Warping “law”

25 12 2017

Reader will have noticed that PPT has had to use inverted commas for rather a lot of words used in Thailand where the meaning is not as it seems, This includes such seemingly important words as election when that “election” is manipulated for a particular outcome and justice where “justice” is actually injustice.

We have also long been critical of various aspects of the “justice” system as being feudal, subject to double standards and political manipulation.

Of course, our longest criticisms have been of the lese majeste law, which has long been (mis)used. Since the 2006 military coup this misuse has become farcical. By this we mean that the use of the law has been as a tool for palace and military regime in ways that have been increasingly absurd, feudal and, in fact and in law, lawless.

One aspect of this lawless use of the lese majeste law has been in the application of the law to figures not covered by the law.

A recent article, “Who is an ‘Heir(-Apparent)?’: An old issue that is still new today” by Metta Wongwat examines how the law has been used to “protect” Princess Sirindhorn. As explained,

the scope of the royal persons protected by the law has a … problematic interpretation, despite the fact that the law clearly specifies only four positions, namely, the King, the Queen, the Heir-Apparent and the Regent.

The article includes some cases not previously known to PPT. The article examines the proceedings of these cases and the decisions made by the courts.

These cases are worth reading for the efforts judges make to consider Sirindhorn and “heir apparent.”

In one case, in 2004, while the prosecutor initially lodged a defamation case, an initial court decision elevated the case to lese majeste with a banal Royal Institute dictionary definition being used and further interpreted. At that time, the higher courts rejected this interpretation and dismissed the lese majeste charge.

In a second case, the court seems to consider any defamation against any royal to constitute lese majeste. While the Royal Household Bureau responded to a court request stating that, in 2010, only then Prince Vajiralongkorn was heir apparent, as the case included other royals covered by the law, lese majeste stuck.

A third case involves a man accused defaming Princess Sirindhorn while in  private conversation with a friend. The case was initially dropped, but following the 2014 coup, the case was tried in 2014. The Provincial Court of Thanyaburi and Appeals Court dismissed the charge because the offense did not constitute lese majeste. The public prosecutor is appealing the case.

The fourth case demonstrates the manipulation of the law that has been definitional of the military junta’s misuse of lese majeste. Four were accused of misusing Sirindhorn’s name for profit. Two of the defendants were pressured to plead guilty to lese majeste and they were promptly jailed.

The other two defendants remain imprisoned challenging the charge. The two who pleaded guilty have been released, being “rewarded” for not challenging the court and the misused charge.

The lawyers for the still detained men have repeatedly run into illegal brick walls. They sought documents and testimony from the case heard in the Thanyaburi Provincial Court. In a surreal decision, the court ruled that the royal letter didn’t appear to exist, despite the lawyers citing the correspondence number of the Royal Household Bureau. The testimony from the investigating officer to the Thanyaburi Court was also ruled out with the court saying it would “not cross the line…”. It is clear that “the line” is real investigation and proper justice.

When the lawyers then found that the Council of State’s website had a “publicly displayed … consultation letter from the Royal Police Department in 1989, that [stated] the Crown Prince is the only heir-apparent,” they asked the court to issue a summons for the document. Surprisingly, the court did seek the document from the Council of State.

The response of the Council of State was to remove the document from its website and made it secret, saying that the “document is classified state information and its release could cause damage.” This Council is one of Thailand’s most important legal institutions. but is prepared to break and bend the law to allow courts to make decisions that flout the law.

The lese majeste law is warped by such manipulation while warping the whole justice system.





Lese majeste and enforcing silence

18 11 2017

PPT has posted over several years on the delaying of lese majeste trials where defendants refuse to plead guilty. We have referred to this as a form of torture. In addition to strenuous efforts to force defendants to plead guilty, those who don’t see their trials dragged out for years, while they remain in jail.

When trials begin, they are deliberately delayed and, in the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, he was dragged all over the country in chains and shackles, often kept in cages, as he was tortured for fighting his case.

Those who refuse to plead guilty are then sentenced to many years in jail – almost no one if found innocent.

The most recent case of this essentially lawless efforts by the courts on lese majeste is reported at Prachatai. It concerns Rung Sila, a poet and cyber activist whose first name is Sirapop.

(We need to add that our page on Rung Sila, having him already convicted on lese majeste, is mistaken, and we’ll fix that shortly.)

He has now been “imprisoned for three years and four months,” and has faced yet another postponed witness hearing as a military court drags out his lese majeste case. His lawyer makes the obvious point:

According to Anon Nampa, human rights lawyer representing the defendant, since he was arrested in June 2014, the court completed only one witness hearing in the case out of 6-7 plaintiff witnesses.

He added that one of the defendant witnesses, Surachai Yimprasert, has already passed away.

The lawyer said that it is as if Sirapop is being pressured to plead guilty….

Sirapop maintains his innocence.

Thailand’s courts, both military and civil, are disgraceful and pervert justice.





Updated: Double standards and lawlessness in the justice system

1 10 2017

PPT has regularly been posting on the gross failures of the justice system. Thailand’s justice system has long been pretty awful, but since the 2006 military coup that awfulness has been compounded by the fact that particular courts have become little more than political tools for the royalist elite and, in recent years, the military dictatorship’s instrument.

For this reason Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey’s op-ed “Hypocrisy of double standards” is an important statement on a defining failure of the justice system.

Writing after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions decision to imprison former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, where “[t]he court’s verdict did not state whether the rice pledging policy implemented by Yingluck and her government was wrong but only stated that she neglected her duty in curtailing corruption in the scheme.”

If this is the courts definition of malfeasance, then PPT can’t think of a premier for several decades who wouldn’t be held guilty, including the current military one. But this use of the law is reserved for Yingluck as the military dictatorship wanted to be rid of her.

As Umesh observes,

The verdict left some room for appeal but less than 24 hours after it was handed down, the military government that overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government of which the Shinawatras were the key backers came out with new rules that force any appeal to be lodged by the convicted person and not through lawyers. To make matters worse, the statutory limit on the case, which is usually about a decade or so, is a lifetime.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

He adds that in most jurisdictions, “new rules are effective only after they are put in place, but this is Thailand and in Yingluck’s case the rules were effective retroactively.”

Of course, applying rules and laws retroactively has been a hallmark of military juntas. For example, juntas regularly absolve themselves of criminality when they overthrow governments and constitutions. A more egregious example was the use of Announcement No. 27 (2006) of the then junta  to dissolve Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 using the junta’s Announcement retroactively. It was the junta’s Constitutional Tribunal – its Constitutional Court – that concocted this decision (while at the same time acquitting the parties that supported the coup).

On the current retrospective use of rules and laws, naturally enough it is royalist-military stooge Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, who said the new law, which was only published in the Royal Gazette on 28 September and took effect the next day, applied in Yingluck’s case. As Umesh states, this “basically closes the door on any appeal by Yingluck against the verdict and leaves no room for her to return to Thailand in the foreseeable future unless she’s willing to be behind bars.”

Umesh continues:

The case has raised more questions than it has answered. Many on the street believe that all these rules being put in place by those in power have a single aim of trying to curtail the power and marginalise the once powerful Pheu Thai Party. And to further cement this possible misconception [PPT: we can’t possibly imagine that this is a misconception] is the fact that other political parties are being left to do what they like and their party members and leaders are not being prosecuted even when they are in breach of the law.

To illustrate the double standards at work, Umesh points to the case of anti-democrat leader, coup plotter and “former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been accused of violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty for his handling of the 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government…”.

As he notes, that case began before Yingluck’s case, and had dragged on and on:

Little has been heard about it since May 2015 when Mr Suthep was still a monk and once after that when the anti-Pheu Thai “independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided to change one of its outside members because Mr Suthep claimed he was biased against him.

This outside member was none other than Vicha Mahakhun, the NACC subcommittee chairman in charge of investigating Mr Suthep’s misconduct. Mr Vicha was hired as an outside member after he retired from the chair of the subcommittee in which he had implicated Mr Suthep.

But here’s double standards twist: Why is there no related case against Abhisit? After all, he was the premier when the alleged malfeasance took place.

While this dereliction of duty case continues to drag on, Democrat Party leader Mr Abhisit, who was Mr Suthep’s immediate boss, is basically left off the hook. There is no such case because Thailand’s judicial system is rigged, politicized and subject to the whims and desires of the military junta.

