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.





Updated: A remarkable capacity for protecting the rich and powerful

4 04 2018

Khaosod reports that “[r]egional prosecutors dropped five of 11 charges including animal cruelty filed against Italian-Thai Development President Premchai Karnasuta, but will seek to prosecute him on the other six counts.”

Glass half-full you might think. Perhaps not. In Thailand’s legal system there are many ways in which the rich and powerful get out of unexpected judicial dealings – they never expect to be arrested and charged.

One tried and trusted method is to drag out proceedings, sometimes over years and years. All along, the rich/powerful person remains on bail and seeks to have charges dropped, eliminate those testifying against them, pay off victims and/or bribe police, prosecutors and/or judges.

We see some of this in Premchai’s case. He’s trying to wait out the interest in the case. Media and activist interest will, he hopes, eventually, die down. When the case is no longer high profile, he hopes he can quietly settle the case.

In Premchai’s case, the charges dropped were “that he entered the sanctuary without permission with guns and ammunition and committed animal cruelty.”

Double standards? You bet.

Update: According to Thai PBS, police have “objected” to the dropping of the five charges. But not all it seems, as the police want nine charges, while saying “its up to the prosecutor.” It can all be a part of negotiations complicated by the current high-profile case. Or it could be political theater.





The Dictator’s double standards

4 04 2018

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has complained about the recent appearance of Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra in Japan and other places.

He slammed them: “I don’t have any feeling about them. They should have been ashamed. They broke the law and they still dare to go out…”.

Double standards? You bet. After all, if the military junta hadn’t exonerated itself with retrospective “law,” The Dictator himself would be in trouble. When it comes to breaking the law, overthrowing a legal government is seditious, treason and mutiny. Grinding a constitution under his boot is also illegal.

And then there’s the murder of dozens of civilians in 2010 by troops commanded by Gen Prayuth.

He should be ashamed and imprisoned.





An injustice regime

21 03 2018

Justice is not a particular forte of military dictatorships. For Thailand’s variety, the emphasis is on law applied in a politicized manner and double standards, topped off with notions that the powerful should expect impunity.

A particularly egregious case, extended now over a year of mostly silence and some lies, is the extrajudicial killing of Chaiyapoom Pasae by soldiers. PPT has regularly posted on the “investigations,” which amount to almost nothing more than cover up and lies. Such a non-response/cover-up by the authorities can be considered an admission of guilt without saying those words.

We were heartened to see both an op-ed and an editorial in the Bangkok Post recently, both drawing attention to this most obvious example of the regime’s misuse of deadly force and the military’s ingrained expectation of impunity.

As the op-ed by Paritta Wangkiat states:

We know that a bullet fired at his chest killed him. But the rest of the story has been mixed with conflicting accounts. The mystery behind his death stands as a stark reminder of how hard it is for minority and ethnic groups to obtain justice in the Land of Smiles.

Of course, it is far more than this. Any one outside the economic and political elite cannot be assured of anything approaching justice in Thailand.

In this case, there was some hope that CCTV footage would reveal the truth. Sadly and defining of impunity, we learn:

After the incident, the army delivered the camera footage in a hard disk drive to the police who proceeded with the case at Chiang Mai Provincial Court. A number of hearings have taken place since September last year. The next is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. It’s likely that the case will draw to a conclusion very soon.

However, human rights lawyer Sumitchai Hattasan, who represents Chaiyaphum’s family, said recently that it is unlikely that the prosecutor will refer to the CCTV camera footage as evidence. The Central Police Forensic Science Division has submitted a report on its examination of the army’s hard disk drive to the prosecutor, saying there was “no footage of the time of occurrence” even though the drive was running normally.

This screams cover up.

The editorial notes that “Chaiyaphum’s family … have complained of state intimidation during the investigation into the activist’s death.” It is the police, military and other authorities who intimidate.

The editorial is right to say: “The military is obliged to handle the case fairly and refrain — or abandon — any attempts at a cover-up, as this would taint the nation’s image. The slain activist and his family deserve justice, which is long overdue.”

Right, but all too weak. We can’t think of many cases involving the military and its use of murderous force that have ever been handled “fairly.”





Erasing the black leopard

5 03 2018

Boss of of Italian-Thai Premchai Karnasuta is a big deal in the business world, with impeccable connections (read his CV). For a while he was listed in the Forbes richest 50 for Thailand.

He’s used to getting his way and when he was caught red-handed poaching wildlife in the World Heritage Thungyai Naresuan sanctuary it was something of a surprise. It was certainly a surprise for him as he’d have thought all his connections would have prevented any authorities getting too interested in his illegal hunting.

