standing.”

The Bangkok Post had an Editorial on the decision. It begins by noting that the court’s decision did not surprise: “After all, society has become used to surprises from our judicial system that run contrary to public sentiment.” It is pulling its punches for fear of offending regime and court yet still makes some useful observations:

In layman’s terms, Thai law permits people with a drug conviction in a foreign country to become a politician or hold public office in Thailand — the Land of Smiles and Land of Second Chances — at least in the case of Capt Thamanat.

It notes that the “court ruling might prolong the meteoric political career of Capt Thamanat as a deal maker and de facto manager of the PPRP. Yet it will come with a hefty price for the government and society as a whole.”

It thinks “the government, and especially the PPRP, still have a little leeway to prevent a complete meltdown in public trust and defuse this time bomb.” The Post is grasping at straws.

Many have lost hope:

People are losing confidence in the government of General Prayut Chan-ocha because of their continued mismanagement, corruption, and repression.

They are losing their faith in the justice system which has propped up this regime – a heartless system that would sooner jail students and watch them die than adjudicate impartially.

…This week, the country’s highest court made the situation worse, if that were possible.

The appalling decision to allow a convicted drug dealer to continue as a cabinet minister shows that this government no longer cares about saving face or pretending to be filled with ‘good people.’

The double standards are observed: the regime considers one crime overseas significant: lese majeste. And, what about a justice system that “still sees it fit to hold the students in jail, without bail, under a draconian law…”, but has a former drug trafficker as a minister? It continues:

Thailand is rapidly approaching the borders of becoming a failed state, a joke-nation where the institutions only serve to reinforce the rule of the few and the elections are a sham run by the whims of generals.

There are examples of anger. This op-ed declares the dire need for change:

Thailand is at a crossroads. We have come to that point in every nation’s history where the decisions of today have massive ramifications for tomorrow….

At stake will be who we are as a nation, not who we were, and what we want to aspire to. Centuries old superstition, entrenched governing structures, a destructive military culture, and an impasse between those that want rapid change and those that want to preserve what it is that they think makes Thailand special….

The generals, the drug dealers, the marijuana growers, the promise breakers that were put in government did so on a broken system drafted and put in place by men in army fatigues.

And now we have arrived at the crossroads and there are three choices which will determine what will become of Thailand.

The op-ed calls for “reform” but far more is needed to root out the military and destroy the privileges of crown and oligarchs. Thais need to get off their knees. That’s exactly what the protesters have been demanding.





Further updated: Heroin smuggling approved

5 05 2021

In one of its more deranged and highly politicized decisions, the Constitutional Court has ruled that Deputy Agriculture Minister and soon to be boss secretary-general of the ruling Palang Prachart Party Thammanat Prompao who “pleaded guilty to conspiring to import heroin into Australia” can retain his cabinet post.

Like the regime’s leadership, the court decided that spending four years in a “Sydney jail is not a breach of the constitution.”

Convicted heroin smuggler

Section 98 of the constitution states, in part, that one is prohibited from exercising the right to stand for election in an election as a member of the House of Representatives if they have been sentenced by a judgement to imprisonment and imprisoned by a warrant of the Court.

But, the hopelessly biased Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that while Thammanat “had admitted to his Australian conviction … the … court could not recognise the authority of another state.”

The court stated:

We cannot implement the verdict of foreign courts, and we cannot interpret the verdict of foreign courts as having the same power as our courts…. The verdict of any state only has effect in that state.

The report quotes political commentator Voranai Vanijaka who says the verdict was more “proof there’s no rule of law in Thailand, only the rule of power”. He added:

Over the past year and a half, Deputy Minister Thammanat has become a key power player and deal maker for the [Prime Minister] Prayut [Chan-o-cha] regime…. He’s too valuable. He knows it. The regime knows it. The Thai people know it. The decision is to no one’s surprise.

Sadly, he’s right.

Human Rights Watch researcher Sunai Phasuk said:

This outrageous ruling nonetheless confirmed that he was sentenced [to prison] in Australia, which means his parliamentary testimony denying it is a lie.

With this shocking ruling by the Constitutional Court, now all sorts of criminals convicted in foreign courts could run for a public office in Thailand without a worry. Crimes committed outside of the motherland, no matter how serious they are, don’t count in the Thai realm of justice.

Sadly, he’s right.

Thammanat is now fabulously wealthy. No one has questioned that. It could reasonably be described as unusual wealth.

No wonder so many young Thais are despondent about a country run by military thugs, criminals and mafia figures.

Update 1: Thammanat seems to lead some kind of exalted existence. Prachatai has a story of Samart Jenchaijitwanich, Assistant to the Minister of Justice, who “has submitted his resignation letter to the Minister after Phalang Pracharat Party voted to remove him from all positions in the government and the party.” He was “Director of the Complaint Centre of Phalang Pracharat Party, a government whip, president of an anti-ponzi scheme committee, and member of other Phalang Pracharat Party committees.”

Samart was outed by Sira Jenjaka, a Phalang Pracharat MP, who “revealed that he [Samart] cheated on an English exam by sending a proxy to take the test for him. The test was a part of the requirement for a PhD at Ramkhamhaeng University.”

It was a “Phalang Pracharat investigative committee led by Paiboon Nititawan [that] voted unanimously to remove Samart from all political positions in the government and the party.”

As far as we can determine, Samart has not been charged or convicted of anything.

In comparison, Thammanat, in addition to his conviction for heroin trafficking, has a fake degree and has repeatedly lied to parliament, the media and the people. He also managed to barely escape a murder charge a few years ago. We know that Gen Prawit Wongsuwan loves, promotes and protects Thammanat, but his ability to avoid political damage suggests even more powerful support.

Update 2: The fallout from the Constitutional Court’s bizarre decision continues. Social media is scathing, parodying the decision, damning the court, and slamming the regime. The commentary is equally scathing. As Thai PBS puts it, the decision “has sparked outrage and ridicule and has added to the feeling of hopelessness…”. It cites Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University and an interpreter of Thailand for the English-speaking world: “This is arguably Thailand’s lowest point in its international life.” Titipol Phakdeewanich, a political scientist at Ubol University, said the verdict “continue[d] to undermine the legal system of the country …[and] is not based on facts.”








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