Dumber than a bag of hammers II

7 06 2018

We at PPT have been critical of the justice system because it has been politicized, practiced double standards and enforced injustice. The system that runs from police to prosecutors to courts includes many nodes where the rich can pay bribes to avoid courts, charges and jail. The regime uses it to maintain impunity and to repress and jail political opponents. They make use of the lese majeste, sedition and other political laws and decrees.

The junta has worked hard to “cleanse” the so-called justice system of the “politically unreliable.” While the judiciary has long been a nest of royalists, the junta has re-made it as a bunch of clueless political automatons. That may be something of an exaggeration as some professionals remain at various courts, but it is essentially a judiciary that does as it is expected.

The result of the junta’s interventions is that the judiciary is looking as dumb as a bag of hammers. We say this based on two reports of the dumbest court ruling we have seen for some time. One report is in The Nation and another at Prachatai. They report on a Chiang Mai court’s “verdict” on the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae on 17 March 2017.

The court “concluded that the young Lahu activist … was killed by army bullets…”. And that’s it.

How dumb can a court get? Or how politicized and corrupt can it be? Seriously? Everyone involved knew that the boy was killed by the military. The military has said it shot him. The media reported it. Witnesses said it.

So the court, after 14 months of the judicial system’s “investigations,” concludes the obvious and known. It concludes what was never in dispute.

An astute reader might say that this is just a part of a longer process. Yet, as we know from such “investigations” into the 2010 military murder of red shirts that such decisions can be an endpoint.

So this court didn’t just rule that a military bullet killed Chaiyapoom, it refused to confirm anything else. The court did not rule the killing illegal.

In essence, it has granted impunity for the military’s shooter and his commanders.

The court “refused to consider the argument made by Chaiyaphum’s relatives which claims that the activist neither possessed drugs or hand grenades nor attempted to stab the authorities as the army had accused him of doing.”

In response, the judge stated that “the court was only asked to find the cause of his death.” That is, of course, a reflection of what the police “investigated,” what the military brass and junta demanded and what the prosecutors did. It is a failure of the judicial system and shows that this judge is a little more than a dopey processing terminal for the military.

Lahu Chiang Mai Group president and Chaiyapoom’s mentor, Maitree Chamroensuksakul, said “he could not have imagined that the Chiang Mai Provincial Court would simply announce results that the public already knew.” He added: “I am disappointed, frankly speaking. In fact, one year should have been long enough to nail down the culprit…”.

Now that the court has confirmed what everyone knew, after 14 months of hidden evidence and intimidation of witnesses and others, its report will go “to a public prosecutor who will decide whether the soldier who killed Chaiyaphum will be indicted or not.”

More delays, intimidation, suppression of evidence and political interference will follow.

And, if the prosecutors decide to press charges, the case will probably be heard in a military court, where justice is almost never served and proceedings will likely be secret.

The family can file a civil suit, but that is the system’s way of ensuring that there will be likely be delays of years in hearing the case.

Again, “Chaiyaphum’s lawyer and family have also petitioned the Royal Thai Army to publicly reveal the CCTV footage at the military checkpoint where the activist was slain.” The court did not see the footage which the military claimed vindicated its men. Early on, when the military was justifying its actions, “there were widespread reports that video footage of the incident existed and that several military figures, including Army chief Chalermchai Sittisart, had already watched it.”

Cover-ups go right to the top in the impunity that the murderous military enjoys.

That’s why it is now “said the footage did not include what had happened at the time Chaiyapoom was shot.” How convenient that footage once claimed to vindicate the military is now said to not show anything at all about the case. Clearly the military leadership is full of scoundrels and liars. They can get away with murder, again and again.

The Prachatai report includes a timeline of the military’s role and intimidation, the judicial system’s failures and the stonewalling. But there’s much, much more to be learned in this case and the similar case of a Lahu killed a little while before Chaiyapoom, where the military used exactly the same “excuse” for the killing.

Judges overseeing dumb decisions for a murderous military are not dumb themselves. They are just doing their “duty” in protecting the state’s older brothers and enforcing the required impunity.





Updated: The Dictator declares victory

23 05 2018

There have been many reports on the rally by hundreds of anti-coup activists that ended yesterday, blocked by hundreds of police.

The report at The Nation interested PPT as it seemed The Dictator declared victory over the protesters.

While the leaders of the rally could not reach their objective of marching to Government House and were arrested, they vowed to fight on.

The Dictator, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha dismissed the rally. He stated, again, that the poll “would be no sooner than early 2019” but, as usual, provided no specific date.

He declared that the protesters “cannot march, whether they support or oppose us. It breaks the law. They will just cause conflict and upset the economy…”. That’s Prayuth’s mantra, selectively enforced and it is his electoral campaign slogan: the junta means political stability.

As usual, The Dictator deliberately confused junta decrees and human rights, stating that “[e]nforcing the law and breaking up the protest did not violate their human rights…”. He added, “the law is the law,” except that junta law is the law of double standards and selective use.

The junta boss referred to the organic laws for the election. An election can only be held within 150 days of the four laws coming into effect.

