Wealthy judge

13 06 2020

We noticed a short report in the Bangkok Post on the “National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) yesterday released a list of assets and liabilities of two former Constitutional Court judges and three new ones.”

It caught our attention that former judge Jaran (sometimes Jarun) Pukditanakul was the wealthiest of the five.” The report states that:

Jarun

Jaran and his spouse [Teepsurang Pukditanakul] have assets worth 206.1 million baht and debts of 22 million baht. Their assets include land plots in Songkhla’s Hat Yai worth 93 million baht while the debts include 14.9 million baht in loans from a woman identified as Jinda Sunthornpan.

The other judges, including a former president of the Constitutional Court, declared wealth much lower than this. We wondered why one judge and former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice was so much wealthier than his colleagues. We suppose there could be family reasons for this or he might have won the lottery. But it set us thinking.

Jarun came to his position at the Ministry of Justice following the 2006 military coup and was renowned not so much for his legal qualifications but for being anti-Thaksin Shinawatra. When it came to becoming a judge, a 2008 Asia Sentinel article had this:

In selecting the first four of the court’s nine judges, the Supreme Court this week chose Jarun Pukditanakul. He became permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry after the coup and was instrumental in drafting the military’s 2007 constitution that he will be tasked to uphold.

Jarun was involved in several cases that did the amart’s work on Thaksin and his parties, causing much conflict with the pro-Thaksin groups, including the Puea Thai Party. Jarun wasn’t in the court at the time of the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai, but he was one of those who publicly justified the application of a new law retrospectively. On justifying that at a briefing for the diplomatic corps, a US cable explained:

Ministry of Justice Permanent Secretary Jaran Pakdithanakul, who also serves as deputy  chair of the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC), followed [Ministry of Foreign Affairs … Permanent Secretary Virasak Futrakul] by offering a detailed defense of the court case. Jaran explained that the Constitutional Tribunal was widely viewed as impartial and professional. No outside pressure or intervention influenced the judges’ decision. The charges against both TRT and the Democrat party were filed before the September 2006 coup. According to Jaran, the judges were unanimous in their finding of the facts of the case: that TRT leaders violated election law.

… Jaran acknowledged debate within the legal community–and the Tribunal–over TRT’s punishment. While election laws under the 1997 constitution provided for the dissolution of a political party guilty of legal violations, the revocation of certain political rights (voting, running for office) from 111 members of TRT’s executive board was established after the coup by the military leadership. Jaran admitted that this was a retroactive application of the law, but argued that, since this was not a criminal legal issue, it did not violate international legal norms.

This feeble “explanation,” justifying the unjustifiable, set in motion the double standards that have come to define Thailand’s judiciary.

This reminded us of the allegations of corruption at the court involving Jarun, money, relatives, commissions, covering-up and more, some of it caught on video and posted to YouTube. We won’t go back over it all, but we have added several links for those who are interested.

Of course, we wouldn’t dare say that all of this might be linked and that a pliant and supportive official-cum-judge might have been rewarded. Just saying that the links are interesting.





Updated: Court battle gains some heat

27 04 2013

A few days ago, PPT wrote that we were heartened that the politicized judges at the royalist Constitutional Court were being challenged. Then we noted that these judges deserved to be challenged for their political bias, corruption and, above all, for their seeming inability to comprehend the wording of the constitution they are meant to rule on. Repeatedly, this set of judges have delivered rulings based on their interpretation of what they believe the royalist-military junta and government would have preferred but didn’t actually write into their constitution.

It now seems that the battle with the kangaroo court is heating up. At The Nation it is reported that the government’s “Pheu Thai Party is planning to hold 10 major rallies … in a move to seek public support for its bid to amend the Constitution and push through the Amnesty Bill.” The focus on the bid to change the constitution is a direct challenge to the Constitutional Court. The first rally was due to be held today in Udon Thani followed by another in Khon Kaen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a red shirt protest has been underway for several days, challenging the judges. The Nation reports that these red shirts have been calling for the judges to quit. So this group is calling for impeachment and seeking to have the “Budget Bureau stop paying their salaries.” These red shirts “vowed to continue protesting to pressure the judges to quit or have them find another way out.” There were some minor clashes when some of the red shirts sought to enter the Court’s grounds.

