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.





Wealth, power and the corruption of justice

10 07 2021

With all of the virus stuff going on, we are a bit late getting to this post. However, as it concerns the seemingly never-ending saga of corruption and double standards in the judicial system, it merits a late post.

A few days ago, the Bangkok Post reported that all members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) have been ordered to “sit on a newly formed panel that is tasked with investigating 15 senior police officers, prosecutors and investigators who mishandled the 2012 hit-and-run case involving Vorayuth ‘Boss’ Yoovidh­ya, the Red Bull scion who has managed to escape prosecution so far.”

Apparently, after almost 10 years, the case is officially considered “high profile.” We guess that for all of the previous nine years the case has involved the high profile but that the judicial system was doing its well-paid best to do deals to get Boss off.

Vorayuth Red Bull

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit has also decided, after all these years,”that the investigation must be wrapped up in a timely fashion…”. Right. But, then: “As required under Section 48 of the National Anti-Corruption Act, the NACC must conclude the probe within two years. It will be allowed by law to extend the investigation for another year at most, if more time is needed…”. So that could be 2024…. Timely… not.

The report reminds readers that there are “currently two other committees probing the issue.” We figure that “probing” is an over-statement.

In an editorial, the Bangkok Post states that this NACC “investigation” is “welcome news.” It notes the damage the case’s cover-up has done to the judicial system: “The anti-graft body would do a great service to the justice system and country at large with a swift investigation. It should also make sure to avoid all the mistakes by other agencies that performed at snail’s pace over the past nine years.”

Well, maybe. Of course, the NACC has generally been hopeless on almost all the cases sent to it, “investigating” with double standards and political affiliation always in mind. The rest of the judicial system has been equally biased and corrupt to boot.

The wheeling and dealing has been huge. Even before the NACC commissioners got to “work,” it seems that “one member, Suchart Trakulkasemsuk, withdrew from the panel.” Why? Because as a member of the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly “he had been a member of NLA’s subcommittee on justice and had received a petition from Vorayuth’s family…”.

It turns out that the fabulously wealthy and immensely powerful Yoovidhya family were “allowed 14 appeal attempts … which is unprecedented.”

The Post concludes with the obvious: “the suggested three-year period seems far too long, taking into account the fact the case had dragged on for nearly a decade.”





Blame thyself

11 01 2021

A couple of days ago PPT pointed to an article discussing the long-standing failures of the police.

There’s an another article on police corruption, concentrating on anti-democrat Kaewsan Atibhodhi. Oddly, Thai PBS refers to this royalist propagandist as an “academic,” but that seems par for the course in the mainstream media.

He blames the current virus outbreak as a product of “COVID mafia.” This term refers to “corrupt officials who work hand in glove with local influential figures involved in illegal gambling, in eastern region of Thailand, and with human trafficking gangs, who smuggle migrant workers from Myanmar into Samut Sakhon province and illegal Thai workers from Myanmar back into Thailand.”

Kaewsan

Kaewsan claims that the “mafia system” is a “network” between “state officials and local influential figures…”. He reckons “that the influential figure in Rayong province has managed to buy the entire police force, be it the local police and the Bangkok police, including the Crime Suppression Division, by dealing with just one group of state officials.”

He went on to lament that “he didn’t expect the police will ever be reformed under the present government, and there is no real opposition in the parliament either, but only the vengeful group of politicians and another group bent on toppling the Monarchy.”

We do not disagree with Kaewsan’s assessment. However, as a lamentable royalist and a supporter of two military coups, he misses the most significant point: Kaewsan and his ilk bear considerable responsibility because it is they who, as anti-democrats, have supported the system that promotes this corruption and the impunity enjoyed by military, police and officials. By supporting regimes that roll back notions of responsibility and accountability and make impunity a central element of governance, they reinforce this kind of corruption.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, as we have said, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy.

Because of his complicity, Kaewsan is unable to speak the truth.





A bent legal system

9 01 2021

PPT recommends a long op-ed at Khaosod that focuses on the police. In discussions of the judicial system, PPT generally concentrates on the manipulation of the royalist judicial system – Prachatai has a relevant post, although we think that post overly optimistic.

The Khaosod post is about the long-standing failures of the police.

