Corrupt justices, corrupt regime

6 04 2021

Yesterday, PPT posted on a possible corruption case involving “current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials…”.

Such a bombshell has received muffled attention and another cover-up might be expected. Even so, as the Bangkok Post reports, the Courts of Justice have felt compelled to provide a comment, although it is of the usual slippery variety, telling the taxpaying public that “they will take action against any judges found to have taken bribes linked to a tax dispute involving a Thai subsidiary of automaker Toyota.”

Well, maybe, for the claims are dismissed: “the office said claims without grounds that judges involved with bribery often happen during legal disputes.” Such claims were described as “bogus.” In other words, like Mafia dons they say “forget about it.”

Helpfully, Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Office of the Judiciary, “explains” that:

… the case in the focus involves a tax dispute worth about 10 billion baht between Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) and tax authorities over the imports of parts for Prius cars.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision to review the dispute was announced on March 29 and the case is now pending hearings and has yet to be finalised.

He urged the public to investigate and not to rush to conclusions when bribery allegations against judges emerge.

“The Supreme Court has yet to hear and rule on the case. It just agreed to hear it and the granting of the request is line with laws which allow the Supreme Court to hear the case when it sees fit,” he said.

So, the Supreme Court decided to “review the dispute” and announced this on 29 March, the very day that Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges.” That was just 10 days after the first media report of the Toyota case. How convenient.

The clarification is in response to foreign media reports.

Thailand’s Mafia dons also appear in a separate Bangkok Post report.

Palang Pracharath Party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his and his party’s “support behind former national police chief [Gen] Chakthip Chaijinda for the upcoming Bangkok governor election…”. The junta appointed the sitting governor, also a former top cop, and Gen Prawit expects to be able to maintain that control.

To get the job done, Gen Prawit has reportedly assigned Mafia boss, convicted heroin trafficker, and moneybags, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao to arrange the election for the party.

That’s a neat idea: a former felon will assist a former top cop. Cops are used to dealing with “dark influences” in Thailand, often working in partnership for mutual wealth creation.

One of the outcomes of coup and military dictatorship has been the alliance of the twin evils of dark influences and dark power.





Judges and Toyota

5 04 2021

At the end of March, Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges,” written by Frank G. Runyeon. It is a story about Toyota investigating and reporting itself on possible corruption in Thailand.

It took more than six months of internal investigation “before Toyota disclosed concerns to U.S. authorities…” in April 2020.

It found that “its consultants paid off Thai judges and government officials in an effort to overturn a $350 million import tax judgment related to its Prius cars…”. The report states:

… documents obtained exclusively by Law360 and court filings in a related case show the company previously conducted its own investigation led by counsel at WilmerHale. Code-named “Project Jack,” it sought to determine whether Toyota Motor Thailand violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the U.K. Bribery Act by making payments to outside law firms or consultants that may have been passed to or shared with Thai judges, court advisers or others in an effort to secure a favorable outcome in the Prius tax case….

Titled “TMC Thailand Inquiry: Background & Protocol for Document Review,” the guidelines were distributed to several teams of reviewers poring over millions of company documents dating back to 2012 with help from more than a dozen attorneys and translators. The protocol appeared to show that Toyota was concerned about possible corrupt payments to current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials….

In the Prius matter, Thai customs officials had accused Toyota of shorting the government 11 billion baht, or about $350 million today, in import taxes over a two-year period because the company did not use Thai assembly lines to build Prius cars there and instead imported pre-assembled cars, according to a WilmerHale case summary. A loss for Toyota would make its import tax obligation skyrocket from 10% to 80% of the cars’ value.

Back then, Toyota challenged the tax judgment in the courts. Its investigation was to determine “if and how payments were made,” and also “sought to confirm the amounts and whether any such payments were hidden, made indirectly, diverted to others,” ore were otherwise illegally made.

In particular, a “key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thailand Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota’s case.”

We guess the next question is whether this case will go the way of the Rolls Royce corruption when some $18.8 million was alleged to have been paid by Rolls-Royce to “regional intermediaries” and ended up in the pockets of “agents of the State of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways…”.





Regime’s judges deepen repression

11 03 2021

Human Rights Watch:

Thailand’s Bangkok Criminal Court has ordered three prominent democracy activists to pretrial detention on charges of insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today. The order could leave them detained for years until their trial is concluded….

“There is a growing pattern of Thai activists charged with lese majeste being sent to long periods of pretrial detention,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Courts should uphold the right to the presumption of innocence and ensure all fair trial procedures are observed.”

… The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail should be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said….

“Thai authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lese majeste law and allow a broad-based discussion to bring the law into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations,” Adams said.

Amnesty International:

The denial of bail for four protest leaders on Monday (8 March) is “tantamount to a systematic suppression of freedom of expression and freedom of opinion” in Thailand, says Amnesty International, who calls on the government to end legal prosecution against dissenting voices….

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand said:

“It is profoundly worrying that the Thai authorities are systematically prosecuting a large number of protest leaders and demonstrators. In certain cases, the suspects may face up to 15 years of imprisonment. This is a severe and disproportionate punishment. Given the normally protracted period of trial, the prosecution of dissenters or critics of the government is being weaponized to silence and retaliate against those who dare to challenge the state power.”

“Mass prosecutions and denial of bail demonstrate how the justice process is being used as a tool to brazenly attack the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People are entitled to legitimate rights to express themselves and participate in activities concerning social issues.

“The Thai authorities must stop treating critics as if they are criminals or a threat to national security. They must be released and the charges against them must be immediately dropped in the condition where there is an insufficient evidence under international criminal standard.”

Should anyone thinks that the courts are involved in anything other than “lawfare,” we suggest a careful reading of a Prachatai report, where it refers to the “[b]izarre treatment of pro-democracy protesters…”. It mentions several anomalies:

The court’s rejection of bail for 4 pro-democracy activists on 8 March is raising questions about procedural irregularities as 3 of them were taken from court before they were allowed the opportunity to complete bail requests, while another was sent to a prison other than the one designated by the court.

Corrections Department Director-General Ayut Sinthoppan said that several political prisoners were transferred from Bangkok Remand Prison to Thon Buri Remand Prison to “ease overcrowding.” Lawyers and families were left in the dark.

At least 58 people now face lese majeste charges and none of them will be treated fairly or legally.





Courts uphold military coups

31 01 2021

We are slow in getting to this story, and many readers will have seen it at Prachatai (with a date error in the final lines). We were going to write that this is a “remarkable story,” but nothing is particularly remarkable in a country that has an erratic monarch who favors neo-absolutism and a “civilianized” military junta that has maintained tight control since its military coup in 2014.

On 26 January, the Appeals Court “found Pholawat Warodomputthikul, 28, a former technician in Rayong, guilty under the sedition law for distributing leaflets expressing opposition to the 2014 coup.”

For opposing a military coup, made “legal” after the event by a pliant judiciary, “Pholawat was sentenced to 4 months in prison,” but “commuted the prison sentence to 2 years on parole.”

The leaflets reportedly stated:

“Wake up!!! and stand up to fight already … Everyone who loves democracy … Dictators shall fall. Long live democracy,” with an image of the three-finger salute, with the message “Liberty, equality, fraternity, oppose the coup.”

Most of the “leaflets were distributed in Rayong province, which, the court ruled, showed the intention to rally people who share Pholawat’s political ideas to oppose the government led by Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of the junta which had seized power.”

The court “ruled” that such opposition to the [illegal] coup, “might cause disorder or violence among people to the point that it may have caused unrest in the country, and does not constitute honest criticism…”. In fact, it was absolutely honest and an action protected by the constitution had it not been trashed by the junta.

The court’s verdict mangled and conccoted to justify its support for military coups. Much of the court’s verdict, as it is reported, reads like it was put together by the junta itself.

Pholawat plans to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.





Dead dog lese majeste

17 01 2021

A few days ago, The Nation reported that, after more than five years, including seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months held in prison, a court had finally dismissed the most ludicrous of lese-majeste charges that royalist Thailand has ever mounted. Along with equally mad sedition and computer crime charges associated with the Army’s corrupt Rajabhakti Park royal project, the Article 112 charges against Thanakorn Siripaiboon were all dismissed.

The lese majeste and computer crimes charges resulted from Thanakorn clicking “like” on a Facebook page featuring a satirical picture of King Bhumibol and for a Facebook post about that king’s mutt, Thong Daeng. It is reported that the “court dismissed that charge … ruling that the evidence was not proof that he intended to defame the monarchy.”

The court dismissed the other charges, “upholding Thanakorn’s legal right to air his suspicions of corruption. It also ruled he had not violated the Computer Crime Act because it could not be proved the information he shared was false.” According to a more detailed Prachatai report, the court ruled that “the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition.

While good news, the court’s “reasoning” on the lese majeste case indicates that the judiciary remains royalist mad:

With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.

Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.

And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.

Thanakorn has since ordained as a monk.





Legal repression

10 12 2020

A uniformed King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida were present for the dedication ceremony “to open a new Supreme Court Office in Bangkok’s Phra Nakhon district on Monday.” The link between the palace and the judiciary is remarkably feudal.

Since 2006, when the dead king activated the judiciary into public judicial activism, the courts have been loyal allies of coup-makers, generals and the right and royalists. and has been significant in political repression and ensuring Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s regime remained in office.

Since student-led protesters rose again in July, the judicial system has been the regime’s principal institution in repressing the protesters.

Keeping up with the avalanche of charges against protesters is difficult indeed. One summary, at Prachatai, is from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights and they:

reported the case statistics from the first protest on 18 July to the night of 7 December. In the past 4 months and 20 days, 220 people have faced 119 charges. Most are related to unannounced protests under the Public Assembly Act.

149 people have been charged with violations of the emergency decree, and 18 charges are related to the withdrawn severe state of emergency. There are also 56 people who were arrested on the spot during the 16 October crackdown.

Among all those charged, 5 are under the age of 18 who face 7 charges. The lowest age is 16. The sedition law has been used against a 17-year-old youth.

24 people have been charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse majesté law), 53 under Section 116 (the sedition law), and 5 under Section 110 (violating the Queen’s liberty).

Now that lese majeste is back in a big way, protesters and commentators are again targeting the law for abolition and/or revision.





The king, his servants, and the monarchy question

20 11 2020

Clipped from Thisrupt

Thisrupt reports on the rally at Parliament House and the speeches made, many of them “addressed directly to [the] … King … by his first name, Vajiralongkorn, and openly mocked his rule.”

As mentioned in a previous post, they launched red balloons where the “words written on them were, ‘I order you to be under the constitution,’ using the “derogatory กู (gu) as the pronoun for ‘I’ and มึง (mueng) as ‘you’.”

The report concludes that “at the heart of Thailand’s political conflict is the monarchy question.”

While Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha promises to use all laws against the protesters, hinting that Article 112 on lese majeste may be back in the regime’s arsenal, the king continues to reward hard-line favorites.

The Bangkok Post reports that the king has “has appointed former army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong deputy director of the Crown Property Bureau.”

He was already a member of the Board, appointed after he retired from the Army and was made a deputy chamberlain in the palace. Now he’s catapulted to a level just behind the prince-cum-king’s long-serving Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol.

Gen Apirat is notoriously hot-headed and the most ardent of ultra-royalists.

King and his new, favorite minion, Gen Apirat (right). Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Interestingly, pro-democracy demonstrators have announced that their next rally will be “outside the Crown Property Bureau on Nov 25…”.

At the same time, the king’s supporters are becoming increasingly rabid and going ever more supine. The picture below has circulated on social media. It claims to show Supreme Court President Methinee Chalothorn. LIke all judges, she believes the courts and judges owe their allegiance to the king rather than to the law and justice for all people. Perhaps more than others, she has demonstrated her subservience to the king.

So far  the demonstrators haven’t given much attention to the judiciary. Perhaps they should as it is a pillar of the establishment they seek to reform. Like the king, the judiciary needs to be reformed and brought under the constitution. The double standards and politicization need to be reversed. The neo-feudalism of the judiciary is a roadblock to reform.





With a major update: Another night, more protests

18 11 2020

As parliament convened to discuss charter amendment, first a small gang of conservative yellow shirts rallied and then a very large pro-democracy protest converged on parliament.

Before getting to the rallies, a comment on Parliament President and former prime minister Chuan Leekpai’s daft comment on charter change and parliament. He declared that “protesters from the two opposing sides in the political conflict to leave the politicians alone so they can get on with their job.” He said: “Don’t pressure them into voting one way or another…. Better to just let them vote independently.”

Chuan seems to misunderstand parliamentary democracy, where protesters regularly seek to influence parliamentarians. More revealing of a dull mind is the notion that this parliament can be “independent.” This is a parliament where the Senate was appointed by the junta and that, with the help of the judiciary and Election Commission, the junta rigged the parliament. There is strikingly little independence.

In any case, the regime is opposing constitutional change. Neo-fascist royalist and deputy leader of the Palang Pracharath Party, Paiboon Nititawan, “has urged fellow MPs who want to protect the Monarchy to reject the draft constitutional amendment proposed by … iLaw …, claiming that it is unconstitutional because the organization accepts foreign funding.”

Without being too flippant, we guess that Paiboon’s “logic” would mean that many of Thailand’s government of agencies “unconstitutional.” That would include the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Public Health, but we digress….

The day of rallies began with Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of the ultra-royalist Thai Pakdee group, arriving to present a letter to the president of the unelected, royalist, pro-regime Senate to oppose any changes to the current constitution.

Interesting, The Nation’s “timeline” on the protests (plural) does not say much about the yellow shirts. It doesn’t mention that the yellow shirts were welcomed at the parliament, but does note that “only three groups had been granted permission to protest: “the ultraroyalist Thai Phakdee, People Political groups, and a monarchy protection group.” The Nation does briefly mention yellow-shirted mobs attacking pro-democracy protesters. These attacks came from within the parliament precinct supposedly closed off by police.

The pro-democracy protesters were met with police barricades and repeated splashings of water and tear gas.

Clipped from Prachatai

Legislators began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed at nearby Kiak Kai intersection in Bangkok on Tuesday evening.

When the yellow shirted mob threw bricks, rocks and other things at pro-democracy protesters, at a police barricade at the Kiak Kai intersection, some of the latter responded. Police did not intervene. But, the yellow shirts melted away, as if supported by the authorities.

Meanwhile, legislators “began leaving the parliament by boats as government supporters and pro-democracy demonstrators clashed…”.

The pro-democracy protesters eventually made it to the plaza in front of parliament, made lots of speeches, urging change and withdrew about 9pm.

The Bangkok Post initially reported that 18 were injured, only one a policeman. Thai PBS later reported “[a]t least 34 people were injured…”.

Pro-democracy protesters called for a return to Rajaprasong today.

Update: Several reports have emerged regarding the protest at parliament. In out view, the most important is in a Bangkok Post report: “Six people were wounded by gunshots during the clashes.” Then there is this, in another Bangkok Post report:

A pro-monarchy supporter caught with a pistol and ammunition at the rally site in Kiak Kai area, near parliament, on Tuesday night told police he carried the firearm for self-defence.

Kasidit Leelamuktanan, 35, was detained by soldiers from the 1st Calvary Battalion. They seized a .357 pistol and 10 bullets from him and reported it to Tao Poon police around 8.30pm.

During police interrogation, Mr Kasidit admitted he took part in the pro-monarchy demonstration on Tuesday, but said he had the pistol with him only for self-defence.

Thisrupt reports:

According to Khaosod, one Ratsadon protestor was shot in the arm with a live bullet.  Meanwhile, citing the Erawan Emergency Center, Reuters reported at least 41 people injured, five with bullet wounds.

Other reports include an excellent Prachatai summary of the evening’s events and of the constitutional amendments being considered in parliament. It notes that:

Police water cannon began firing at protesters at around 14.00, an hour before the scheduled start time of the protest as announced by the student activist group Free Youth. The police reportedly warned protesters beforehand that they would fire a warning shot, and made an announcement while they were counting down that they had mixed a chemical irritant into the water….

At 19.44, after almost 6 hours of struggle, during which the police continuously fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters at both the Bang Krabue and Kiak Kai intersections, protesters broke through the police barricade at the Bang Krabue intersection, while protesters have already broken through at the Kiak Kai intersection….

There were reports of more than 10 waves of tear gas being used on protesters both in canister form and from the water cannon. Thairath also reported that gunshots and explosions were heard during a clash between pro-monarchy protesters in yellow and the pro-democracy guards.

On the use of tear gas and water cannon, former human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who was at the protest site, said that “there was no violence from the protesters, but the authorities used tear gas anyway, and the police even told the protesters they were going to use rubber bullets, which does not comply with international human rights principles.”

Thai Enquirer observes that during the confrontation between police and protesters, something else was going on, with “police on one side of the street in front of parliament, the pro-democracy demonstrators were attacked and provoked by yellow-shirt royalist demonstrators on the other side.” It adds: “Most damningly, when the yellow shirt mob instigated violence, the police stood their ground tens of meters away and did nothing.”

As noted above, the royalists had special treatment. And, “[n]ot only did the police not do anything to stop the violence, at times, there seemed to be a dual-track approach to policing the two groups of rival protesters.” It points out:

The yellow shirts were allowed to march all the way to parliament to submit a letter to the president of the senate while the pro-democracy demonstrators faced chemicals, tear gas, and barbed wire….

The yellow shirt protesters were not herded and corralled by security forces. They were not blockaded by buses and makeshift-cement walls.

It makes one question the legitimacy of such a force that they would be so blatantly biased and in service of their paymasters.

There is little wonder that the protesters have been leaving behind dog food for the police because to the students, the security forces have been nothing more but lapdogs to the coup-makers.

In choosing to do nothing as royalist mobs continue to escalate an already bad situation, the police have shown their true colours. Can anyone really say they’re surprised?

Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt writes of: A day of shame: the police stood by as the people clashed.





Students rolling, royalists reacting

23 08 2020

As demonstrations continue, it might be expected that the young students and their supporters might be losing some support by demanding reform of the monarchy and calling for an end to the military-backed regime, both seen by conservatives as the cornerstone of the status quo.

In fact, this doesn’t seem to be happening. The Bangkok Post reports two surveys, one by the seldom trustworthy NIDA Poll with 1,312 respondents and another by the Suan Dusit Poll which claims 197,029 respondents. Go beyond the headlines, and it seems that a large majority support the students and their headline three demands. It also seems that support for the regime has dropped even more.

In the most recent demonstration in Khon Kaen, a statement was issued and called:

for an end to intimidation of the people, the government’s legal action against people with different opinions, inequality in education, inequities in the justice process and the plunder of natural resources.

“We want rights and freedom and human dignity because we are not slaves. We want a democracy which belongs to the people. We want equality in education and true justice in the judicial process. We want the decentralisation of power and the right of communities to manage their own resources. We want a new democracy….

Interestingly, several of these demands have ideological continuities with the rights demands heard during red shirt rallies a decade ago. That seems organic in the sense that many of today’s protesters were very young when the red shirts rose.

When the military has its government pad out its budget through rubber-stamping in parliament, the students get more supporters.

Regime and royalist reaction is pretty much what might be expected. As well as giving the military more kit, the regime is shoring up its support among the top brass. An example it Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s likely pick for next air force boss. Apparently, the job requirement is that the appointee must be “intelligent, ethical, dedicated and loyal to the monarchy.” We doubt the first two criteria can be fulfilled along with the last requirement. The other loyalty must be to the regime’s leaders.

Rightists are straggling along, as yet not well organized. This means they flop back on old tactics. For example, the “independent” agencies are used to undermine those various rightists think are “behind the children.” So it is that serial complainer Srisuwan Janya “says he will petition the Election Commission (EC) to look into whether the Move Forward Party (MFP) broke the law on political parties by proposing to amend the constitution’s Chapters 1 and 2 which contain general principles and sections associated with the monarchy.” Who pays him?

And surveillance and repression continues. As would be expected, “[s]ecurity agencies are keeping an eye on political activities ahead of a planned student rally on Sept 19 to prevent protest actions that may lead to violence and unrest…”, painting a picture of “Hong Kong violence,” obviously seeking to influence and agitate the Sino-Thais of Bangkok and linking to yellow-shirt ideologues who follow Russian troll sites on “color revolutions.”

They are also seeking to limit protest growth through political alliances with groups like the Assembly of the Poor. Hence last week’s arrest of the Assembly secretary-general, Baramee Chairat, for alleged offenses at the 18 July rally.

We doubt that these military and police spies are about preventing violence and are more about preventing protest and agitating against the “children.”

There’s a long road to be traveled.





Updated: Red Bull facts

27 07 2020

A story at Thai Enquirer notes that:

Red Bull’s parent company in Thailand, TCP Group, released a public statement distancing itself from Vorayuth Yoovidhya who was revealed this week to have been acquitted for a traffic incident which left a police officer dead.

It adds:

The case also sparked scrutiny of Thailand’s large income divide, the Yoovidhya family is estimated to be worth $13.1 billion in a country where the average daily income is slightly more than 10 dollars per day.

Red Bull’s parent conglomerate TCP Group, facing a social media boycott, stated:

TCP Group would like to clarify that Mr. Vorayuth Yoovidhya has never assumed any role in the management and daily operations of TCP Group, was never a shareholder, nor has he held any executive position within TCP Group….

It is almost impossible to verify these claims for a private company that operates in a remarkably opaque manner.

Noting that, in 2002, the family-run “Red Bull GmbH produces the world’s leading energy drink. More than a billion cans a year are sold in nearly 100 countries,” Reference for Business states that “Red Bull holds a 70 percent share of the world market for energy drinks…”.

Known as Krating Daeng in Thailand, it has been “produced since the early 1970s by the T.C. Pharmaceutical Co., founded in Thailand in 1962 by Chaleo Yoovidhya [Xǔ Shūbiāo] …. T.C. Pharmaceutical eventually formed the subsidiary Red Bull Beverage Co. Ltd…”. Dietrich Mateschitz was the foreign partner in Red Bull GmbH who worked for Blendax, a German manufacturer of toothpaste that Chaleo marketed in Thailand.

As a private company in Thailand and internationally, there is almost no information on the company. But, we know: “Today, Red Bull GmbH is 51 percent controlled by the Yoovidhya family, who own the trademark for the drink in Europe and the United States of America…”. The only public information about the parent company in Thailand is a list of six members of TCP’s board of directors. Five of the six listed are named Yoovidhya. The sixth and Chair of the Board, Pavana Langthara, is one of Chaleo’s daughters.

An AFP photo clipped from ChannelNews Asia

Back in 2012, when Vorayuth killed the policeman, it was widely believed Vorayuth would go free:

Vorayuth Yoovidhya, a grandson of the late founder of Red Bull, billionaire Chaleo Yoovidhya, had initially fled the scene but later confessed to hitting the policeman, police said. He was released hours later on 500,000 baht ($16,000) bail.

Though Vorayuth has yet to appear in court, there seemed little faith among the public that justice would be served.

“Jail is only for the poor. The rich never get punished. Find a scapegoat,” said one of a stream of comments posted on the popular Thai website, Panthip.com.

It was also reported that Vorayuth “tested positively for cocaine in his blood…”.

Where did Vorayuth flee to after the crash?

Police took Vorayuth Yoovidhya, 27, for questioning after tracing oil streaks for several blocks to his family’s gated estate in a wealthy neighborhood of the Thai capital.

