Courts caught (in a bind)

3 02 2023

A couple of days ago we had a post that raised a question regarding judicial double standards on actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej who won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device.

In that post we mentioned that there had been no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners.

That has suddenly changed.

Bailed on lese majeste and sedition charges, several activists seized on Pinky’s case.  Thai PBS reports that the Ratchadapisek Criminal Court “agreed to the request of five anti-establishment protesters yesterday (Wednesday), to have electronic monitoring (EM) tags removed.”

The report says the “five protesters are Chonthicha Jaengrew, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Weha Saenchonchanasuek and Nawapon Ton-ngam.”

As well as the Pinky precedent, it may be that the sustained criticism of the judiciary from the hunger strikes has had an impact.





Managing the corruption system

1 02 2023

As often happens when authoritarian governments are in place for a long time, corruption becomes embedded, systemic, and necessary for keeping the corrupt together and supportive.

Of late, reports of corruption have been legion. Yet the Bangkok Post has a jubilant headline, “Thailand improves in corruption survey.” Seriously? It turns out that Transparency International has ranked Thailand 101 out of 180 in its ranking. The Post says the country’s score went up one point and adds:

In 2014, the year Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha staged a military coup, the country was ranked 85th, an improvement from 102nd in 2013. Its ranking rose to 76th in 2015 but plunged to 101st place the following year. It recovered to 96th in 2017 but then began a downward move to 99th in 2018, 101st place in 2019, 104th in 2020 and 110th in 2021.

Let’s be realistic. This is a ranking that puts Thailand among a bunch of dubious places. We’d guess that if perceptions were surveyed today, they’d plummet, largely thanks to the mafia gang known as the Royal Thai Police and the mammoth horse trading by the coalition parties.

Rotten to the core

While on the corrupt cops, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has mumbled something about a few bad apples in the police. He has “insisted that any police officers involved in extorting money from a Taiwanese actress during her trip to Thailand early this month must face legal action.” He added: “Don’t let the issue ruin the reputation of the whole police organisation.”

We are not sure which reputation he refers to. As far as we can tell, the organization is rotten to the core.

Gen Prayuth reckons “we must get rid of rogue ones…”. Our guess is that if he was serious – he isn’t – just about every senior officer would be gotten rid of. The corruption system siphons money up to the top. There’s been little effort to follow up on data revealed when the regime established its post-coup assembly. Back then, the average declared assets for the top brass in the police was a whopping 258 million baht.

Even when senior police display their loot, nothing is done. Who remembers former police chief Somyos Pumpanmuang? He stacked loot in public! He’s still wealthy.

The Post has another headline: “Court lets ‘Pinky’ remove electronic tag.” It reports:

Actress Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej on Tuesday won approval from the Criminal Court to remove an electronic monitoring (EM) device she was required to wear after her release from jail on Nov 30 last year.

She is on bail, accused of defrauding millions in the Forex-3D ponzi scheme.How did her lawyers convince the judge?

Her lawyer lodged a request for the court’s permission to remove the EM device, saying it was an impediment to her show business career.

Of course, there’s no such leniency for lese majeste and other political prisoners when they eventually get bail (some, of course, never do). Double standards? You bet!

Double standards and corruption are a feature of the monarchy-military regime. Part of the reason for this is mutual back-scratching. Much that the regime does makes the bureaucrats more or less untouchable. The judiciary is always there in support on the important issues.

We note that another junta and Prayuth supporter, former charter writer Udom Rathamarit, has been appointed to the Constitutional Court. That is an important part of the whole corrupt system.





Crooked business as usual

10 12 2021

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post gets very excited, claiming that the politicized justice system has suddenly given cause for optimism that the courts will get better:

On Wednesday, Thais witnessed justice being served fair and square. In a trial that will be remembered as a landmark environmental case, the Supreme Court handed down jail terms of about three years to construction tycoon Premchai Karnasutra and two accomplices for poaching in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary.

The editorial continues:

For those who believe in the much-used local adage that “Thai jails are only for locking up poor people”, the verdict came as a surprise. Understandably, Thais have felt demoralised in the past after witnessing rich and powerful people … running away from court, escaping the country.

Therefore, watching the billionaire being jailed as he was on Wednesday after a long court case, people feel inspired to hope that the justice system will work better….