The corruption of the police is well-documented and amounts to a system.

That system works in the interests of the rich and powerful.

Since the 2006 military coup and especially since the 2014 coup, the police force has not been cleansed or reformed. Rather, it has been made royalist and junta/post-junta regime friendly. Constant corruption operates as a reward for loyalty and a lubrication for the the hierarchy. It is well-known that senior cops are the wealthiest of the corrupt that constitute the regime.

 





Law as political weapon

31 10 2020

It was only a few days ago that we posted on the ever pliant Election Commission deciding to file criminal charges against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for the time when he was with the Future Forward Party. It no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds and for posing a challenge to the ruling regime and the ruling class.

The regime’s strategy, managed by Gen Prawit Wongsuwan and the odious Wissanu Krea-ngam is to tie the upstart opposition (and student protesters) into legal knots.

The Thai Enquirer reports on yet another regime move against the former Future Forward and now heading up the Progressive Movement.

The former leaders of the dissolved Future Forward Party – Thanathorn, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and Pannika Wanichhave – been summoned by police “to hear charges of sedition and other alleged crimes…”. As the newspaper puts it, this is “continuing a judicial campaign against people thought to be behind the current pro-democracy protests.”

Summoning the three is a step taken before issuing arrest warrants.

Piyabutr pointed out the bias and yet more bending of the rules for the regime:

“If the police take off their uniforms and think back to their second year in law school, they would know very well that almost every warrant that was issued [is not a real violation of section 116],” Piyabutr said.

“Thailand is unlucky because these police officers have to throw away everything they learned in order to become part of the government’s mechanism and serve the people in power,” he added.

A Bangkok Post picture

That the judicial system is now a tool for repression is now widely acknowledged – we have been saying it for years – with even the Bangkok Post’s opinion page scribbler Thitinan Pongsudhirak writing:

When Thailand’s justice system issues decisions that have political ramifications, fewer people are holding their breath these days because conclusions are increasingly foregone. In fact, when the historical record comes into fuller view, it will be seen that the politicisation of the judiciary has fundamentally undermined Thailand’s fragile democratic development and reinforced authoritarian rule that has been resurgent over the past 15 years.

He adds something else we have been saying for years:

The lesson is that Thailand’s political party system has been deliberately weakened and kept weak to keep established centres of power in the military, monarchy, judiciary, and bureaucracy paramount and decisive. No democracy can take root until voters have an equal say on how they are to be governed without the usurpation and distortion of party dissolutions and power plays behind the scenes.

The point of the junta’s time in power was to ensure that there was 20 years of non-democracy.





Updated: The political judiciary

28 10 2020

From long being a pretty somnolent part of the bureaucracy, in the 21st century, Thailand’s judiciary has shown that it can move politics in particular directions. The judiciary has demonstrated a capacity for politicized decision-making that has supported rightist, royalist and military interests. Its double standards are now legendary.

Sure, sometimes a court makes a decision that goes against the political grain, but these are exceptions to what is now a rule.

The most politicized of judges, who do as they are required, get rewarded. The most recent is the appointment of Nurak Mapraneet as a privy councilor. He is a former president of the Constitutional Court. He became court president in 2007 following the 2006 military coup. During his tenure there, the Court dissolved six political parties, removed two prime ministers, nullified the 2014 election, banned scores of politicians, and accepted a king’s announcement as law. Quite a record and now he’s rewarded.

All of this is a preamble to an observation that the judicial system and the courts are again being used by the regime as a political weapon.

A couple of days ago, Thai Enquirer published a list of Thailand’s latest political prisoners. It is a list of list of university students, activists, and musicians who have been charged, since 18 July 2020, under Article 116 with sedition (21 persons) and Article 110 for committing an act of violence against the queen or her liberty (3 persons). It notes that “at least 60 other protestors have been charged for joining the pro-democracy protests between October 13 and October 24, according to TLHR and Amnesty International.” Many of these were charged with violating the emergency decree. Astoundingly, that number includes “two children, aged 16 and 17, and they will be prosecuted even though the severe state of emergency decree was lifted…”.

