Detained Thammasat student on lese majeste-like charge

31 05 2014

As noted yesterday, one of those arrested and detained for opposing the coup, Apichart  Pongsawat, was immediately transferred to the police and accused of lese majeste.

Prachatai now reports that the 25 year-old Apichart, a “graduate student from Thammasat University was charged on Friday with lese majeste offence after he was detained for seven days…”. It is reported that the police say the military provided evidence of the alleged offense “taken from the defendant’s Facebook post.” The charge is being processed as a violation of the draconian Computer Crimes Act.

Aphichart was immediately “taken to Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday after the court denied him bail, citing flight risk.” This was despite a bail guarantee made by Deputy Dean of Thammasat University Parinya Thewanarumitkul.

Prachatai reports that Aphichart was “also an officer working for The Law Reform Commission of Thailand.”

Updated: Court battle gains some heat

27 04 2013

A few days ago, PPT wrote that we were heartened that the politicized judges at the royalist Constitutional Court were being challenged. Then we noted that these judges deserved to be challenged for their political bias, corruption and, above all, for their seeming inability to comprehend the wording of the constitution they are meant to rule on. Repeatedly, this set of judges have delivered rulings based on their interpretation of what they believe the royalist-military junta and government would have preferred but didn’t actually write into their constitution.

It now seems that the battle with the kangaroo court is heating up. At The Nation it is reported that the government’s “Pheu Thai Party is planning to hold 10 major rallies … in a move to seek public support for its bid to amend the Constitution and push through the Amnesty Bill.” The focus on the bid to change the constitution is a direct challenge to the Constitutional Court. The first rally was due to be held today in Udon Thani followed by another in Khon Kaen tomorrow.

Meanwhile, a red shirt protest has been underway for several days, challenging the judges. The Nation reports that these red shirts have been calling for the judges to quit. So this group is calling for impeachment and seeking to have the “Budget Bureau stop paying their salaries.” These red shirts “vowed to continue protesting to pressure the judges to quit or have them find another way out.” There were some minor clashes when some of the red shirts sought to enter the Court’s grounds.

Constitution Court judge Jarun Pukdithanakul opined: “I do not know what is wrong with our country. It is as if boxers are battling referees.” This is the same Jaran who filed a libel case against red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan and who defended the corruption in the Court shown in leaked videos, with him as one of the allegedly corrupt judges. Rather than boxers fighting the referees, the analogy might be that the referees are delivering decisions that have no relationship to the rules, selecting victors according to the bribes they have received.

And when “Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has given a moral support to the Constitutional Court judges, urging them not to be perturbed by the protest,” the politicization of the judges is readily apparent.

Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has featured at PPT for comments that are silly, stupid and always biased, has had the rally recorded and, according to The Nation, has had the Court file “a police complaint against the four red shirts who have been leading the rally outside the court complex, accusing them of defamation and inciting unrest.” The court has accused four red shirt leaders “of violating Articles 136 of the Penal Code in the speeches they delivered in front of some 200 red-shirt demonstrators.”

At the same time, Democrat Party MP Watchara Petthong has “written to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asking her to provide 24-hour protection for the judges. He said the protection was necessary because the protesters threatened to harm the judges and burn down the courts.”

Finally, and also at The Nation, Ukrit Mongkolnavin, chairman of the Independent National Rule of Law Commission, has “urged the Constitutional Court judges to review their role in order to avoid a political crisis and also called on the red shirts to not opt for violence in their campaign to remove the court’s judges.”

Interestingly, Ukrit said “his commission agreed that the judges’ decision went beyond their jurisdiction.”

Parinya Thewanarumitkul of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Law, said “the judges should review their ruling on provision 291 of the charter amendment by going beyond their authority as indicated in the Constitution.”

Proving that it is not just judges who are dumb, “red-shirt leader Pongpisit Kongsena, who is spearheading a campaign to oust the Constitutional Court judges, said the group would file a complaint with the police, accusing former Constitutional Court president Chat Chonlaworn of lese majeste.” Using lese majeste is simply a stupidity that deserves to be hosed out like horse manure. It directs attention away from the issue.

Update: According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the four red shirts who have been defamation and inciting unrest are fighting back, urging civil disobedience and citing the Court’s lack of legitimacy, while urging a “capture” of the judges in “citizen’s arrests.” The heat is on high.