The Post is grasping at straws and trying to be encouraging. But Premchai’s case is an exception.

Think about the National Anti‑Corruption Commission (NACC). This week it was chirping that it had “closed more than 4,500 cases this year…”. NACC chairman and buddy to The Watchman, Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit claimed great success while Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “pledged to create a transparent government and a society free of corruption…”.

But what of the big cases?

Indeed, as Premchai was sentenced, the Bangkok Post reported that the NACC had “rejected a petition by the Move Forward Party (MFP) calling for a probe into the ethical conduct of Thamanat Prompow over his narcotics conviction in Australia.” Of course, this could not happen, especially given Thammanat’s close relationship with Gen Prawit Wongsuwan.

NACC secretary-general Niwatchai Kasemmongkol said that “based on the Constitutional Court’s ruling on May 5 that Capt Thamanat, a Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP for Phayao and former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister, was eligible to hold his MP and ministerial positions despite having served four years in an Australian prison.”

Niwatchai added that as the heroin trafficking conviction “took place before Capt Thamanat held the positions and before the code of ethics took effect,” no probe could be considered. An ethics probe into ethical conduct can only be launched when an MP or cabinet minister violates the code of ethics while in office…”. And, for good measure, he explained that “[a]ny action committed by an MP or minister before they took office does not warrant an inquiry…”.

Pedophiles, murderers, and drug smugglers all have their slates wiped clean.

Protecting the powerful criminals continued in another report where the NACC said it aimed “to wrap up the hit-and-run case against Red Bull scion Vorayuth … Yoovidhya within 14 months, with the completion expected by the end of 2022.”

We do note that 14 months means 2023…. But, then, this claim by the NACC is just another cover-up. Most of the charges will have expired by then.

Double standards are the rule for the rich and powerful.





Censorship unites mad monarchists and ultra-nationalists

28 11 2021

PPT has mentioned several times that we were sure that self-censorship and regime censorship was increasing simply because so many lese majeste cases were not making it into the mainstream media.

That perception has been confirmed in reports that the supplicant National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission “has warned the media against reporting on calls for monarchy reform…”.

NBTC commissioner Lt Gen Perapong Manakit reportedly “said during a meeting with representatives of various media outlets that they should not broadcast the 10-point demand for monarchy reform put forward by the activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration at a protest on 10 August 2020, after the Constitutional Court ruled on 10 November…”. Since then, the NBTC rules have circulated.

The general affirmed that reporting on calls monarchy reform “could be repeating the offense.” He stated that “reporters should not interview protest leaders, protesters, or those who agreed with the demands, but may report on the events that happen.” He warned that there should be no “long live broadcasts of protests to prevent the re-broadcast of speeches made during protests and calls for people to join the movement.”

The NBTC has also told the media that they should “avoid inviting guests for talk show interviews about the demands, especially inviting representatives of both sides in to give their opinion on air.”

These kinds of censorship and threats to reporters and media outlets egg on ultra-royalists and ultra-nationalists. Not that long ago, the Bangkok Post reported that Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former adviser to the House committee on law, justice and human rights has made a police complaint “against Miss Universe Thailand Anchilee Scott-Kemmis for standing on what looks like a Thai flag in a picture featured on the pageant organiser’s website.”

Sonthiya has “accused Anchilee of breaching the 1979 Flag Act and the PM’s Office announcement banning the use of national flags for commercial purposes.”

The picture “was released online in a promotional campaign before Anchilee competes in the 70th Miss Universe pageant in Israel on Dec 12.”

Photo from Thai Enquirer

Sonthiya wants to stop Anchilee from setting “a bad example for young people, as has a large following on social media.” She’s seen as too close to reformists and democracy activists.

Thai PBS added that Anchilee was “carrying a Thai flag pole on her shoulder and standing on a Thai flag motif carpet.” The outlet seems as dull as the rightists attacking her, confusing a constructed image as including a “carpet.” But, we are talking about stupid nationalism/royalism. Many of them “took her standing on the Thai flag carpet, particularly on the blue bar, which signifies the monarchy, … and pointed out that she was showing aggression toward the revered institution.”

From a Facebook post

Clearly, fake news, but the regime’s fake news is okay. For example, royal news is often faked. Most recently, the Bangkok Post announced that a “research team led by … Princess Chulabhorn … has demonstrated two methods for synthesising molnupiravir for emergency use on Covid-19 patients…”. Given her longstanding and debilitating illnesses, we doubt she leads anything. This is simply royal posterior polishing as established in the previous reign.