Constitution Court judge Jarun Pukdithanakul opined: “I do not know what is wrong with our country. It is as if boxers are battling referees.” This is the same Jaran who filed a libel case against red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan and who defended the corruption in the Court shown in leaked videos, with him as one of the allegedly corrupt judges. Rather than boxers fighting the referees, the analogy might be that the referees are delivering decisions that have no relationship to the rules, selecting victors according to the bribes they have received.

And when “Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has given a moral support to the Constitutional Court judges, urging them not to be perturbed by the protest,” the politicization of the judges is readily apparent.

Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has featured at PPT for comments that are silly, stupid and always biased, has had the rally recorded and, according to The Nation, has had the Court file “a police complaint against the four red shirts who have been leading the rally outside the court complex, accusing them of defamation and inciting unrest.” The court has accused four red shirt leaders “of violating Articles 136 of the Penal Code in the speeches they delivered in front of some 200 red-shirt demonstrators.”

At the same time, Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong has “written to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking her to provide 24-hour protection for the judges. He said the protection was necessary because the protesters threatened to harm the judges and burn down the courts.”

Finally, and also at The Nation, Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, has “urged the Constitutional Court judges to review their role in order to avoid a political crisis and also called on the red shirts to not opt for violence in their campaign to remove the court’s judges.”

Interestingly, Ukrit said “his commission agreed that the judges’ decision went beyond their jurisdiction.”

Parinya Thewanarumitkul of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, said “the judges should review their ruling on provision 291 of the charter amendment by going beyond their authority as indicated in the Constitution.”

Proving that it is not just judges who are dumb, “red-shirt leader Pongpisit Kongsena, who is spearheading a campaign to oust the Constitutional Court judges, said the group would file a complaint with the police, accusing former Constitutional Court president Chat Chonlaworn of lese majeste.” Using lese majeste is simply a stupidity that deserves to be hosed out like horse manure. It directs attention away from the issue.

Update: According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the four red shirts who have been defamation and inciting unrest are fighting back, urging civil disobedience and citing the Court’s lack of legitimacy, while urging a “capture” of the judges in “citizen’s arrests.” The heat is on high.





With 2 updates: Prostitution and the Constitutional Court judges

4 11 2010

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post continues the mainstream media’s somewhat wishy-washy approach to allegations that some judges in the Constitutional Court and corrupt and compromised.

The editorial refers to Judge Jarun Pukditanakul defending his colleagues, saying they were not “prostitutes” who could be bought. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests something else. And here we can go back even before the current Democrat Party-led coalition. To equate them with prostitutes is unfair to the mostly poor women and men who labor in the sex industry.

The judge believes that the release of the video clips “was the work of some ill-intentioned elements bent on destroying the Constitution Court…”. Maybe the judge should consider who is “ill-intentioned.” It seems to PPT that the clips can be seen as whistle-blowing. Whistle blowers usually seek to expose those who are truly “ill-intentioned.” In this case, judges and court officials.

Unsurprisingly, the Bangkok Post agrees with the judge, observing: “There is little doubt the entire video saga is intended to discredit the Constitution Court.” Think again!

But through metaphorically grinding teeth, the editorial adds: “Still, what the clips reveal, particularly the latest one pertaining to the alleged leak of test papers, must be clarified in a thorough and transparent manner so as to clear any lingering doubts in the public mind. A mere denial and explanation from a single judge is not sufficient. People are perplexed and need to know whether there really was a leak of the test papers, and whether certain judges were involved…. The public appears to have been led to believe there might be some truth to this allegation.”

Does the Post really believe that there is no truth? Of course not! The editorial is simply protecting the privileged. In other words, the Post is complicit in corruption and double standards. Many people are not “perplexed” at all. They understand that the double standards in Thai society underpin and bolster not only elite wealth, but the corruption that adds to their enrichment.

Yes, the Post knows the “Constitution Court is facing its worst crisis of confidence, with its judges implicated in scandalous conduct.” However, their recommendation is misguided: “The judges of the Constitution Court have no choice. They must tell the public the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Who will believe them? Only those who want to believe them. Where is the call for a truly independent investigation? Perhaps the Post realizes that independence is a commodity priced by loyalty and benefit in Abhisit’s Thailand.

