Updated: Trading justice

26 06 2019

Thailand’s judicial system has been in terrible trouble since at least 2006, when the previous king pushed judges to the center of political conflict. Since then, several courts have been delivering politicized decisions, not least the Constitutional Court.

One of the most blatant cases of this political use of the judicial system seems to be the recent decision by the Office of the Attorney-General that red shirt turncoat and political opportunist Suporn  Atthawong, once known as Rambo Isan, “could not be brought to hear an indictment at the Pattaya court…”. According to the Office of the Attorney-General, the statute of limitations had expired.

The charges went back to the invasion of the ASEAN summit in Pattaya in 2009.

Startlingly, this statute of limitations did not apply to his co-accused red shirts. One of them, Nattawut Saikua, is cited in the report:

Nuttawut, a co-defendant in the Pattaya case, wrote on Facebook he was impressed by the “miracle of law” which let only Mr Suporn walk free.

“I don’t have any problem if he is let off the hook because we red shirts have faced many more charges than others. But the statute of limitations expired? This is hard to swallow.

“I’m only saddened by the miracle of law and the judicial process,” he wrote.

There were rumours that making lawsuits disappear was used as a tool to lure former MPs to join a new party. “I wonder if there is a shred of truth in this case, “ he continued.

In that last comment, Nattawut is referring to the offers that were allegedly made to former Thaksin Shinawatra supporters to defect to the junta’s proxy party, to assist in mobilizing voters and to work against former allies. It was claimed that not just money changed hands in such dealing, but legal favors as well. Justice is a commodity for trade for the junta.

Update: Khaosod reports that “[p]olice commanders … declined to explain why they failed to arrest a pro-junta politician before insurrection charges against him expired.”

Chonburi police commander Nanthachart Supamongkol, whose was tasked with apprehending Suporn, used a royal excuse!: “Nanthachart said he was busy attending an event to honor King Rama X,” and told reporters to ask someone else. We are sure General Prawit knows the answer. Deals were done.





Updated: Shaky regime III

20 06 2019

As the junta’s post-junta regime is put together, its foundations are already being undermined, and its moving to shore up those foundations, mainly be preventing scrutiny. That is a strategy that can’t hold for long.

A day or so ago, opposition politicians gave notice that they “plan to file a motion urging the House Speaker to scrutinize the criteria used by the junta to select the 250 senators.” Puea Thai MP Suthin Klangsaeng wants “Parliament to convene a special house committee tasked with looking into the selection procedure, which they fear could have been fraught with favoritism.” He added: ““So far, the process hasn’t been revealed…”.

Almost immediately, it was reported that Senate Speaker and junta puppet Pornpetch Wichitcholchai “insisted on Wednesday the House of Representatives has no authority to probe the qualifications of senators.” As far as we can tell, that’s not the issue; rather it’s the process. But you get the picture.

Taking another tack, “Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a former member of the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart Party, on Wednesday lodged a petition with the Office of Attorney-General (OAG) asking it to seek a Constitutional Court ruling on the Senate selection process.” We’d expect both the A-G and the Constitutional Court to back the junta.

Meanwhile, trying to protect its shaky foundations, the puppet Palang Pracharath Party “will next week lodge a petition with the Constitutional Court asking it not to temporarily suspend its MPs accused of violating media share-holding rules.” Of course, the Court has already disqualified a Future Forward candidate before the election for the same “crime,” not even allowing him to stand. Expect the Court to drag its feet.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the junta proxy party has “asked the Constitutional Court to drop a case against its 27 MPs for allegedly holding media shares on a technicality.” Grasping for all legal straws, Palang Pracharath’s “lawyer Tossapol Pengsom said on Thursday the 66 FFP [Future Forward] MPs who signed the document submitted it as a letter, not as a petition as prescribed by law.” He said: “We view the submission was not done correctly so the case should be dropped…”.





Federation case to go to trial

23 02 2019

Prachatai reports on the case of six defendants in the Thai Federation case. These six demonstrated at the Pathumwan skywalk in front of MBK Shopping Centre on 5 December 2018, wearing black shirts and displayed a Thai Federation banner.

On 20 February 2019, the Office of the Attorney General ordered the six be  prosecuted on charges under Article 116 (sedition), forming a secret society, holding an unauthorized public assembly and holding that assembly within 150 meters of a royal palace.

The six have denied all charges and will go to trial. They were released on bail, with the next hearing scheduled for 22 April 2019.





No refugee is safe

18 02 2019

What is a refugee? Wikipedia helps:

To receive refugee status, a person must have applied for asylum, making them—while waiting for a decision—an asylum seeker. However, a displaced person otherwise legally entitled to refugee status may never apply for asylum, or may not be allowed to apply in the country they fled to and thus may not have official asylum seeker status.

Once a displaced person is granted refugee status they enjoy certain rights as agreed in the 1951 Refugee convention. Not all countries have signed and ratified this convention and some countries do not have a legal procedure for dealing with asylum seekers.

Thailand has never become a party to that 1951 convention. In essence, that means that no refugee is safe in Thailand.

We make this observation in the context of a Bangkok Post report of an interview with Chatchom Akapin, director-general of the Office of the Attorney General’s International Affairs Department.

Chatchom seeks to explain the debacle over the case of Hakeem al Araibi, who was granted refugee status by Australia but was arrested in Thailand and faced deportation to Bahrain.

The Post and Chatchom paint Thailand as being “caught” between Bahrain and Australia. This is may be true, but it ignores the fact that Thailand did not need to respond to Bahrain’s extradition request or to the quickly withdrawn Interpol red notice. The case was entirely Thailand’s responsibility as it held the footballer.

Chatchom shows how decidedly dull Thai officials can be and how they are reluctant to “impose” on their higher-ups. He states:

Bahrain asked to have Hakeem extradited to face prosecution by showing evidence he committed the wrongdoing and had been convicted by the court…. We considered this fell into the criteria where we could assist in line with legal principles so we filed the case with the court….

On the Australian government’s granting refugee status, Chatcom declares: “We considered that this point was irrelevant as the wrongdoing had been committed before he was granted the refugee status in Australia…”.

This makes clear that no refugee is safe in Thailand. Refugee status counts for nothing (except where other political, monarchical or military considerations are considered). Refugee status can be used for or against an individual, as seen in the two cases last month.





Begging the junta to do the right thing

9 12 2018

Begging the junta to do the right thing might seem about as useful as talking to a brick wall, especially when it has almost no track record on human rights or basic humanity. Think of the lying that still goes on about the 2010 massacre perpetrated by the Army.

Even so, a couple of human rights protectors have stepped up.

The first is the very honorable National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit. She’s about the only person on the NHRC who ever does anything much about human rights. The rest of the NHRC makes up a part of the junta’s brick wall.

She has requested that junta “respect international standards and refrain from extraditing a former national team footballer to stand trial in Bahrain.” This refers to Hakeem Al-Araibi’s detention in Bangkok. He’s been detained for 13 days now, despite being recognized and registered as a refugee by the UN and Australia.

Angkhana said she wanted to see Hakeem “treated fairly because he has refugee status from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Due to his status, he should be protected under international law.” She added that the junta’s government “does not have to extradite him.”

As we know, however, such international norms are ignored by the junta. In any case, the “Attorney-General’s office on Friday submitted an extradition request to the Criminal Court on Bahrain’s behalf as the Gulf state has an outstanding arrest warrant for him.” He goes before one of the junta’s courts on Tuesday, and FIFA, the UN and human rights groups all have their fingers crossed that the junta may do the right thing (for a change).

Usually meek before the junta, the Australian government’s Foreign Minister has finally demanded that “Thailand release … Hakeem al-Araibi from detention and return him to Australia, setting the stage for a diplomatic clash.” In some media in Thailand this was crippled by the use of “urge” rather than “demand.”

The second instance of begging the junta to do the right thing is like spitting into the wind.

Amnesty International, noting that the military thugs have only said they will lift some restrictions, it has “issued a call for the “junta to end all restrictions on human rights before the next election tentatively scheduled for February 24.” It emphasized that the junta “must fully lift the arbitrary restrictions on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association…”.

Looking to the elections, AI stated that the junta:

… allow people to receive and distribute information online and from the media, engage in public debate and campaigns, gather peacefully and demonstrate, criticise politicians and express diverse or dissenting viewpoints without fear of imprisonment or persecution.

And AI went further:

The authorities should also send a clear signal of their commitment to uphold these rights by dropping charges – and repealing convictions – of all individuals targeted solely for peacefully exercising their rights….

The junta is as unlikely to accept such “radical” proposals as it would admit its murderous role in 2010 when it shot dozens of demonstrators.





On the lese majeste regime

17 10 2018

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times has a longish piece on lese majeste. He’s making a point about a seeming change to the lese majeste regime that has been noted by several analysts for several weeks, but still has some points worth considering.

He focuses on the controversial dropping of Sulak Sirivaksa’s Article 112 case when he “appealed to monarch [King] … Vajiralongkorn for a royal reprieve.”

Sulak “claims the case was stopped after King Vajiralongkorn advised Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha on the situation.”

Readers should note that this claim runs contrary to the palace’s long-held propaganda claim that the monarchy does not interfere in lese majeste cases. (There were several instances where the previous king and his palace did intervene, but the propaganda has been otherwise.)

Sulak is quoted as stating: “If the case went to the military tribunal, they were bound to put me in jail without any law, because the law doesn’t mean anything to them…”. Sulak is partly correct in this guess, but, then, no lese majeste case has ever stuck for him.

He says The Dictator was uninterested until the king intervened: “… when the King told him to drop the case, obviously it was royal advice that worked.”

Crispin suggests that the huge lese majeste “clampdown has come against the backdrop of what was once seen as an uncertain royal succession…”, ignoring the fact that the rise in the use of lese majeste predates the 2014 coup. PPT sees the use of Article 112 as a part of political efforts to rid Thailand of republicanism and to defeat the red shirts.

How Crispin concludes that the “military top brass [is]… now seemingly poised to relinquish power at democracy-restoring polls early next year…” is beyond our comprehension. However, he is right to see “signs that the fearsome law will be used less frequently, if at all, under the new reign,” although he does not note that the crown prince-cum-king was fearsome himself in the use of lese majeste against persons he saw as personal enemies. This included deaths in custody.

Sulak is then cited on his discussions with the king. He “says King Vajiralongkorn recognized the law’s past abuse for political purposes in a recent personal audience he had with the King where he offered his royally sought advice on myriad issues.”

Presumably Sulak has been given royal permission to say these things; that is, he is the king’s messenger. He does this by adhering to palace propaganda about the dead king: “I told the King his father said that clearly – it’s on record – that anybody that makes the case of lese majeste harms him personally and undermines the monarchy…”.

He then says that in his own case, “you can say publicly the king wrote personally to the Supreme Court and Attorney General, and since then there have been no new cases under [Article] 112.”

Sulak, adding to the new royalist discourse on the new monarchy, says that the recent dropping of 112 charges “are indicative of the new King’s ‘mercy’.” As with all royalist discourse, this involves untruths: “[King Bhumibol] regarded himself as a constitutional monarch, so he would not interfere,” but of course he did.  Sulak says of the previous king: “He used an indirect way, the Siamese way, he talked to the judges, he talked to the public prosecutor, but then many ignored his advice.” Of course, this is nonsense.

Interestingly, Sulak claims: “it is clear now that future cases will only be accepted for investigation and prosecution with the royal household’s consent. That, he says, marks a change from father to son.”

That is good news, perhaps. There remain about 60 cases of lese majeste still under the purview of prosecutors and the judiciary. But is is not such good news to have it confirmed that Vajiralongkorn is a determined interventionist, likely to ignore law, parliament and judiciary. Sulak states: “… the present King, unlike his father, he not only advises, he instructs…”.

As Crispin notes:

King Vajiralongkorn has moved with an alacrity and purpose in consolidating his reign that few diplomatic and other observers anticipated or foresaw upon his acceptance of the throne in late 2016. That’s entailed a recentralization of royal power….

Sulak seems to revel in his new role as royal spokesman. But beware the royalist who speaks for royal power.





The Yingluck extradition charade

13 01 2018

Before we forget, a couple of questions for the military dictators: how’s that extradition of Thaksin Shinawatra coming along? And what about Red Bull scion Vorayuth Yoovidhya coming along? Readers will recall that Vorayuth is on the lam following a brutal hit-and-run case in which a police officer was killed. Since then he’s been able to postpone court appearances, hide in plain sight and skip the country. All of that requires that officials and political bosses are complicit. His last “escape” was on 25 April 2017 and since then the authorities have been pretty much silent.

We ask about these two cases as mere examples to suggest that the sudden flap over Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent appearance in London after months of invisibility and all the high profile statements by the junta about extraditing her are simply a charade.

Officials who state that “Thailand cannot seek the extradition of fugitive former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra despite confirmation that at least one of two photos taken of her in London recently appear to be authentic…” are correct.

There are all kinds of reasons for this: there’s insufficient evidence of a criminal act by Yingluck that would also be a crime in Britain and plenty of evidence that her trial was a political act by the military regime; if she’s applied for asylum in the UK, then that case must be concluded before the Thai regime can seek extradition; there’s no Interpol arrest warrant; the Office of the Attorney-General has not requested she be extradited; and the regime doesn’t actually know exactly where she is. Then there’s the question of whether any real democracy would send Yingluck back to the military’s Thailand.

But this is a charade. Our instinct tells us the last thing The Dictator wants as he maneuvers for his ongoing premiership is a jailed Yingluck.

Even General Prayuth Chan-ocha has basically said forget about it: “He pointed to the case of Thaksin … ‘Has anyone sent him back? Please don’t make this an issue’…”.

But this approach seems politically unacceptable and the need for the charade was emphasized by none other than that model of probity – trips to Hawaii, Corruption Park, a score of luxury watches notwithstanding – General Prawit Wongsuwan. He has decried the lack of action on Yingluck’s extradition. We guess some yellow shirts still matter politically.

The Bangkok Post reports that the dumpy Deputy Dictator, weighed down by luxury watches, has declared that “[o]fficials risk facing malfeasance charges if they make no attempt to hunt down former prime minister Yingluck…”.

The political charade will continue.