While on Chulabhorn, several years ago, when she supported anti-democrats then calling for a coup, she used the Thai flag on a dog’s foot.

And, we can only wonder about all of those shoes sold with the Thai flag emblazoned on them.

In other words, the usual double standards of “good” people versus “bad” people is at work. The “good”can do what they like and will be praised even when they do nothing. Critics, especially those wanting a democratic Thailand, are censored. The media is threatened – censor the other side or else!

 





Updated: Problematic courts

22 10 2021

The courts have long demonstrated double standards and this has been especially the case for the Constitutional Court. That court’s latest decision is another example of its politicization.

On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court ruled “that Paiboon Nititawan, a former MP of the dissolved People Reform Party … retains his parliamentary status, on the grounds that he has not violated any provisions of the Constitution, as claimed by opposition MPs.”

Rightist Paiboon dissolved his party immediately after the rigged 2019 election and teamed up with his political buddies in the junta-formed Palang Pracharat Party. As Thai PBS has it:

The court took note that the People Reform Party resolved to dissolve on August 5th, 2019 and notified the registrar of political parties. This was followed by an announcement from the Election Commission on September 6th of the dissolution, published in the Royal Gazette.

Paiboon, according to the court, joined Palang Pracharat on September 9th, 2019 and the House of Representatives was notified by its leader on October 7th of the same year.

The court also ruled that Paiboon, in his capacity as the leader of People Reform Party, was legally bound to undertake the liquidation process to legally dissolve his party.

On the issue of “Paiboon’s obligation to the People’s Reform Party, post-dissolution, [which] was referred to the Constitutional Court by Parliament Speaker Chuan Leekpai,” the court “ruled that Mr Paiboon’s MP status was not affected by the issue and so remained intact on account of the legal dissolution of the People’s Reform Party.”

The long and the short of this is that opposition parties get dissolved on precious little evidence and on skimpy grounds, while a regime fellow traveler can stand for election in one mini-party, ditch the party and its “members,” and can get a free pass to transfer even when he was a party-list member for the dissolved party.

Of course, this provides an avenue for small parties to now merge with the regime party, something likely required for the next election. The court has paved the way.

Compare the brazen political favoritism of the Constitutional Court and the nastiness and political bias of other courts:

  • Yet more anti-democrats are let off. Sure, one copped jail, but that means nothing as those who violently blocked voters get a free pass.
  • Sitanan Satsaksit, sister of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was abducted and disappeared in Cambodia, and who, for obvious reasons, has had no information, support, or anything else from the regime that knows what happened, has been “charged for allegedly hosting an activity in breach of Covid curbs.” More buffalo manure charges to silence and threaten critics.
  • Young protesters continue to rot in jail, refused bail.
  • Penguin “Parit” Chiwarak now faces 21 lese majeste charges (and more to come). He’s held without bail.
  • The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Thursday ruled that Benja Apan, a Thammasat third-year student charged with lese majeste, cannot have bail.

See a pattern? It is contemporary authoritarianism.

Update: For more on the third rejection of Benja’s bail, see Prachatai.





Tales of the rich and the exploited

16 10 2021

As the king’s vaccine producer Siam Bioscience seems to still be underproducing AstraZeneca, the regime continues to beg and borrow AZ from elsewhere. With just over 30% of the population double-dosed, the General’s government continues to move towards opening.

But the double standards are gross. Take movie stars arriving with crew being lauded by the military PM:

The arrival of Hollywood star Russell Crowe to make a movie in Thailand, and his tweeted pictures and messages about Thais, the food and scenery brought pride to the nation….

That particular star seems to have also benefited from Australia’s double standards on international travel.

But look at migrant workers, still languishing with limited access to vaccine. Prachatai reports that

On 5 October 2021, Coordinator and lawyer of the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has gone to the Bang Khen Immigration Detention Center to pick up Ms. P, a female migrant worker from Myanmar, who had been remanded in custody being accused of being an alien and worked without the permit, an offence against the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment 2017.

She could face up to a fine of 50,000 baht and be barred from working in the Kingdom of Thailand for the period of two years.