On cue, Constitution Drafting Committee Chairman Meechai Ruchupan warned of further delays on the laws, seeming to predict that the Constitutional Court would rule on Wednesday that it violates the 2017 charter. He said: “If the court rules they [the provisional clauses] break the charter, the whole bill will be revoked and we will have to start over and draft a new one…”.

He says that shouldn’t delay an election. He means the one for which there is no stated date. Delaying an unannounced election does indeed seem improbable.

Update: Meechai, while touted as a constitutional ‘expert” was wrong. The Constitutional Court unanimously approved the bill.





Updated: Selectivity in the judicial system

22 05 2018

“Selectivity in the judicial system” is another way of expressing the notion of double standards. Several recent stories in the Bangkok Post highlight the junta’s continued emphasis on legal mechanisms to selectively repress its political opponents.

The first Bangkok Post story is about a civil court having “temporarily disposed of a civil case against Suthep Thaugsuban and 39 others for impeding the 2014 general election, pending the outcome of a criminal case against them.” Essentially, the court decided to ease the pressure on Suthep while other criminal cases are ever so slowly sorted out.

One of the oddities of this case is that it is brought by the EC which itself managed to impede the election through the decisions and actions of its then members.

A second Bangkok Post story tells of Puea Thai’s Watana Muangsook, Chaturon Chaisang and Chusak Sirinil being “charged on Monday with sedition for holding a press conference” that criticized the military dictatorship. It is the military that filed the case.

The notion that rights that even appear in the junta’s own constitution are ignored by the junta to claim sedition for relatively mild criticism is yet another example of double standards.

Five other party leaders were charged with violating the ban on gatherings for attending the press conference.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general Phumtham Wechayachai was mild in his response to the charges: “This government abuses the laws. They use laws to prevent people from investigating (them)…”. He added that none of those charged had broken the law.

But that’s the point. Under a military dictatorship the law is whatever the junta decides it will be.

Phumtham asked why it was that speaking “about the government’s performance for the last four years and how unsuccessful they are” should constitute an attempt to overthrow the regime or to incite insurrection.

Well, again, the dictatorship can decide what it wants. There’s no “legality” involved, just the whim of The Dictator. In this instance, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, campaigning vigorously to defeat parties that may not campaign, sees a chance to stick yet another dagger into the country’s most successful political party.

And finally for this account of double standards, the third Bangkok Post story is of three junior officials being charged by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) “the illegal purchase of Alpha 6 narcotics detectors 10 years ago.”

In fact, these devices are more or less the same at the GT200. Both are devices shown to have failed and to be scams, but widely purchased by official agencies including the military. Some 1,358 GT200 and Alpha 6 detectors worth 1.137 billion baht were bought by various agencies. Their use was vigorously defended by senior Army officers, including Gen Prayuth, and Army spokesmen

Five years ago, following convictions in the UK on these scam devices, PPT asked: will the Thai military brass and bosses of other agencies that purchased – often at inflated prices – will also be held accountable. The answer seems clear: not when the military runs the show.

Double standards and legal selectivity rule. Ask Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan. One of his “borrowed” luxury watches costs more than an Alpha 6 at inflated prices. Maybe there’s a connection?

Update: We are pleased to note that the Bangkok Post has an editorial that takes up most of the points we made above.





The personal and the political

5 05 2018

A report at the Bangkok Post on Vorakorn Chatikavanij’s son and Korn Chatikavanij’s stepson states that he was charged with possession of cocaine.

Korn is a former Democrat Party minister and Vorakorn has been a yellow-shirted warrior. Korn is spectacularly wealthy. When great wealth meets the judiciary the result is usually in favor of the affluent.

Vorakorn and Korn

Cocaine is a Category 2 drug under Thai law. Changes to laws in 2016 means that Category 2 substances can mean the the offender faces six months to 10 years imprisonment and fines of 10,000 to 5 million baht. The changes also provided judges with more discretion.

The Bangkok South Criminal Court on Friday seemed to use truckloads of “discretion” when it released Panthit Mahapaurya “on bail of 10,000 baht in his cocaine possession case, and ordered him to report to a drug rehabilitation facility on June 21.”

The court “did not set any special conditions.” It ordered Panthit “to report at the end of the fourth detention period at 8.30am on June 21 to a psychosocial service centre of the courts to begin a drug rehabilitation programme.”

Sure, rehab might be sensible and this is bail and not sentencing, but we expect that this case will simply go away as the courts yet again make decisions on the “great and the good” using “principles” other than those in the law.

Cocaine is a rich person’s drug in Thailand and the rich enjoy it with relative impunity – think of the Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was rumored to have been doing a bit of sniffing prior to his murderous drive home.

As in everything legal in Thailand, the rich get special treatment and the poor get arrested, jailed, beaten and shot. Double standards are the only standards for the judiciary.





When the military is on top XXI

3 05 2018

A theme of our now long series of posts on When the Military is on Top has been the embedding of double standards. One set of rules for the junta and its partners and another for those not connected with the regime or its partners seem never-ending.