The courts get involved in these cases almost from the beginning. From a phase where those arrested were soon bailed by the courts, that has now ceased for those deemed to be “leaders.” It is as if an order has come from higher up, telling the judges not to release them. For example, there have been several instances where the political detainees have been granted bail and then immediately arrested on other charges. The most recent example is human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was bailed by a Chiang Mai Court and then immediately re-arrested and transported to Bangkok by road to face another period in detention.

As was the pattern in lese majeste cases, we see the judiciary, police and corrections being used to punish, detain, and harass. We refer to this as “lese majeste torture.” The most awful example was the treatment meted out to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. He’s now in jail and denied bail again. Also well aware of this tactic, having also been a lese majeste prisoner, is Akechai Hongkangwarn. He’s now denied bail on a spurious Article 110 charge.

Then there are the young “leaders.” Not only are they repeatedly denied bail, but the system ensures that they are treated to all the feudal rules of the prison system. While they have not yet had their heads shaved, they are given king-approved haircuts and made to wear prison uniforms and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul has been made to “dye her hair natural black,” if those words from the Bangkok Post make any sense at all.

But none of this makes much sense. It is just a dictatorial regime acting under orders.

Update: Khaosod reports that police are looking to charge some 16 persons: “Deputy Bangkok police chief Piya Tawichai told the media yesterday the police were gathering evidence to prosecute the embassy protesters…. Maj. Gen. Piya said a number of laws were violated, such as the public assembly act and libel.” Pro-democracy activists Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa are among those being “investigated.”

It is not reported whether the police are taking similar action against the yellow shirts who protested at the same embassy before the pro-democracy thousands.





Updated: More judicial contortion

27 10 2020

Two legal cases suggest just how hopeless the situation has become under the junta.

The first is a case that is, for many, at he core of the rebellion currently seen in the country. Back in February, the Constitutional Court tied itself in knots by bending laws to order the Future Forward Party dissolved over a loan to the party from Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, conjuring the loan into a gift. It also banned Thanathorn and the members of FFP executive committee from politics from 10 years. It cleared all other pro-regime parties of similar charges.

Now, the ever pliant Election Commission today decided to file criminal charges against Thanathorn. Of course they are. Is it no coincidence that the regime believes Thanathorn behind the rallies. In addition, its pretty clear he’s being punished for his questioning of the monarch’s use of taxpayer funds.

This sounds a bit like pouring gas on a fire. But neither the regime nor the king are particularly thoughtful.

The second story is about the Army’s murder of Chaiyapoom Pasae. The Civil Court has ignored all of the evidence of the Army’s culpability, withholding of evidence and track record of filing the same evidence in two cases, to dismiss a case against the Army. It seems it is far better to side with the Army and believe its “witnesses” than to risk abolishing the impunity the Army enjoys.

Double standards, again and again and again.

Update: Prachatai has a useful report on Chaiyapoom’s case. It details the problems with the evidence and judgement. The courts under the junta and the regime have become a joke.





Updated: Who paid?

9 09 2020

A Bangkok Post editorial claims “[t]he public was left stunned last week when the results were unveiled by Mr Vicha [Mahakun], a former national graftbuster” that investigated the “mishandling in the hit-and-run case involving Red Bull scion Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya…”.

Frankly, we think that no one was stunned by the revelations but perhaps some were stunned that an investigation got close to the truth. Everyone in Thailand knew that the police and justice system were doing all they could to ease things for the filthy rich Yoovidhya clan.

That the investigating panel immediately found “eight groups of individuals who conspired and committed malpractice that resulted in the dropping of all charges against Mr Vorayuth…” confirmed what everyone had guessed.

That both police and public prosecutors were identified was no surprise but perhaps the accusation that “members of the junta-installed National Legislative Assembly and politicians of intervening in the investigation” are also identified might have been something of a surprise.

Then there were the expected conclusions that “lawyers and witnesses [gave] … false testimony…”.

It was, as most knew, “a conspiracy” for the rich extending over eight years. This is how the judicial system works for the rich. This is the double standards that are normalized.

The editorial hints at ongoing cover-ups: the panel cleared the prosecutor who finally dropped the charges. It was only after a public outcry that anything was done to reverse the downward spiral that favored a scion of the richest.

The next and most obvious question is: who paid and/or rewarded these officials to act in the interests of the rich? Will we ever learn the truth? Will those offering the payoffs be charged?

Update: Khaosod reports on leaked conversations between police and the public prosecutor. Published by Isra News, the phone conversation “discussed ways to amend the speed Vorayuth … Yoovidhya was driving when he … killed the policeman.”The classic bit:

“I kindly ask the commander since the prosecutor office wants to help. We want them to feel relieved. They intend to help as much as they can, so I want to ask you frankly.”





Updated: Judiciary exposed

6 10 2019

Thailand’s judiciary has been a pliant and willing arm of the ruling class, and courts like the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court have been politicized. Most Thais understand that the judiciary’s standards are double standards. Justice is certainly not blind.

These aspects of the (in)justice system have been tragically on display after a judge shot himself in court. This is how Khaosod reported that event:

Yala senior judge Khanakorn Pianchana pulled out a handgun and shot himself in the chest inside a courtroom moments after he acquitted five defendants of murder and firearm charges. In a court filing leaked on social media after his suicide attempt, Khanakorn said he was pressured by his supervisor to find the men guilty despite lack of evidence.

Khanakorn’s statements were written inside a full court verdict, which is typically released to the press after a ruling.

The judge said he was threatened by regional justice chief Permsak Saisrithong to deliver a guilty verdict on the five defendants, or Khanakorn himself would be placed under a disciplinary hearing if he disobeys.

Khanakorn said he could not bring himself to condemn the men due to lack of hard evidence. If found guilty, the defendants would have faced death penalty.

The Bangkok Post reported that Khanakorn earlier posted a 25-page ruling online:

The document states the case he was hearing concerned national security and was related to secret association, conspiracy and gun-law offences.

The document allegedly described disagreements among senior judges over the case ruling, in which Mr Khanakorn reportedly decided to acquit all five defendants.

Messages reading “Return the ruling to the judges” and “Return justice to the people” were repeated three times in the document. The Court of Justice has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the circulated document.

The initial response of the Office of the Judiciary was to blame Khanakorn, saying he “had apparently acted out of stress from personal issues.” As ever, it said it would launch an investigation (read this as “launch a cover-up”).

Those who have seen the injustice of the judicial system were quick to point out the apparent meddling in the case, seemingly for political reasons. But the defense of the judicial system was strong and perverted.

Poramate Intarachumnum, chief of the Department of Thonburi Criminal Litigation, cited in the Bangkok Post, “said the public should withhold their criticism for the time being because what they read might turn out to be true.” That’s also a kind of blaming the victim. It was also part of a developing and truly bizarre deep yellow conspiracy theory-cum-plot. Supporters of the junta-cum-government claimed a political plot, masterminded by the Future Forward Party. The “evidence” being that that opposition party chairs a parliamentary committee on justice and, most grotesquely, that the judge, now recovering, had deliberately not intended to kill himself…. This lot seem ready to believe any concocted “plot.”

Meanwhile, the Court of Justice has insisted that nothing is wrong in the (in)justice system. Its Secretary-general Sarawut Benjakul said “his office … would submit the case to the Judicial Commission, a panel of judges who make decisions concerning themselves by voting.” That is said to be an “independent agency” being “independent.” In fact, it is analogous to cases where the military vets itself – a cover-up results.

Of course, the judiciary is anything but independent. Rather, it is a part of the bureaucracy.

It is known that as the case was “deemed important, Mr Khanakorn had to send it to the Region 9 chief judge’s office for a review.”

When the ruling reached the regional chief judge’s office, two senior judges reviewed it first and wrote on the memo that they disagreed with it. The regional chief judge then allegedly stamped “confidential” on the memo and ordered Mr Khanakorn to rewrite the ruling based on the opinions of his superiors.

Mr Khanakorn pointed out one of the two high-ranking judges who reviewed his ruling had checked it out before and made changes only in minor details. He said he could not help but suspect he might have agreed with his ruling but something had changed his mind later.

A Bangkok Post picture

Mr Khanakorn wrote that by law, if a chief judge disagrees with a ruling, he must put it in writing in the document. It didn’t happen in this case and instead Mr Khanakorn was told in confidence to reverse the ruling to convict the five defendants.

“If I complied with his request, there would have been no evidence in the case files showing that the conviction, instead of the acquittal, was the result of the chief judge’s order. Instead, it will be on me and my panel of judges who signed the ruling,” he wrote.