She appears to have been charged way back in June and kept in detention since. But guess what?

After reviewing concerned information and documents, HRDF has found Ms. P was a legally registered migrant worker recruited through the Government-to-Government MoU and her work permit had expired on 20 February 2021. She has since applied to renew her work permit with the Bangkok Office of Employment Region 2 before the expiry date of her permit. The renewal could not be completed, however, since the official could not retrieve her information from the depository of migrant workers.

That should not bring pride to the nation.





Royalism corrupts

4 09 2021

The judicial system has lost much of the precarious public support it once had. Now, the only standards used are double standards.

Admittedly, the police were never held in high esteem, known to be murderous and thoroughly corrupt. But judges and prosecutors also display wanton corruption and never-ending double standards.

While some judges still try to hold some standards and to adjudicate the law, the deepening royalism of the judiciary has overwhelmed them. Political cases litter the judicial playing field, with judges taking decisions based on notions of “Thainess,” “good” vs “bad” people, on orders from the top or made for reasons that seem to bear no relationship to written law. Not a few judges have been shown to be corrupt.

A Bangkok Post picture

Meanwhile, prosecutors do as they are told and, in some cases, as they are paid. Wealthy killers get off with the support of corrupt prosecutors. Kids get prosecuted for political crimes. Working hand in royal glove with judges, prosecutors oppose bail in political cases, seeking to damage “suspects” through lese majeste torture and, now, the threat of virus infection in prison for political prisoners.

On the latter, as the Bangkok Post reports that “activist Chartchai Kaedam is one among many political prisoners infected with Covid-19.” His condition is cause for much concern.

A petition has been lodged with the National Human Rights Commission “demanding an investigation into how a Karen rights activist contracted Covid-19 while imprisoned,…” pointing out that “he is not a criminal and should be allowed bail, especially given his health condition…”. The petition added that “bringing innocent people into a contagious environment such as a prison during a deadly virus outbreak violates their rights..”.

The NHRC has been pretty hopeless since it was politicized under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime, but in this case, Commissioner Sayamol Kraiyoorawong says “staff have made some ‘unofficial’ attempts to get information from the Department of Corrections about his [Chartchai’s] condition and treatment.” But guess what: “Under the Covid-19 crisis, we [NHRC] have not been allowed access to the prison to see people…”. Other concerned by his condition are also denied information. Prachatai reports that the “his family and lawyer were not able to speak to his doctor or obtain information on his condition.”

The impression is of a callous, deliberately dangerous, and unjust system seeking to punish even those not convicted of a crime and held without bail on trifling charges. Of course, they are political charges.

In another branch of the royalist swill, the police are still at it. Pol Col Thitisan “Joe” Uttanapol or “Joe Ferrari,” has reportedly been charged “with premeditated murder by means of torture, unlawful deprivation of liberty and malfeasance.” Despite all the evidence leaked, Joe now claims “he just ‘assaulted’ the victim, and did not torture and murder him.” He’ll probably get off. The pattern will be for witnesses to be paid off or strong-armed, for the case to be drawn out for years, and with public attention having moved on, and judges gingered up and rewarded, Joe might get a suspended sentence. That’s how the system rots.

All in all, this is a sorry tale of how royalism corrupts, money corrupts, and political preferences corrupt.

But never fear, “good” people are at work. Into this fetid swamp masquerading as a judicial system, come the Education Ministry, “planning to modify the history curriculum in schools to strengthen learning amid recent moves by youth groups against the kingdom’s highest institution [they mean the monarchy].” Yes, cleaning up Thailand means pouring palace propaganda into children. We suppose that this is an admission that the never-ending and expensive royalist buffalo manure over 50 years has failed to get sufficient cowering acquiescence. We do know that those who have drunk most at the fount of royalist propaganda are the most corrupt.

 





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.





Class, gender, protest

20 07 2021

Eurasia ReviewIf readers haven’t already seen them, we suggest reading to recent articles at Eurasia Review, considering aspects of class and gender in Thailand in an era of virus and political protest. They are relatively long articles, so we just preview them here.

Eurasia Review’s Murray Hunter observes:

Thailand’s class divisions have dramatically widened during the Covid-19 pandemic. With students returning to the streets in protest, even with tight crowd restrictions in place, after a three-month hiatus during the pandemic, the Prayuth Chan-ocha regime is faltering in public support and perceived competence to handle a dramatic linear increase in case numbers.