Update 1: No one should have expected anything but a whitewash from the Constitutional Court’s own “investigation” of its own alleged corruption and collusion with the ruling Democrat Party. And, as if working under direction, this is what they have managed to quickly decide. The Bangkok Post says: “The Constitution Court panel investigating the release of video clips, some of which allegedly involve its justices, has concluded its inquiry without any recommendations for disciplinary action. Sanit Jora-anan, an adviser to the office of the Constitution Court and head of the panel investigating the video footage, said yesterday the committee had no initial recommendations for disciplinary action against court staff over the matter. No court officials were found to have been involved in filming the clips that appear to feature a closed-door meeting of Constitution Court judges, Mr Sanit said.”

PPT doubts this is the end of it. Such a self-serving outcome won’t even cut the mustard in Abhisit’s warped world of political favoritism and privilege.

Update 2: The Nation has a slightly different account of the “investigation,” saying that the blame for recordings is placed on on sacked court official Pasit Sakdanarong.





Constitutional Court in serious trouble

2 11 2010

When opinion page writer at the Bangkok Post, Nattaya Chetchotiros, abandons the judges, then they are in trouble. She has a solid yellow-shirt/elite position on most things, and now she’s worried that the judges and the Constitutional Court are too compromised to be saved.

Of course, this is about the leaked videos apparently showing the judges negotiating all kinds of special deals for the Democrat Party, arranging cover-ups and even scams on exams. Is this the “rule of law” Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva always bangs on about? Is this the legal system and judiciary he has repeatedly defended?

But back to Nattaya. This is some of what she says:

The release on Friday of a new video featuring a discussion between a former court employee and two men identified as judges has dealt a serious blow to the reputation of the Constitution Court.

The court’s credibility has now been shaken to the core following the release of the latest video clips uploaded on Friday….

She tries to defend the Democrat Party and the court, but it is a battle already lost. The court has been proven to be the preserve of the corrupt and a place where elite interests are preserved from the most major cases down to dirty little scams to help buddies get positions. The judiciary is tarred with the brush that has been painting the colors of corruption and double standards for a considerable time.

One thing Nattaya highlights that PPT had neglected is that “three men shown in the footage, two of them identified as judges as their faces were clearly seen at the beginning of the clip, seemed to be discussing ways to cover up wrongdoings related to the leaking of examination papers to people close to Constitution Court judges…. The exam to recruit court staff was held last year [… and] was supervised by then secretary-general of the court Paiboon Varahapaitoon. Mr Paiboon, now a National Human Rights commissioner, is spoken about in the video for allegedly being involved in the recruitment scam, along with Constitution Court judge Jarun Pukditanakul.”

Paiboon

This is the same Paiboon who recently reckoned that selling flip-flops with Abhisit’s face on them couldn’t be allowed. He was also a member of the junta-appointed Constituent Assembly in 2006. At the quite hopelessly biased NHRC, Paiboon was appointed to chair a NHRC subcommittee, to investigate the events related to the government’s crackdowns on red shirt demonstrators in April and May. Needless to say, that went nowhere. And, even earlier, he was one of those who arranged for the extraordinary events that saw the April 2006 election annulled. He’s been well-rewarded for his yellow-shirted loyalty and he obviously joined that part of the elite that thinks social position trumps all other characteristics usually associated with courts and justice.

Jarun

And what can we say about Judge Jarun Pukditanakul also seen apparently scamming? How about this from a 2008 Asia Sentinel article: “In selecting the first four of the court’s nine judges, the Supreme Court this week chose Jarun Pukditanakul. He became permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry after the coup and was instrumental in drafting the military’s 2007 constitution that he will be tasked to uphold.” Or this from Bangkok Pundit: “Mr Jarun is well known as a strong opponent of Mr Thaksin, while Mr Wasant was a defence witness in a libel suit filed by some former Constitution Court judges against Mr Thaksin’s bitter enemy Prasong Soonsiri, who wrote an article criticising the judges who ruled in favour of the former prime minister in the asset concealment case. The article was published in Naew Na on Aug 28, 2001. Sqn-Ldr Prasong was cleared of the libel charge.” Another elite workhorse rewarded for his loyalty in doing things for this corrupt ruling class.

Will they get a deserved comeuppance? Probably not what they deserve as their bosses are still in the political driving seat. Rule of law? Where?