Shaky regime I

17 06 2019

Facing legal challenges that can only be pushed aside if remarkable double standards are applied in the judicial system, the junta-spawned government-to-be is in a spot of bother that could become a major threat to the regime the junta is trying to put in place.

Of course, legal double standards have been the norm for much of the time since the 2006 military coup, so nothing can be ruled out. However, if the 41 MPs currently being challenged for media shareholdings on which the Election Commission and Constitutional Court moved with lightening speed when Future Forward members were involved, are laundered by those institutions, then the junta’s regime-in-the-making will be in serious trouble (except with the rusted-on yellow shirts and other anti-democrats).

A point to note, as observed by the linked story is that these cases should not be compared with that of Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (except perhaps on the speed with which his case was processed). Rather, the comparison should be with disqualified candidate Phubet Henlod, a Future Forward candidate in Sakhon Nakhon’s Constituency 2. His candidacy was withdrawn by an order of the Supreme Court’s Electoral Affairs Division on March 19 because he was a partner-manager of a company, Mars Engineering and Service, which registered as perhaps, one day, having an interest in the media business.

If, as Wan Noor claims, the junta’s regime is in trouble, what might happen. Readers will know that PPT doesn’t engage much in crystal-balling, but there is another story that offers some things to consider.

Gen Apirat

It will come as no surprise that a source said to be close to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha states that The Dictator will “rely on the unity of the armed forces, which have done a good job over the past five years in backing him.” If Gen Prayuth does become Defense Minister, then he will work closely with rabid royalist and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra Army boss Gen Apirat Kongsompong.

The anonymous source, reckons that Gen Prayuth “is highly unlikely to face any coups.” Not only has Gen Apirat been a member of the junta, but his  “allegiance and support for Gen Prayut” has been strong. The source also mentions that “internal structural changes — in which key units for coup-making are transferred — [mean] any military intervention is almost ruled out.”

For PPT, that last point is unlikel;y to prevent a coup if the Army commander ordered it. But all of this seems beside the point. What is more likely is a coup in support of Gen Prayuth if his government is unstable and unable to work as if it is a junta.

The story continues and observes that Prayuth’s “civilian” government “will depend on the army’s Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), which has the resources and the Internal Security Act to enable it to continue the kind of repression that has gone on over the past five years. The source added that “military tactics will be deployed to make the Prayut administration stay in power as long as possible and help him prepare for the next round of elections.”

We are already seeing that thuggishness used against opponents.

To keep his government in place via parliament, “[c]abinet reshuffles, money and lawsuits are also on the table.” Don’t rule out military threats; these have been used extensively in the past, including during Gen Prem Tinsulanonda’s government, when senior politicians like Kukrit Pramoj were intimidated.

What’s missing in this discussion – of course! – is any consideration of the palace. Gen Prayuth must work especially hard to satisfy and satiate King Vajiralongkorn. If he fails in this, he’s dead and so is his government (if he ever forms it).





Further updated: Thanathorn’s future bleak

23 05 2019

Future Foward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is is trouble. With the Constitutional Court deciding 8-1 [see update 2] to hear the case against him, Thanathorn’s political future looks bleak indeed.

Having done so well in the junta’s election, pro-junta supporters and the junta itself identified Thanathorn as a potential threat to their order, seeing him as a second generation of popular politicians promoting popular reforms. That is, a politician who looked to political troglodytes like a new Thaksin Shinawatra. They have decided to be rid of him sooner rather than later.

The Constitutional Court has agreed to hear the complaint filed by the Election Commission “which accused him of breaching election laws by owning stakes in a media firm.”

If he is found guilty, Thanathorn could face up to 10 years in jail and lose his seat in parliament.

But even before that, the Court has “suspended Thanathorn’s MP status, effective immediately, while the judges deliberate on the case.”

There are a bunch of other junta and “activist” inspired cases pending against Thanathorn and his party.

We expect him to be found guilty and that the party will eventually be dissolved. These were the junta’s aims even before the election.

Crystal-balling, one knock-on from this decision is that the wavering middle-sized parties would now seem more likely to flop to the junta’s side in a coalition government.

