Heroes and villains

14 02 2019

The Supreme Court has 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 may be seen as a late but appropriate judicial recognition of PAD’s illegal actions.

Chamlong Srimuang, Sondhi Limthongkul, Pibhop Dhongchai, Somkiat Pongpaibul, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila were charged with “breaking into Government House and damaging property there during the protests they led against the Samak Sundaravej government from May to December 2008.”

But the process involved shows how the sentences have been reduced through the judicial process. Originally they were sentenced “to two years’ jail each, commuted from three years due to their useful testimony.” That was reduced by the Appeals Court “to eight months in jail, commuted from one year.”

However, the “Supreme Court ruled that their demonstration was not peaceful, as they claimed, because their supporters broke into Government House.” Apparently, this means that occupying Government House grounds for seven months, seeking to prevent an elected government from operating is okay.

A Bangkok Post editorial is closer to the mark, noting that PAD’s leaders “resorted to extremism and violence, sexed up by hate speech.” It also observes that PAD “set up armed and unarmed forces who mingled among protesters … and used tens of thousands of their protesters as human shields against the police crackdown.”

That PAD’s “ruthless operations” served as a model for red shirts and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee cannot be disputed.

The Post’s history of support for the yellow-shirted and PDRC movements seems forgotten. So too are the double standards of the judiciary in the sentencing of red shirts versus the treatment of yellow shirts.

This should remind us that, in the current political climate that emphasizes “loyalty,” the PAD leaders going to jail means they become heroes and martyrs in the renewed battle against the villainous Thaksin Shinawatra and for the monarchy.





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.





Responding to threats

23 01 2019

Interestingly, the Bangkok Post has been forced to apologize to the whole judiciary for an editorial criticizing the judges over their intimidation of activists in Chiang Mai.

The editorial pointed to events concerning the luxury housing project for judicial staff that gobbled up several rai of forest on Doi Suthep.

That the Post had to replace today’s editorial with a “clarification.” One can only imagine the pressure brought to bear on the editor for getting a couple of details just a little skewed.

Under the junta, the judiciary has become powerful and virtually untouchable at the same time that the judiciary has declined as an institution and become a politicized rabble that often displays double standards and an ability to warp law in favor of the great, the good and the judges themselves.





Corrupting the judicial system

20 12 2018

We recommend Khemthong Tonsakulrungruang’s recent blog at New Mandala titled “Corrupting Thailand’s Court of Justice.” It begins:

A coup cannot be carried out by the military alone. In Thailand’s case, watchdog agencies and the judiciary helped not only to pave the way for the most recent coups in 2006 and 2014, they also contributed to sustaining the ensuing regimes. Some, like the National Anti-Corruption Commission, refuse to investigate the junta’s corruption scandals even while pursuing those of its foes. Others, like the courts, punish dissent to keep opposition at bay. The junta has returned the favour with promotions, salary increases and other perks.

All of that makes the whole article worthy of a solid reading.





Judiciary and corruption

26 10 2018

PPT has posted many times on the politicization of the judiciary. Most of these posts related to a period before the military dictatorship, when the judiciary was used by the royalist ruling class to harass elected governments and prevent them from governing.

This period of deep politicization lasted from April 2006 when the then king ordered judges to intervene until the 2014 military coup, and included a judicial coup in 2008. Since that coup, the judiciary has had a back seat doing the dominant junta’s bidding.

There’s been less attention to the corruption of the judiciary. A report in the Bangkok Post highlights this and the double standards that are so essential to the royalist ruling class.

The report highlights an instance where “[j]Judges have voted in favour of impeaching a member of the Judicial Commission, Bankruptcy Court chief judge Chamnan Rawiwanpong…”. It implies that this is the first time this has happened.

The report states that “Chamnan was accused of  abusing his authority as a judicial commissioner in the matter of an inheritance case handled by lower court judges at Chachoengsao Provincial Court. The case involved his wife’s family.”

A corrupt judge being sacked? No.

In fact, at this stage, the corrupt judge is removed from his “duties as a member of the Judicial Commission…”. But, “[t]he impeachment was separate from Mr Chamna’s duties at the Bankruptcy Court. He was still chief judge of the court…”.

In other words, a corrupt judge continues as a chief judge.





Reporting lese majeste

3 10 2018

Two recent articles in The Nation reflect on lese majeste and both deserve some attention.

The first story is a poignant account of Nattathida Meewangpla’s case and the personal impact it has had. Nattathida’s misery over a lese majeste charge cannot be separated from the fact that she is a “key witness in the 2010 killings at Bangkok’s Wat Pathum Wanaram…”. She is currently on bail on the lese majeste case.

Being held in prison and without bail since March 2015 until her recent successful bail application was a form of lese majeste torture that has been repeatedly used by this regime and others before them.

She refers to fellow inmates who “knew how long they had to serve in prison before they could return home. But I didn’t have any hope. I had no idea what the punishment would be.”

Now also accused of lese majeste, she walked free on bail last month but has no idea when she’ll be back in jail.

Described as “a successful businesswoman, the mother of two boys and a part-time volunteer nurse” the charges she faced related to “terrorism” and lese majeste meant “her world collapsed almost overnight.”

In jail, she was harassed “for being a red-shirt supporter.” But it was when she was initially bailed on “terrorism” charges and then abducted by unknown officials even before she had left the gates of the prison and banged up again, on a concocted lese majeste charge, that she really struggled with the deliberate effort to break her. The military didn’t want a witness to the Wat Pathum Wanaram massacre talking.

She says she “became mentally unhinged,” adding: “I was shattered. It was beyond anger what I felt. It was intensely frustrating…”.

What would you do if you were me? Everybody at some point got to go home but I had to stay. What in the world? Why was did the trial go so slowly? What was I supposed to think when other inmates were suggesting I was being buried in the forgotten cell? There was no hope.”

Nattathida “knows she could be returned to prison at any moment. She refrained from talking about any mistreatment or discrimination because of uncertainty over her future.”

The second story is not particularly new but makes a point about the regime’s current lese majeste strategy. As we have noted, the military dictatorship, probably prodded by the palace, has decided to ease up on its use of lese majeste, replacing it with other charges like sedition and computer crimes.

The story cites iLaw’s documentation center head, Anon Chawalawan on the declining use of lese majeste. We do not necessarily agree with iLaw’s count of lese majeste cases, but there was a peak in cases in 2014 following the coup and into 2015, and then a decline following that.

Anon is correct in noting that immediately after the 2014 coup the military was clearing up cases, but not exactly as expressed in the article. The junta was using the law to attack mainly red shirts and others it considered “republicans.”

Anon stated that “during the military-led rule from 2014 to 2015, at least 61 people were prosecuted under Article 112…”. That’s a significant under-estimate. Our case lists suggests it was closer to 200 cases filed.

That makes the fact that there have been no reports of Article 112 cases this year all the more notable. That charges have been dropped, sometimes without any stated reason or explanation, is suggestive of high-level direction being given to the judiciary.

In this report, Anon is not quoted as saying anything about the use of other, “replacement” charges.

What we see, reading between line, that the junta feels that the anti-monarchists have been defeated or at least silenced (at least in country). It also seems that the argument that mammoth sentences and a huge number of cases does damage to the regime’s international reputation and to the monarchy may have been accepted for the moment. The change of practice also suggests that the military-royalist regime feels confident it can control politics going forward.