He adds that:

With the prime minister and his entourage seen not obeying rules to wear masks at all times during the opening of the Phuket “sandbox”, on July 1, a scheme to bring back foreign tourists to Thailand, the covid pandemic has become the symbol of a great class divide.

Unemployment, poverty and inequality have all increased. Double standards are common:

The Prayuth government has attempted to balance economic considerations and public health in making decisions about restrictions. Large manufacturing concerns have not been under any restrictions during the pandemic, even though small and service businesses have been restricted, with many ordered to close, last year for a number of months on end. Many provincial hotels were forced to shutdown for months, with many never reopening….

The escalating pandemic in Thailand has focused attention of the double standards applicable to the elite in society and the others. This has been very evident in the vaccine rollout. The elite and privileged have been able to secure a vaccination before many of the vulnerable in society. While people have been suffering, the grounds and infrastructure of the [king’s] grand palace complex in central Bangkok has been enlarged, to become a city within a city.

The result of all of this is that “Thailand is now in a much deeper era of class division, where the poor have become poorer, over the duration of the pandemic.”

The Eurasia Review’s other piece is on feminism and protest in Thailand, authored by Wichuta Teeratanabodee. She notes that the criticism of royalism “has set this group of protestors apart from its predecessors.” It is a “youth movement” and a “network of many groups — including feminists, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and environmental activists in addition to students.” Wichuta observes:

The conspicuous roles of young women in this ongoing wave of protests have put them in the spotlight…. Unlike in previous rallies, which were often led by males, women are now taking on leadership roles to call for democracy. Simultaneously, they have shared stories of women’s struggles in Thai society, focusing particularly on women’s status in politics — which has worsened markedly since the 2014 coup…. [F]eminists in the pro-democracy protests see themselves fighting a two-front war. On one front they demand democracy and an end to the current authoritarian regime, and on another, they fight for gender equality against fellow pro-democracy protestors who do not support feminist objectives….

Feminist and non-feminist protestors in today’s Thailand have a common enemy – the authoritarian regime, which — one prominent activist scholar contends —  has shown “no signs of …willingness to negotiate with democracy”….

We recommend both articles.





Wealth, power and the corruption of justice

10 07 2021

With all of the virus stuff going on, we are a bit late getting to this post. However, as it concerns the seemingly never-ending saga of corruption and double standards in the judicial system, it merits a late post.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that all members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have been ordered to “sit on a newly formed panel that is tasked with investigating 15 senior police officers, prosecutors and investigators who mishandled the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidh­ya, the Red Bull scion who has managed to escape prosecution so far.”

Apparently, after almost 10 years, the case is officially considered “high profile.” We guess that for all of the previous nine years the case has involved the high profile but that the judicial system was doing its well-paid best to do deals to get Boss off.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit has also decided, after all these years,”that the investigation must be wrapped up in a timely fashion…”. Right. But, then: “As required under Section 48 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, the NACC must conclude the probe within two years. It will be allowed by law to extend the investigation for another year at most, if more time is needed…”. So that could be 2024…. Timely… not.

The report reminds readers that there are “currently two other committees probing the issue.” We figure that “probing” is an over-statement.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post states that this NACC “investigation” is “welcome news.” It notes the damage the case’s cover-up has done to the judicial system: “The anti-graft body would do a great service to the justice system and country at large with a swift investigation. It should also make sure to avoid all the mistakes by other agencies that performed at snail’s pace over the past nine years.”

Well, maybe. Of course, the NACC has generally been hopeless on almost all the cases sent to it, “investigating” with double standards and political affiliation always in mind. The rest of the judicial system has been equally biased and corrupt to boot.

The wheeling and dealing has been huge. Even before the NACC commissioners got to “work,” it seems that “one member, Suchart Trakulkasemsuk, withdrew from the panel.” Why? Because as a member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly “he had been a member of NLA’s subcommittee on justice and had received a petition from Vorayuth’s family…”.

It turns out that the fabulously wealthy and immensely powerful Yoovidhya family were “allowed 14 appeal attempts … which is unprecedented.”

The Post concludes with the obvious: “the suggested three-year period seems far too long, taking into account the fact the case had dragged on for nearly a decade.”








%d bloggers like this: