Wither the (in)justice system

27 01 2022

Over several years, the (in)justice system has been crafted to ensure that “good” people are protected from the law. That protected species is made up of criminal masterminds, the well-connected, murderous generals, coup-makers, police, army, the wealthy, and more.

In the never-ending saga, dating back to 2012, of getting the wealthy Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya off all charges associated with his murder of a lowly policeman, The Nation reports that. as expected, the “cocaine use charge against … [the fugitive is] nearing the end of its statute of limitations.”

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

The office on Wednesday released a statement on the results of the year 2021 and the direction of proactive action in 2022.

That will leave one charge: “rash driving causing the death of another person…”.

The only question now is how the corrupt (in)justice system can make that one go away. In the meantime, there’s stalling, delays and so on that mean justice is dead and those responsible for that death have probably become wealthier.

Meanwhile, to add emphasis to the death of justice, the Bangkok Post reports that an Appeals Court “upheld a Civil Court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the army for compensation over the death of Lahu human rights activist Chaiyaphum Pasae, who was shot dead at a checkpoint in Chiang Mai province in 2017.”

The “court ruled to dismiss the lawsuit and said the army has no need to pay compensation to Chaiyaphum’s family. The court considered the M16 rifle that a soldier shot Chaiyaphum with was used in self-defence and out of necessity.”

This relates to a case where “officers claimed they found drugs in Chaiyaphum’s car and had to shoot him because he resisted their search and tried to throw a grenade at them.” Of course, witnesses had a different story, saying “Chaiyaphum was dragged out of the car, beaten and shot.” And, the CCTV footage of the military’s actions was taken away by Army bosses and never provided to any court. That’s because the military is more powerful than the courts, enjoys almost complete impunity for its crimes, and has the power to murder civilians as it sees fit.

Of course, occasionally a court does its work properly, but these occasions are surprises rather than the norm. Wither the justice system.





A pandemic of political repression

29 07 2021

Forget the thousands of ill people. What’s important, for the regime and its cops, is charging every political opponent.

The  Bangkok Post reports that Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) is on the hunt for “nine groups … facing prosecution for staging protests and ‘car mob’ rallies in defiance of the emergency law this month.” By “emergency law” it means the emergency decree, which in various forms and guises, has been operating almost continuously since the 2014 military coup.

The nine groups are:

the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration which held a rally on July 2; the Thai Mai Thon protests on July 3, 10, 11; the Prachachon Khon Thai rallies on July 3 and 10; the car mob rallies organised by red-shirt activist Sombat Boonngamanong on July 3 and 10…. The others are the Mok Luang Rim Nam group rally on July 3; the Bangkok Sandbox protest on July 6; the rally led by vocational students on July 9; the Free Youth gathering on July 18; and the protests engineered by the Mu Ban Thalufa on July 22 and 24…. [and] the …”Harley motorbike mob” on July 23 and 25.”

Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, the MPB deputy commissioner, said a total of “172 protesters are facing charges under the decree in connection with protests in Bangkok.” But it isn’t just the emergency decree, with the protesters facing dozens of charges.

It seems the police have nothing better to do than to do legal battle with protestors.

The police are engaging in a myriad of legal contortions. For example, they have suddenly decided that honking horns is illegal. Really? In Bangkok? Yep, they reckon that “vehicles honked their horns, disturbing people nearby and other motorists. The rally participants are also accused of causing heavy traffic congestion.” Yes, again, that’s in Bangkok.

They are brazen in their twisting of law and spreading the virus of injustice in a pandemic of political repression.

 





Masters of repression I

14 07 2021

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have published their June update. It makes for sorry reading, from using the virus emergency decree for political repression to the use of lese majeste against political activists.

According to the TLHR “at least 695 people in 374 cases have already been affected as a result of their political involvement and opinions since the ‘Free Youth’ rally on 18 July 2020 until the end of June 2021.” This includes “43 youths of under 18 years old…”.

In total, lese majeste charges have now been laid against more than 100 people.

Contempt of court and insulting the court cases case have grown. For the former, there have been at least 18 people in 14 cases “for participating in assemblies criticizing the judiciary since the Free Youth Rally until the end of May 2021.” Strikingly, “the Court can conduct a contempt trial and pass a judgment directly bypassing the investigation or prosecution process.”

TLHR also reports that the courts have routinely “imposed overly strict measures in courtrooms, including limiting the number of audience or requiring a preapproved permission. In all trials, the Court forbade notetaking claiming it was to keep order.” Such measures “were likely to undermine the principle of a free and fair trial.”

In addition to court and judicial processes, TLHR states that “[s]tate authorities continuously monitor and harass people who posted monarchy-related content and political activists…”. In June alone, the “authorities approached least 18 citizens who expressed monarchy-related or political opinions at their homes. These incidents occurred in all of the regions of the country…”.

TLHR also found that “at least 511 people in 162 cases had been accused of breaching the Emergency Decree provisions…”.

The regime may not be very good at virus mitigation, but it is highly skilled in acts of political repression.





Trampling legal rights

27 06 2021

Our readers will know that the royalist courts have, for some time, abandoned most pretenses of so-called blind justice, observing the constitution, or even following the law as it is written. But the (in)justice system extends further than the courts.

A recent statement by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights discusses breaches of confidential attorney-client by the Department of Corrections.no-justice

On 16 June 2021, Parit Chiwarak “raised his concern regarding the practice of eavesdropping on confidential attorney-client conversations in prison and proposed that … [a Parliamentary] Committee launches an inspection on the Department of Corrections’ conduct.”

Immediately, Corrections Department director-general Ayut Sinthoppan responded that:

Section 9(5) of the Rules of the Department of Corrections on Visit, Contact with Prisoners, and Study Visit to or Contact with Prison, B.E. 2561 (2018) clearly prescribes that an external party authorized to visit or contact prisoners must consent to have prison officials listen to their conversations, take photos and audio recordings, cut off communication if the conversation is considered inappropriate.

He added that “if a lawyer wants to keep the conversation with a prisoner confidential, they must inform a prison official.”

TLHR considered this statement as “an admission that the prison has been using its authority under the Department of Corrections’ rules to eavesdrop and record most conversations between attorneys and their clients in prison” and that “confidentiality is only occasionally permitted as a rare exception.”

TLHR observed that this is a serious “violation of the right to access counsel per Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” to which Thailand is a State Party and has obligations to comply with the ICCPR’s provisions. Furthermore, it contradicts Section 7/1(1) of Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code, which guarantees the rights of the arrested and suspects in detention or imprisonment to meet and consult with their lawyer tête-à-tête.

In addition, Article 61 of the Corrections Act B.E. 2560 (2017) states, “The prison shall arrange a place for prisoners to have a tête-à-tête meeting and consultation with their lawyer or persons to be appointed as their lawyer as specified in the rules of the Department of Corrections.” This provision ensures the right to meet a lawyer confidentially without imposing any restrictions on such a right.

Furthermore, the Rules of the Department of Corrections on Visit, Contact with Prisoners, and Study Visit to or Contact with Prison, B.E. 2561 (2018), which is a subordinate law, provide separate rules for external parties and lawyers. Section 9 in Part 1 allows the Department of Corrections to record the conversations between the external parties and prisoners. In contrast, Part 2 did not grant the same power in the case of attorney-prisoner communications. Section 19 states that the rules in Part 1 could be enforced mutatis mutandis. Nonetheless, it is still illegal to record attorney-prisoner conversations because that rule violates Article 61 of the Corrections Act B.E. 2560 (2017), whose status is higher than the Department of Corrections’ Rules in the legal hierarchy.

“Eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations does not only violate the right to fair trial and Article 61 of the Corrections Act B.E. 2560 (2017). It also seriously jeopardizes the entire justice system. The statement from the Director-General of the Department of Corrections, which cited Rules of the Department of Corrections on Visit, Contact with Prisoners, and Study Visit to or Contact with Prison, B.E. 2561 (2018), is unacceptable. The right to have confidential access to a lawyer is a fundamental principle of criminal law, which could not be precluded as an exception under any Rules. It also should not be the lawyer’s duty to request for the guarantee of this right.

Therefore, TLHR calls for the Minister of Justice, Lawyers Council of Thailand, National Human Rights Commission, and other relevant agencies to investigate this matter and take steps to amend the said Rules because any persons facing a charge must be entitled to their right to consult with their lawyer confidentially. If the justice system could not guarantee this right, such a failure could adversely impact their ability to fight the lawsuit, hindering their full ability to defend themselves in court effectively,” said Yaowalak Anupan, Chief of TLHR.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

18 June 2021





Still on the lam

16 06 2021

The 2012 hit-and-run case involving tycoon scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya of Red Bull fame, when he killed a policeman while driving his luxury sports car while intoxicated is back in the news.

The Bangkok Post recently reported that, after all these years, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is considering whether it mightlaunch an inquiry against at least 10 people for their alleged role in delaying justice…”. That means those officials who helped Boss and his associates tamper with witnesses and smooth his escape from the country to enjoy the high life on the lam.

It is not the NACC that has been investigating. According to spokesman Niwatchai Kasemmongkol it is the findings of an:

independent panel headed by former NACC member Vicha Mahakun [that] indicated a number of people, including several police officers and public prosecutors, played a big role in getting prosecutors to drop criminal charges against Mr Vorayuth.

That report was “taken up by a NACC sub-committee, which in turn recommended the NACC to launch a more detailed investigation into individuals which the Vicha panel believed had intentionally acted to derail the justice process.”

That’s the report. Will it do anything? Or is it just another stalling tactic? After all, as everyone knows, Vorayuth and his lawyers repeatedly postponed his court appearances before he fled abroad.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

While Vorayuth was on the lam, “a speeding charge against him was dropped after its one-year statute of limitations expired in 2013…. Meanwhile, a second charge — failing to stop to help a crash victim — expired on Sept 3, 2017.”

Only a cocaine use charge and a reckless driving causing death charges remain. The former expires in September 2022 and the latter in 2027. Previously, the Office of the Attorney General had recommended dropping the reckless driving charge. It was the public outcry over that that saw Vicha’s panel put together.

Somehow, we feel that justice will never be served. In Thailand, for the rich, justice and injustice are commodities.





Penguin and Ammy bailed

12 05 2021

Prachatai reports the good news that the Criminal Court approved bail requests for activist Parit Chiwarak – Penguin – and singer Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan – Ammy the Bottom Blues.

The court issued a press release stating that:

Penguin and Rung

Parit with Panusaya in an earlier photo. Clipped from The Nation

the pair were released on Tuesday on a security of 400,000 baht for Parit and 250,000 baht for Chaiamorn on condition that they report to the court as assigned, they do not commit, or attend any activity that may cause public disorder or damage the institution of the monarchy, and they do not travel abroad without the court’s permission.

According to the report:

Parit’s bail security covered in equal amounts 2 cases from his participation in the protests on 19 September 2020 and 14-15 November 2020. 200,000 baht of the security for Chaiamorn covered the 19 September protest and 50,000 baht covered the case of setting fire to the King’s portrait at Klong Prem Prison.

Bail was granted at 18.20, some three hours after the court finished its hearing of the applications for Chaiamorn and Parit. Such delays continue to suggest that the courts are taking orders from elsewhere.

Ammy

An earlier photo of Ammy

Parit has been in pre-trial detention “for 92 days before being released on bail at the tenth attempt.” He had been on a hunger strike for 57 days, protesting the refusal of bail.

Chaiamorn had been detained for 69 days and released on his eighth bail application.

Penguin was released from the prison hospital. Prior to that “police officers from Mueang Roi Et Police Station showed up to arrest him on another charge. The lawyers managed to secure 200,000-baht police bail.”

In addition to the charges on which he bailed, Parit faces at least another 20 more lese majeste charges.





Justice denied

1 05 2021

Wasant Techawongtham at the Bangkok Post has a direct and useful op-ed on the (in)justice system and the contortions required of judges who ignore law and constitution. It is worth reading in full. Here are some bits we think need emphasis.

A request for bail for pro-democracy protesters languishing in jail was rejected for the ninth time on Thursday.

Oddly, the decision by an Appeal Court judge was delivered after hours in one terse sentence as a throng of angry young protesters gathered on the steps of the court house.

One imagines that the delay was caused by the judge needing to get his orders, and we suspect that those orders were considered at the very highest level.

No justice

A number of legal experts have watched the cases with dismay. The infringement of the jailed activists’ rights and the court’s multiple bail denials trouble them.

On bail:

Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a law professor and a vice rector of Thammasat University, argues that denying bail for cases still pending trial should be the exception, not the norm.

According to the constitution and Article 107 of the Criminal Code, an accused must be assumed innocent during a trial and granted bail unless conditions exist as stipulated by Article 108/1.

Said conditions include: (1) if the accused poses a flight risk; (2) if the accused could interfere with witnesses or evidence; (3) if the accused poses harmful threats; (4) if bail guarantors or bonds are not trustworthy; and (5) if temporary release poses obstacles or harm to ongoing official investigations.

Other reasons often cited to deny bail, such as the charges in question incurring severe penalties, the accused’s conduct is serious, or the accused could repeat the offences, if released, do not fall within the parameters of the law.

Wasant refers to “practices used by the authorities against the jailed protesters [that] are disturbing“:

…Posting a prison official in the room where the lawyer and his client discuss their case is evidently beyond the pale.

Breaches of lawyer-client privilege even took place within the court room as officials insisted on inspecting documents passed between the lawyers and their clients.

One of the most troubling developments … is the barring of all persons, including the mothers and close relatives, except the lawyers and their clients from the court room in recent hearings.

He goes on to refer to “”legal shambles,”the “oppressive weight of an unfair system bent on breaking their spirits and subjugating them…”. It is a system that is unable to dispense justice.





Free Penguin and Rung

26 04 2021

Tyrell Haberkorn and Thongchai Winichakul of the University of Wisconsin-Madison have a call for the release on bail of political prisoners Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul. It is at NikkeiAsia. Read it in full.

Clipped from The Nation

The two have “gone on hunger strike while being detained ahead of their trials in late May for alleged lese-majeste. The pair are refusing nourishment to protest the denial of their right to bail.”

Penguin began his partial hunger strike on 15 March 15 and Rung joined him 15 days later: “The risk to their health grows with each passing day.”

The authors note:

…these activists have not actually insulted, defamed, or threatened the monarchy. Instead, they have dared to call for an open and frank discussion on the place of the monarchy in Thailand — particularly with respect to its relationship with the law, the judiciary, the military and its assets.

Parit faces at least 20 counts of violating Article 112, and Panusaya at least nine. Their sentences for speeches at peaceful protests and social media posts could break records — evidence how afraid the state and the palace are of such discussions.

They point out that the “right to bail is guaranteed under Thai law and by Thailand’s international human rights obligations, but it is routinely denied in Article 112 cases on the grounds of national security and the fact that the harsh penalty makes flight more likely.” By denying bail, they say,the regime “has effectively shut down the protest movement, and instilled fear in those who dare to dissent.” And, authoritarianism deepens.

They conclude:

As each application for bail is denied, it becomes more evident that preventing citizens from openly discussing the monarchy and its role in the Thai polity are to the authorities more important than the lives of citizens. Parit, Panusaya and all the other political detainees must have their bail rights restored.





Penguin’s defiance

20 04 2021

As silent protests against the incarceration of lese majeste victims, Penguin or Parit Chiwarak has shown more defiance as he rejects the (in)justice system.

Thai PBS reports that:

Thailand’s anti-establishment Ratsadon leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak declared, before judges of the Criminal Court today (Monday), that he does not recognize the judicial process and will not attend his trial because he has not been accorded justice and granted bail to enable him to find evidence in his defence.

He also directed his lawyers to stand down. His lawyers explained that as “Parit had decided not to be part of the justice process and so the lawyers were of no use.”

Parit

In his defiance of the royalist judiciary, he “refused to take part in a Criminal Court session on Monday that was examining evidence in the lese majeste case against him.”

Parit, on a partial “hunger strike for 30 days, arrived in court in a wheelchair and attached to drips.”

He “refused to accept the 32 witnesses presented by the prosecution and also insisted that his detention was unfair…”, saying that “his detention had prevented him from mounting a full legal defence and that rendered the judicial process unjust.”

Penguin declared that “he would continue to refuse to acknowledge the entire legal case against him until he was released on bail.”

Several other activists – those not in jail – and his family have expressed concern for Penguin’s declining health.

The court rejected another bail request put by his family.





The rich get away with murder

28 07 2020

It is reported that “police have opened an internal investigation after charges were dropped against the billionaire Red Bull heir … amid outrage over a perceived culture of impunity for the rich…”. We see this as nothing more than a part of a continuing effort to kid the public that the police are interested in justice. It is also about the regime’s “management” of discontent.

While in a source PPT doesn’t usually read, we felt that Benjamin Freeman’s op-ed was useful in reflecting on the question: “Why do the rich and powerful get away with murder?

Commenting on the Red Bull-Vorayuth Yoovidhya saga, Freeman states: “And so it goes in a country where the rich and powerful can get away with murder — literally so, as this case indicates.”

The author agrees with Pol Col Kissana Phathana-charoen who explained that dropping charges against the rich, Ferrari-driving, coked-up Vorayuth did not mean that the police were “applying double standards…”. Freeman observes:

We have to take him at his word. In order for there to be double standards, there need to be some real standards in the first place. But what exactly are the standards of Thailand’s law enforcement and judicial system?

Strikingly, he links (in)justice to broader political events:

This is a country, after all, where a citizen can be sentenced to long years in prison merely for exercising freedom of speech by making critical comments about the government or the monarchy on social media on grounds that doing so undermines national security.

Meanwhile, the generals that spearheaded a military coup to overthrow an elected government in 2014 not only do not need to fear any prosecution for what was an act of treason by international standards but they remain in charge of the country, acting as they please.

Freeman explains:

The system of justice in Thailand has long stayed mired in a regressive state where the laws apply only to those who don’t have enough money or influence to be able to flout them at will.

The result is a vastly unequal society where the “little people” remain under the thumb of the rich and powerful who can do as they please with no one to hold them to account.

He might have added that this inequality of wealth, power and justice is exactly what the tycoons want and is why they support dictators, military and monarchy.








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