“If I complied with the order, three of the defendants would have been executed for first-degree murder — there’s no lesser penalty to choose from — and two others would have been imprisoned as accomplices.

“The confidential memo also said if I insisted on acquitting them, I must detain them during an appeal, which makes no sense to me.”

He added that if he defied the order, he would be investigated and eventually he would have to quit.

In Khanakorn’s view, “the case was not related to national security or terrorism. Yet all evidence and witnesses were acquired while the five were detained under martial law and emergency laws which allow detention of up to 30 days without charges, although the laws are intended for security or terrorism cases only.” He seemed to consider that the defendants had been framed by the police. That’s not unusual for Thailand’s police and nor for the military.

Suspiciously, “a spokesman of for the Region 4 Forward Command of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), said security officials had never interfered with the justice system…”. He’s lying.

Update: As usually happens in regime cover-ups, those protecting themselves and their comfortable and powerful position have decided to “investigate” for so-called disciplinary offenses, and will probably charge the judge who shot himself. This blames the victim and takes the heat off those who make the problems. These are quite awful and exceptionally nasty people who have learned from their peers and their predecessors that they have impunity, so long as they line up with the great and the good.





Judicial politicization

26 07 2019

Thailand’s courts have long been pretty hopeless. In this century they have become highly politicized, with judges doing their “duty” as royalists.

In yet another example of this politicization of the judiciary, The Nation reports that in a trial that began in 2015, the Criminal Court has “acquitted four key members of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee on insurrection charges.” It might be defunct, but as the cheerleaders for the 2014 military coup and for the current military-backed regime, it gets credit and protection from the royalist establishment.

The court acquitted found Sonthiyan Chuenruethainaitham, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Sombat Thamrongthanyawong and the bewigged Seri Wongmontha of a huge list of charges “related to the Bangkok Shutdown protests against the Yingluck [Shinawatra] government from May 23 2013 to May 1 2014.” They were:

charged by public prosecutors with insurrection, inciting public disturbances, unlawful gathering, gathering in a group of more than 10 persons to use arms to cause disturbances and to harm others, inciting the public to stop working to pressure the government, and unlawful entries of government offices and others’ properties….

The four defendants were charged with violating Articles 113, 116, 117, 209, 210, 215, 362, 364, and 365 of the Criminal Code and with obstructing the holding of an election by the Election Commission and thus violating Articles 76, 152, and 8 of the 2007 election act. The public prosecutors filed charges against the four in the court in 2014.

With the boss (clipped from Bangkok Post)

Of course, these four were all heavily and publicly involved in the actions that led to the charges. Readers will know that hundreds of red shirts have been convicted and jailed of similar charges. The double standards are obvious and perennial.

The court’s “reasoning” for the acquittals on the spurious “grounds that while they joined the PDRC-led protests against the Yingluck government, they were not leaders who gave orders to the protesters.” All of them were close to the anti-democrat leadership and appeared on the PDRC stages, urging protesters to engage in illegal action. They denied this and the court agreed.

In addition:

The court also cited a ruling by the Constitutional Court on case number of 59/2556 to acquit the four. The Constitutional Court ruled that the PDRC demonstrators had constitutional rights based on Article 63 of the then charter to demonstrate out of dissatisfaction with the Yingluck administration enacting an amnesty law to try to whitewash former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As far as we are aware, no such decision has been applied to red shirts.

Suthep Thaugsuban and other anti-democrats were in the court to cheer the decision.

The Bangkok Post reports that 28 other anti-democrats face similar charges.

Meanwhile, as reported at The Nation, the politicized Constitutional Court seems to be preparing for its decisions that will likely go against the Future Forward Party and its leaders.

 

It has “warned that critics of its rulings could face prosecution for contempt of court if they unfairly attack its judgments or use expletives in public comments.”

The court warned that under junta-enacted law, “criticism of the court should be done in an honest manner, with no use of expletives or sarcastic or vengeful language. This provision also refers to comments made on the Internet or in social media…”.

The court has stated that it “will enforce this law as much as it is necessary in order to ensure justice in an efficient and fair manner…”. In other words, it is prepared to jail those who disagree with the court;s politicized verdicts.