Update 1: PPT watched Thanathorn’s defiant speech after this announcement. This speech is briefly reported at Khaosod. Thanathorn said the EC/Constitutional Court case “appears to have been rushed under suspicious circumstances.” He declared: “I do not agree with the decision of the court…. I want to ask the public … am I being afforded justice?” He claimed that the EC “subcommittee tasked with investigating the matter had yet to conclude its inquiry when the main commission forwarded the case to the court for deliberation.”

Defiantly he emphasized that he remains “a prime ministerial candidate for his party.” And he remained defiantly anti-junta.

Update 2: Prachatai reports that “9 judges of the Constitutional Court decided unanimously to accept a request by the Election Commission of Thailand, which accuses Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of violating the law by holding shares in V-Luck Media Company. In accepting the ECT request, the Constitutional Court also ruled 8-1 to suspend Thanathorn’s MP status until the case is settled.” This suggests that the Court will likely find against Thanathorn when it hears the case.

This report also points to double standards: “On 29 April, the Pheu Thai Party, Future Forward’s ally, filed a complaint with the Election Commission to investigate if Chanwit Wiphusiri and Somsak Sukprasert, MPs of the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party, also hold stakes in media companies. However, the Election Commission still has not taken up the complaint.”

Further, “The Ombudsman requested the [Constitutional] Court to investigate if it is a violation of the Constitution for members of the Senate Selection Committee to appoint themselves to the Senate, including Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn (Deputy Head of the NCPO), Adm. Narong Pipatanasai (Deputy Head of the NCPO), ACM Prajin Juntong (Deputy PM and Deputy Head of the NCPO), and Pol. Gen. Adul Sangsingkeo. However, the Court announced on 23 May not to take up the case.”





Ruling class and the unruly

28 04 2019

It is always enlightening – or should we say, confirmatory – when members of the ruling class speak for the regime.

Recently, Thai PBS reported on comments by Supreme Court President Cheep Chulamont where he pondered how to make Thais obey his ruling class and their regime.

He whined that the “problems” facing the country – he means the ruling class – “stem from the Thai people themselves” because, he says, they “do not accept one another and do not accept the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, which has set the roles and responsibilities of all organizations…”. Cheep moans: “How can the Thai people live in peace if they do not accept the rules?”

Let’s translate. The constitution was foisted upon the country by an illegal military coup. It was crafted by junta lackeys to promote the interests of the junta and the ruling class. It was “passed” by a “referendum” where people were prevented from campaigning against it, with not a few being jailed by both the military and civil judiciary, enforcing junta decrees.

His claim that the “court has no vested interests” is, we think, disingenuous. Cheep knows full well that his courts represent the ruling class and apply double standards.

One of the main reasons for this is that the judiciary has been brought under the control of the monarchy, at least over the course of the last long reign.

Like so many before him, Cheep bleats that the hoi polloi should stop being unruly and obey the ruling class. Blind obedience will allow some scraps to fall to them from the ruling class’s glutenous feast.





Yellow “justice”

5 03 2019

After the Supreme Court finally upheld finally upheld the sentencing of six leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy to eight months in jail for actions during its occupation of Government House in 2008 it was thought by some that this was a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

However, that seems to have been a foolish conclusion when writing about the judiciary in Thailand. As reported by Khaosod and the Bangkok Post, a “court on Monday found a group of anti-government protest leaders not guilty of multiple charges for their siege of the parliament in 2008 which turned fatal.”

That protest by PAD sought to topple a pro-Thaksin Shinawatra elected government and laid siege to parliament seeking to prevent it meeting. Police were ordered to clear the parliament entrance, and fired rounds of tear gas at the protesters in the morning of Oct. 7, 2008. Two people died in the clashes and about 380 were injured, including police. One of the PAD dead blew himself up in his car bomb.

In 2012 prosecutors charged 21 PAD leaders and argued that the protesters caused serious unrest in their resistance to the police and using various weapons against police. They were also accused of using threats to block members of the parliament from entering the building, injuring several policemen, locking all gates of the parliament, detaining officials inside the parliament for hours, and threatening to detain MPs.

The Criminal Court now declares that the demonstration “was protected by the constitution and did not constitute sedition despite confrontation with riot police…”. The court flocked to support PAD, ruling “that the leaders of the rally briefed followers on the extent of then-government’s corruption and mentioned attempts to amend the constitution in favour of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra…”. In other words, the court ruled that PAD supported the 2007 constitution and was protected by that constitution. The court also declared that “violence only broke out after officers fired tear gas at the crowd.”