The family prevented police from accessing the compound for some time, allowing covering-up to begin. Recall that the cover-up began when a police investigator “initially tried to cover up the crime by turning in a bogus suspect.”

Then the family sought to pay off the dead policeman’s family: they “struck a deal that will pay the officer’s siblings less than US$100,000.”

In other words, TCP/Red Bull is a Sino-Thai family-owned, private company completely dominated by the Yoovidhya family. For the family to claim that Vorayuth is not on the board or in management is a nonsense. He is, as he was long-described, an heir to the family fortune, made from Red Bull. His family stood by him early in the legal processes and it would be absurd to think the family did not know of his legal tactics and evasions.

In another “fact check,” we noted a Thai PBS report that Constitutional Court judge Thaveekiart Meenakanit “urged Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to investigate alleged mishandling, by the police and the public prosecutors, of the Red Bull heir hit and run case…”.

Obviously, the case is not constitutional, but the judge worried that “Thailand’s justice system has been rendered meaningless, after the prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges against the suspect and the police’s failure to challenge that decision.”

The judge fretted that it “the suspect was spared prosecution, apparently because of his economic and social status, is unprecedented and incomprehensible.”

We wonder if Thaveekiart has been asleep fro the past 15 years? Has he missed the double standards applied to red shirts? Has he missed the way the poor are locked up and the rich go free all the time? Has he slept through his own court’s politically-biased decisions? Has he snored through the massive impunity enjoyed by the murderous military?

The judge is right that “the majority of the people now see that the law is no longer sacred or to be respected” but he’s a decade and half late in recognizing it. But when he says that the current regime “can now only lean on law and order to justify its existence…”, he’s completely out of touch. The regime’s existence depends on the illegal 2014 military coup.

While sleepy, his point that this travesty of (in)justice “is the beginning of the end of the Government…” reflects the manner in which the royalist regime has relied on the judiciary to legitimize its rule. He’s warning that allowing the Red Bull lot to get away with murder is threatening to the regime’s claims to legitimacy, even if we know that legitimacy is based on double standards and impunity.

Remarkably, the judge explained “that many people believe that the Prime Minister’s reported acceptance of a 300 million baht donation from the Red Bull empire a few months ago, might be related to the decisions of the prosecutors and the police concerning the case.”

Now, that’s a question worth asking!

How high can the junta pile it?

Update: Helpfully, in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post, Ploenpote Atthakor that the buffalo manure that passes for justice in this case is “the rule not the exception.” She adds: “I need not tell you why there are such blatant double standards. If I do, I’ll only end up sounding like a broken record…”.

Meanwhile, following Thaveekiart’s advice, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has ordered “an inquiry into the prosecution’s decision to drop a reckless driving charge against Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya following public outrage over the news…”. Yet he betrayed his affinity for the filthy rich when he doled out buffalo poo by calling “on critics and media outlets not to seize on the controversy and distort facts or cause misunderstanding…”. The only misunderstanding seems to be among the relevant authorities! Laughably, he declared “he has never intervened in the justice administration process and the prosecution works under no political pressure…”.

Posterior covering reigns, with the prosecutors and Office of the Attorney General leaking:

New specialist and motorist witnesses who made statements that Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya did not drive his Ferrari over the speed limit and that the policeman who was killed abruptly cut in front of his vehicle are the key factors which convinced prosecutors to drop charges against the Red Bull scion.

In a leaked document outlining public prosecutors’ reasoning for their decision to drop the charge against Mr Vorayuth of reckless driving causing death, information from the new witnesses was given more weight than previous evidence, including forensic results.

It is astounding to think that after eight years of being unable to find Vorayuth, the authorities found new “witnesses.” To add to the “story,” the prosecutors blamed the victim.

Why the Office of the Attorney-General has now “set up a seven-member fact-finding panel to investigate the decision, by Thailand’s Office of Special Prosecutors for Criminal Litigation, to drop charges” seems bizarre when “Nate Naksuk, chief justice of the Department of Appealate Litigation in his capacity as acting attorney-general, signed the order to drop the charge.”