Umesh concludes:

All this gives the impression that those in power are trying to come up with a million explanations for their snail’s pace of investigation into those aligned to the people in power, but to the general public this kind of move is nothing more than what has been repeated a million times over the past decade — the implementation of double standards.

The blatant breach and different interpretation of rules for different sides makes one wonder how this country can achieve its goal of reconciliation and move on.

The junta’s answer is probably something like: “Just give us a few more years to embed double standards so deeply that they will be the only standards.”

Update: We hit the publish button a little too quickly as we wanted to write more about lawlessness. The best example of the courts acting against the law is lese majeste. There have been several cases where persons have been charged with lese majeste against royals, dead and alive, who are simply not covered by the law. The most recent case of this legal ridiculousness was just last month where courts and the Office of the Attorney General have agreed to proceed with a case involving Princess Sirindhorn who is not covered under Article 112.





Contemptible justice system

10 05 2017

Readers will know that we have posted more than a few items that have shown and declared Thailand’s justice system an injustice system.

The police have long been corrupt thugs. But they are now worse than ever thanks to the fact that a military dictatorship condones impunity. They have to repay the military junta with loyalty. So when the biggest shot orders a piece of national history stolen as he wipes the “hard drive” of history, the cops do nothing, zilch. Loyalty demands no less.

The military is above the law. They literally get away with murder, with the latest case being that of Chaiyapoom Pasae. He was gunned down and now there’s nothing. It is all quiet. It’s probably just another cover up. We notice that the media has conveniently forgotten the case. Nothing happened, you can all go home. Witnesses intimidated, evidence withheld. Forget it.

The courts, positioned to have more power by a coterie of royalists, meddlers, constitution drafters and two juntas, is now a disgrace.

Lese majeste cases are just one example, where even the letter of the law is ignored as political opponents and others are shoved into jail for long sentences after secret trials, many in military courts. Cases are concocted, confessions forces and arrests made for political purposes.

Judges apply double standards as if they are the only standards and justice is not blind, but meted out with a view to vengeance and no consideration of the merits of cases. Of course, we are not necessarily pointing at every single case, but the politically significant ones. Thailand’s courts have become political courts.

Rather than detail the contemptible actions of the courts, we draw attention to an article by iLaw at Prachatai. It is certainly worth reading.





There is no justice III

2 04 2017

We recently posted on the death of Private Yuthinan [Yutthakinant] Boonniam who was was initially hospitalized with a swollen face and bruises before his death on Saturday. He is one of several army recruits who have died from beatings and torture by soldiers and officers.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “army chief has ordered a probe into the death of a 22-year-old private…”.

Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree warned stated: “Please have confidence. If it is concluded that any officer did this, he will surely face legal and disciplinary actions to the full extent…”.

That’s an “if.” As in other “investigations,” the recruit might be found to have fallen…. As if to calm the social media speculation, Winthai bleated that the “army chief would monitor the issue closely to ensure fairness…”. He means “fairness” to the army.

And who is to conduct the “investigation”? Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisat “ordered the 45th Military Circle to conduct the investigation and promised severe punishment if any officer was found responsible for it…”. That’s another “if.” In case readers hadn’t noticed, the 45th Military Circle is the owner of the prison of the 45th Military Circle, where the unexplained death occurred.

So, again, the military not only investigates itself but the very military unit responsible is investigating itself.

That, we suppose, represents military “justice.”

Frighteningly, Colonel Winthai states: “In the meantime, a concerned army unit is taking good care of the family of the victim to ensure that all parties are fairly treated…”.





There is no justice II

1 04 2017

It isn’t that long ago that PPT commented on the odious case of Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat and defamation charges against her, brought because she wanted some accountability for the Army’s murder of her uncle, a conscript.

The details of that case deserve repeating:

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

The Army seems to think that bringing attention to their murderous behavior is defaming them. The fact that the Army is a bunch of murderous thugs is to be taken for granted but must not be pursued as this might limit the military’s impunity.

The fact is that this brutal behavior is not unusual or the fault of a few “bad eggs.” Rather it is institutionalized and protected by those at the top because it maintains the hierarchy that allows power and wealth to be accumulated by the tycoons running the military.

The brutality of the Army is again in the news. The Nation reports that yet another conscript has apparently been beaten to death by his fellows and superiors:

An Army conscript has been beaten to death at Vibhavadi Rangsit Military Base in Surat Thani after violating military rules, it was reported in the social media on Saturday.

Private Yuthinan Boonniam was hospitalised with a swollen face and bruises before his death early on Saturday.

It is alleged that:

… the young man was imprisoned in military jail for violating military rules and that he was severely beaten…. It was further reported that Yuthinan seriously suffered from injuries of his internal organs. The medical team performed cardiac resuscitation four times but failed to save his life. He passed away at 5 am on Saturday.

The Nation adds:

Yuthinan was not the first serving conscript to be beaten to death. In April last year, Private Songtham Mudmad was beaten to death at a military base in Yala’s Bannang Sata district. In 2011, Private Wichian Phuaksom was tortured to death at a training camp in Narathiwat.

Wichian is Naritsarawan’s uncle. His niece has received no justice. We doubt Yuthinan’s relatives can expect justice from the corrupt system that brutalizes and kills recruits.

The reported cases are the tip of the iceberg. There are many more incidents of degradation, beatings, injuries and murder, all conducted against their own.

This brutalization is meant to ensure discipline and adherence to the hierarchy. Such brutality also means that the Army bosses can be sure that when it needs to murder citizens, as it has done regularly, it has a band of men who will follow the Army tycoons’ orders.





On 5 years

31 03 2017

A juxtaposition of stories about “justice” in Thailand:

It is 5 years since the scion of one of the country’s richest families drove his expensive sports car over a policeman and drove off, dragging his body under the car, to a hiding place in his family’s mansion.

The Office of the Attorney-General on Thursday again postponed its decision on whether to indict Vorayudh “Boss” Yoovidhya, a Red Bull heir, in the hit-and-run case in 2012 in which a Thong Lor policeman was killed.

The indictment decision was initially scheduled for today. OAG deputy spokesman Prayuth Phetkhun said it had been further deferred until April 27.

The story is about the many ways in which the “good,” rich and well-connected are able to buy protection from the law.

It is a 5 year ban from politics for yet another Thaksin Shinawatra-related politician. Surapong Towijakchaikul might have been considered part of the elite, but of the “bad” sort.

The [junta’s puppet] National Legislative Assembly (NLA) overwhelming voted on Thursday to impeach former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul for reinstating the passports of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The assembly voted 231-4 with three abstentions to impeach Mr Surapong. The NLA needed only 151 votes to ban him.

It wasn’t that long ago that the lapdog NLA refused to admit new evidence from Surapong. The NLA didn’t need evidence in order to “convict” Surapong. No “procedures” for him as he joined the other 300+ pro-Thaksin politicians banned since 2007.

Thailand’s justice system has been not just undermined by the two military coups, but it has been disintegrated. Buy “justice”? You bet. Double standards? You bet. Politicized “justice”? Certainly.





There is no justice I

18 03 2017

Back in January, referring to a Prachatai story, we felt that the “fact” that public prosecutors had dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat suggested that someone in the regime was displaying something approaching good commonsense.

Naritsarawan had campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle who was tortured and killed by the military, while he was enlisted as a conscript.

According to an Army investigation, in 2011, her uncle, Wichian Puaksom, was tortured by other soldiers and officers. They accused of running away from military training. The Army report said Wichian was stripped down to his underwear and dragged him over a rough cement surface before being repeatedly kicked and beaten for several hours. The tormentors then applied salt to his wounds to increase his pain, wrapped him in a white sheet, tying his hands together as for a corpse and read funeral rites, before engaging in further beatings. He later died.

Police arrested Naritsarawan on 26 July 2016 for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle. Major Phuri Phueksophon of the 4th Army Region, the unit responsible for the torture of her uncle — accused Naritsarawan of violating the Computer Crime Act and defaming him by exposing the torture.

The prosecution is now back on as police have overridden the prosecutor’s decision.

Naritsarawan has received a letter after Pol Maj Gen Ronnasin Phusara, Interim Commander of the Southern Border Provinces Police Operation Center, stating “that she should be charged under the Computer Crime Act and Criminal Defamation for for publishing details on the internet about the death of her late uncle.”

It seems there’s no justice.





Release Pai X

1 03 2017

Thailand sinks ever deeper into the monarchist-militarist sludge that passes for a justice system that is incapable of justice.

The Bangkok Post reports that, as expected from this feudal and merciless royalist regime, the so-called Appeals Court has again denied a request for bail for lese majeste victim Jatupat (Pai) Boonpattararaksa.

His lawyers requested bail so Pai “could work with lawyers outside the prison preparing his defence against charges of lese majeste.”

The courts and the military dolts won’t buy that because they know that defending this bogus lese majeste charge is impossible. Pai is being framed because he is an anti-junta activist and because, by keeping him in jail, this is a message to anyone else who dares tell the regime that it is an illegal bunch of military dolts craving wealth, power and royalist belly-scratching.

The report makes this clear when it states:

The Region 4 court backed the Khon Kaen Provincial Court, which had rejected bail requests  filed on behalf of Mr Jatupat … ruling that he had shown no sign of ending his damaging criticism of the country.

By “country” we assume the report means something like king and military dictatorship.

To be clear, this regime is using the judiciary to maintain its rule and the life of one young  student in the northeast means nothing to them. They are prepared to let him rot in a stinking jail. They show no signs that they have hearts or even a sliver of consideration for human and legal rights. They display only power, arrogance and greed.





Courts, rights and junta

26 01 2017

As we have been saying, the so-called justice system is now but a festering and rotting sore on the junta’s repressive political body. But are we too pessimistic? Several stories at Prachatai suggest that while the sore is weeping, some think that it may be cured.

In one story, we are told that the diminutive Thanet Anantawong has appeared in a military court and has been sentenced to eight months in jail. Readers may recall that Thanet was arrested while hospitalized. He was charged with “defying the junta’s ban on political gatherings of five or more persons.”

The military court halved his sentence to four months after Thanet “pleaded guilty.” Pleading guilty is the only way to even get into a military court, for they seem reluctant to deal with any legal issues and prefer simple sentencing.

As Thanet “has already been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison for a period that exceeds his jail term,” he was released.

Along with nine others, Thanet was arrested for “participating in an excursion to Rajabhakti Park [Corruption Park] in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province on 7 December 2015 to investigate corruption allegations related to the park’s development.”

The military junta was not willing to countenance any activist bringing attention to their expensive park and so blocked them and arrested them. It has since whitewashed the park, cleaning it so that it remains their odious refrain to royalism.

That story makes us feel that the “justice” system, especially in the hands of the military is rotten. However, is there hope for this festering sore?

Another Prachatai story gives a little more confidence. It states that public prosecutors have dropped defamation charges against Naritsarawan  Keawnopparat. She has campaigned for justice over the torture of her uncle. That’s moderately good news because the polluted police able to reject the prosecutor.

There are others who think the courts may still be able to recognize justice. Prachatai carries news of anti-junta activists filing “a civil lawsuit against the Thai army, police, and the Prime Minister’s Office for abusing the rights of peaceful demonstrators.”

A few days ago, Neo-Democracy Movement activists “attended a preliminary hearing at the Southern Bangkok Civil Court.” The action refers to “malfeasance and abuse of human rights in arresting and abusing NDM activists and other demonstrators who on 22 May 2015 participated in a peaceful gathering to commemorate the 2014 coup d’état.” The activists “demands about 16.5 million baht in compensation from the three public agencies.”

Interestingly, activist Rangsiman Rome said “that the reconciliation process which the junta the military government is trying to foster will not succeed if people still suffer injustice.”

Yet another story reports that Thai Lawyers for Human Rights “have filed a charge against Thailand’s Corrections Department after prison officers barred a lawyer from meeting his lèse majesté client.”

The Corrections Department and the Director of Chiang Rai Central Prison, as well as prison staff members have been “accused of violating a prisoner’s rights after a lawyer from TLHR was denied a meeting with his client on 12 September 2016.” TLHR “will now attempt to sue the Corrections Department for 200,000 baht as compensation.”

(Prachatai reports the prisoner as “Somsak.” PPT has no record of Somsak and assumes it is Samak Pante, but would appreciate advice from readers.)

The outcome of these cases may tell us more about the spread of the injustice infection.








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