The latest example is related to land. Since it seized power the junta has emphasized “illegal” uses of “state” land. We use the inverted commas to mark the fact that some of this land was, several decades ago, allocated to state agencies, institutions and people as part of the military’s counterinsurgency operations.

So when the military becomes involved in expelling owners and smashing down resorts in areas like Khao Khor in Petchabun, one might ask how it is that the Royal Forest Department and the the Internal Security Operations Command co-operate now to “take legal action against all 135 mountainous resorts suspected of encroaching on a land plot in Khao Kho district within three months.”

No doubt some of these resorts are the plaything of the rich, but so much of the land in the area was allocated to farmers who were encouraged into the area after the battles with the communists there in the 1970s. That those farmers sold their land decades later is a reflection of ISOC’s 1970s policies never having recognized the property rights of the villagers it encouraged and even transported to the area.

The mistreatment of land protesters is reflective of similar processes that began decades ago as, also as part of a broad counter-communism policy, the state commodified land, allocated land and titles of various levels of tenure and then saw business people take advantage of this land market.

The Bangkok Post refers to the “temporary detention of land rights activists in Chiang Mai and Lamphun by security authorities [as] disgraceful.” While this is rightly seen as ” intimidation” by “soldiers and policemen were dispatched to deal with the growing disgruntlement of ordinary people who were merely trying to make their voices heard. But using force to shut people up is a barbaric tactic that will only intensify public displeasure against the military rulers,” the roots of the problems of land in the policies of previous military regimes should not be neglected.

The double standards are obvious when the judiciary’s luxury housing construction project in Chiang Mai is considered. Sanitsuda Ekachai makes the all too obvious points in her op-ed. As she says, representatives of the regime and the judiciary have loudly claimed that: “People and the forest can live together in harmony…”. But there are people and there are others.

The people who can live in harmony with forest are “good” people and the rest are the untrustworthy and the unworthy.





The slow death of the amart’s judiciary

14 04 2018

PPT remains somewhat confused as to why the miltiary junta sorted out the judiciary’s luxury housing project on the side of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai. Perhaps there are some hints in Wasant Techawongtham’s Bangkok Post op-ed.

The housing project “is said to be 98% completed at a cost of more than a billion baht.” The “project was ill-conceived. Some might even argue it was unlawful.”

He then acknowledges that the project “will certainly go down in the history books for setting a precedent that sent tremors through the establishment.” Why’s that? Shooting down dozens of demonstrators and jailing hundreds seems not to bother the “establishment,” sometimes known as the amart.

Apparently, it was “unrestrained public criticism of the judiciary” that was shaking the establishment to its (judicial) foundation. Wasant says that such criticism “was almost unheard of before this case exploded on social media.”

We are not sure that Wasant has been listening. What of all that talk of double standards? He wasn’t listening because he has the royalist position on judiciary. He says:

Courts are normally held in awe as judges are believed to perform their duties with the King’s authority. Any slight against a judge is taken to be a slight against the monarch.

Lawyers and laymen alike observe strict protocol when making comments about judicial decisions or conduct so as to avoid being cited for contempt of court….

The mountain is part of Doi Suthep–Pui National Park, which is also where the Bhubing Palace, the winter residence of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and family, is located.

Is this the reason for the junta’s rapid decision to solve this issue?

If these links are important how is it “the judiciary became the receptacle for the masses to vent their frustration and anger at all that has gone wrong under the regime — the lack of freedom, double standards, blatant inequality, cronyism, corruption and all those other social and economic ills affecting the majority of citizens.”

Yet Wasant is pretty sure the foundation of the establishment can be “saved”: “Despite widespread criticism, I believe the judiciary remains the most respected part of the bureaucracy.”

Think again. The umbilical cord from judiciary to establishment, monarchy and military dictatorship is one negative. But the politicized nature of the its “work” has undermined the judiciary.





Donation corruption and double standards

6 04 2018

We missed this story a couple of days ago and it deserves wide circulation.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Department of Special Investigation (DSI) says it did not bring charges against Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, who received a cheque worth 250,000 baht from the owner of a real-estate company implicated in a loan scandal…”. It is also “claimed that another cheque with an undisclosed value was deposited in a bank account belonging to ACM Prajun Tamprateep, a close associate of Gen Prem.”

This story goes back 14 years and is big news because another alleged recipient is Panthongtae Shinawatra. His case has gone to court. Prem’s case hasn’t. Neither has Phajun’s. Why is that?

According to DSI boss Paisit Wongmuang his agency “did not bring charges against all the cheque recipients…”. No further explanation as to why some are prosecuted and not others.

The Post cites a “DSI source” who said the “250,000-baht cheque was merely put into the General Prem Tinsulanonda Statesman Foundation and the money was not used for Gen Prem’s own purposes.” The source added: “The intention is clear that this was a charity donation…”.

The payment to “ACM Prajun’s bank account” was “explained” that “the sum was used to organise a banquet for those attending a course at the Thailand National Defence College…”.

In terms of law and corruption, it makes no difference what the money was used for. If some get off, all should. If some are charged, all should be.

This is one more example of double standards under the military dictatorship.