At the time, the press said he could face up to 28 years in jail. We said, let’s see, adding that like many of the big shots who get caught up in legal cases, the initial risk is that the case will be delayed and then go quiet.

For a while, it has been very quiet. Such quietness suggests wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes. The next news was that policeman involved in the case were being “disciplined.” Such transfers are also usually a sure sign of deals being done.

No doubt feeling more confident following all of the “negotiations,” Premchai finally appeared at a police station. That police station was Thong Pha Phum in Kanchanaburi province, some 250 km and a 3.5 hour drive from Bangkok. Who else took that journey? Reports, video and pictures show that Deputy national police chief Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul made the trip and “had a brief talk with Mr Premchai.”

If anyone was looking for evidence of how the behind-the-scenes dealing was being done, surely this was evidence of collusion. If not collusion with the highest levels of police, then it is evidence of others even more senior sending messages to an “underling” deputy national police chief. This is wheeling and dealing at the very highest level.

Then video emerged of the meeting between the tycoon and the deputy national police chief.

The clip shows Premchai initially wai-ing Pol Gen Srivara a wai. Srivara returns the wai, but “a few seconds later he repeated it by bowing low to Mr Premchai.” This gesture shows a junior giving respect to a senior. In other words, it is a display of a supplicant. Social media users were amazed and many pointed to this as yet another display of double standards in the legal system.

Further suggesting that Premchai has done some deals at very high levels, graffiti art of black leopards – one of Premchai’s hunted animals – appearing in Bangkok is being erased. Erasure demonstrates high-level collusion with the wealthy animal slaughterer.





Watching and waiting

23 02 2018

In the land of the military dictatorship, double standards are the guiding principle when it comes to law. While there were similar patterns seen in the past, it needs to be remembered that the junta seized the state in the 2014 coup and expelled an elected government publicly trumpeting the need for reform, its opposition to corruption and rule of law.

Of course, some seasoned observers knew from bitter experience that all of this was bluster and it wouldn’t be long before the nepotism, corruption, impunity and the double standards that are definitional of military regimes were seen.

While many of the junta’s anti-democrat put up with early examples of corruption (such as Rajabhakti Park) and were prepared to turn a blind eye to lese majeste repression, murder (what has happened to the evidence associated with the Chaiyapoom Pasae case?), censorship and political repression, a range of issues have seen even diehard yellow shirts turning away from the junta. These issues include: the election “delay,” double standards in the law and the Deputy Dictator’s luxury watches.

On the latter, many will be stunned to read that the National Anti-Corruption Commission continues to delay on its investigation. The NACC says that it will (again) “write to Deputy Prime Minister [Gen] Prawit Wongsuwon in the next few days, demanding he provide specific details on how he acquired 25 luxury watches…”.

We count at least three previous letters asking for the same information.

NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, himself polluted by his relationship to the Deputy Dictator, said the “deputy premier will be asked to furnish precise details of the watches exposed in recent news reports, including the brand names, price tags and dates he wore them…”.

What did the previous letters ask for? Did they not ask for such details? If not, why not? Pol Gen Watcharapol must explain this.

The NACC has given Gen Prawit another 15 days to respond. All the other deadlines, like “election” promises, have simply been ignored.

The article suggest that Gen Prawit is not fully cooperating with the NACC. That may be so, but why is the NACC cooperating with Prawit?

On an “investigation” that the NACC recently said would be wrapped up by the end of February, Pol Gen Watcharapol now says the “issue will be clearer [next month]…”.

Unremarkably, Pol Gen Watcharapol said “the deputy premier has informed the NACC he was too busy with his duties” and that Prawit “may need some time to gather the information as some of the watches were worn a long time ago … adding he did not suspect Gen Prawit was deliberately stalling.”

It sounds like collusion and a cover up to us.

Another case that is defining of double standards is that of leopard killing and eating tycoon Premchai Karnasuta of Italian-Thai Development and dozens of other companies. Not that long ago we posted on his seeming disappearance despite ongoing investigations of his illegal hunting.

Police have now issued a second summons to Premchai and other members of his hunting party “inviting him to answer additional charges of cruelty to animals…”. All had failed to respond to the first summons. His lawyer didn’t even bother to provide a particular reason for his client’s failure to appear.

Not showing up to answer a summons is not uncommon, but this is a high-profile case and we well recall the way poor farmers were mistreated under the same laws. Not that long ago a couple of farmers were arrested by police and quickly sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was reduced by half because they had confessed. Their “crime” was picking mushrooms from a protected forest. They did not shoot and eat  endangered animals. But the law works differently for the rich.

And so it goes on and on….