No court seems to apply the same ruling in the case of red shirt protesters, preferring double standards.

For an accounts of the events, including PAD’s violence, see Nick Nostitz at New Mandala. At Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page there’s an assessment of the ruling and events of the day.





EC and double standards

22 02 2019

The Election Commission is under pressure from both its military masters and by those who want it to do its job as a neutral election manager. The junta has been using the EC for its own purposes, so it is those wanting the EC to do its defined job will be disappointed. The EC continues to evidence remarkable double standards.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong has tried to deny these double standards, insisting “there are justifications for handling two cases involving the Thai Raksa Chart Party (TRC) and the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) differently.”

Ittiporn did not appear to say how it was that the commission forwarded the Thai Raksa Chart “case to the Constitutional Court without any prior investigation.” He reckoned that the EC had “obtained enough evidence that the party committed an act deemed hostile to the monarchy.”

His “evidence” seemed to be the king’s command/statement/announcement that sated that “members of the royal family are above politics and cannot hold political positions.” Others disagree and note that the king’s “command” is not law.

Confirming double standards, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said the “EC has enough evidence in the TRC case” but  that the Palang Pracharath case “needs more time to gather evidence and investigate.”

In other words, back to square one. The EC decided on the Thai Raksa Chart case without investigation and when it comes to the junta’s party, “investigation” is glacial.





Justice system a politicized tatters

1 02 2019

Thailand’s judiciary is in tatters. Politicized for years, conscripted into judicial activism and royalist to the core, the judiciary is unable to work independently or even to maintain rule of law.

The most recent example involves the Appeals Court upheld an earlier court ruling “that dismissed a trial against nine yellow-shirt leaders who demonstrations against late prime minister Samak Sundaravej in 2008.”

The court decided, against all evidence, that Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pipob Thongchai, Somkiat Pongpaiboon, Somsak Kosaisuk, Suriyasai Katasila, Chaiwat Sinsuwongse, Amorn Amornrattanond and Therdpoum Jaidee:

were … not guilty … [when] the Appeals Court …ruled that their protests under the now-defunct People’s Alliance for Democracy … were conducted peacefully and according to democratic principles.

They had stood accused of “attempting to use force to change the government and instigating chaos in the country.” This related to their extended protests in Bangkok and the seizure of government offices. Other charges relates to possessing weapons such as baseball bats, iron bars, axes and catapults.

The Appeals Court dismissed the weapons charges saying they may not have belonged to the protesters. The court then “found that the defendants were not guilty when they obstructed the authorities’ attempts to demolish their tents, saying that the incident did not start from the defendants’ side,” despite the fact that they occupied these buildings and their grounds.

The court then “ruled that the protests led by the nine defendants in 2008 were conducted peacefully, in a manner which was allowed in a democracy and under the Constitution.”

Of course, similar manufactured dismissals were manufactured as convictions for red shirts.

The justice system has brought itself into disrepute.





Anti-democrats and twisted justice

24 01 2019

We are not lawyers. However, we do think that some of the odd legal decisions emanating from Thailand’s courts would baffle the best-qualified lawyers.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Supreme Court:

upheld the suspended one-year jail sentence and 50,000-baht fine handed down to three Democrat [Party] politicians for defaming former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during their TV programme.

In February 2012, on the anti-democrat Blue Sky Channel, run by the Democrat Party, Sirichoke Sopha, Chavanont Intarakomalyasut and Thepthai Senapong, all MPs, accused then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of missing parliament to engage in an extra-marital affair at a Bangkok hotel.

Of course, there are the usual double standards involved in suspending a sentence for these misogynists. Those on the other side of politics have quite often spent periods in jail for defamation.

The Supreme Court ruled that the comments “were unfair.” But then the tremendous bias of the courts was revealed:

The court suspended the jail term because Yingluck, as a national administrator, should have shown transparency but had never explained the matter to the public. Only during the trial did she reveal she had a business meeting with a property developer.

If true, there was no reason to keep the activity secret and raise suspicions, the court ruled. The court saw the three men had good intentions and therefore suspended the jail term for two years.

The courts have effectively confirmed that misogyny is an acceptable political weapon. That’s to be expected as both the civilian anti-democrats and military misogynists have been comfortable attacking Yingluck as a woman and women in general.

Justice in Thailand is riddled with and twisted by politicized injustice.