Updated: Appointing royalists to consider constitutional (non-)amendment

23 02 2012

In a remarkable report at The Nation, it is reported that the Office of the Ombudsman has appointed royalists – including some associated with the People’s Alliance for Democracy – to “study how to improve the Constitution…”. In the language of the British, this is a stitch-up. Some background first.

The alleged “experts” are appointed “because the ombudsmen were required by Article 244 of the Constitution to evaluate charter enforcement and provide advice on how to improve the charter.”  The appropriate section of the military’s 2007 constitution states:

Section 244. The Ombudsmen have the powers and duties as follows: … (3) to monitor, evaluate and prepare recommendations on the compliance with the Constitution including considerations for amendment of the Constitution as deemed necessary;

In other words, the Ombudsmen is not required to do this, as reported. A decision must be taken to do it. PPT guesses that this decision also relates to Section 245, which states:

The Ombudsmen may submit a case to the Constitutional Court or Administrative Court in the following cases:

(1) if the provisions of any law begs the question of the constitutionality, the Ombudsmen shall submit the case and the opinion to the Constitutional Court and the Constitutional Court shall decide without delay in accordance with the organic law on rules and procedure of the Constitutional Court;

 (2) if rules, orders or actions of any person under section 244 (1) (a) begs the question of the constitutionality or legality, the Ombudsmen shall submit the case and the opinion to the Administrative Court and the Administrative Court shall decide without delay in accordance with the Act on Establishment of the Administrative Courts and Administrative Courts Procedure.

We likewise guess that these appointments are part of a process that will seek to invalidate amendments to the constitution. The Bangkok Post reports: “A source at the Office of the Ombudsman said the advisory board was set up out of concern the charter’s chapter covering the monarchy may be amended.” PPT would be staggered if that were the case.

The “experts” appointed are:

Noranit Settabut, who was the chairman of the military junta-appointed 2007 Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA)

Wissanu Krua-ngarm (sometimes Krea-ngam), a former deputy prime minister under Thaksin Shinawatra, but one of those who jumped ship and went to the support of the royalists. Since then, he has accrued a remarkable number of company directorships, perhaps as his reward. He was mentioned in a Wikileaks cable: “Prem had signaled his intentions and intimidated two cabinet members (Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam) into resigning in June. Pansak claimed that Prem had sent a clear signal by asking their view on whether constitutional provisions allowing the King to take on a political role might be invoked in the event of Thaksin’s death.”

Bowornsak Uwanno, secretary-general of King Prajadipok’s Institute and mentioned in the above cable and this one too.On his resignation as Thaksin’s government spokesman, Bowornsak spent some time in an elite temple and wrote articles extolling the wonders of monarchy and defending lese majeste as a process of rehabilitation to the royalist elite. PPT had this description of him, mentioning his record of political promiscuity.

Surapol Nitikraipot is a former rector of Thammasat University and an appointed member of the military junta’s National Legislative Assembly.

Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of National Institute of Development Administration. Sombat is one of the most compromised of academics, having been harshly critical of red shirts, supportive of all post-coup governments and of yellow shirts. He has been solidly conservative, even rallying his fellow academics at NIDA to oppose those he sees as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, including outspoken and baseless  attacks on the current government and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Back in April 2010, he was one of the academics signing a statement opposing red shirts, along with card-carrying royalists and PAD supporters Chai-Anan Samudvanij, Charas Suwanmala and Pramote Nakhonthap. In June 2010, Abhisit Vejjajiva appointed Sombat to head a constitutional review panel. That panel did nothing and sank into oblivion except for recommending a change to the system of appointing the prime minister taht was meanrt to help the Democrat Party. Even the Democrat Party didn’t jump on that totally biased suggestion.

Thiraphat Serirangsan, former PM’s Office minister in the Surayud Chulanont government appointed by the military junta in 2006. He got his position mainly through his close relationship with self-proclaimed coup planner and well-known royalist and political manipulator Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri.

Charas Suwanmala is a former dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, former member of the of the military junta-appointed 2007 CDA and one of the best-know yellow-shirted academics in Thailand. In August 2010 he supported moves to prevent students demonstrating against Abhisit. Charas is a well-known and staunch yellow-shirted academic. In April 2010 he joined with royalists including Police General Vasit Dejkunchorn, in rounding up other yellow shirts, including fellow Chula academic Tul Sitthisomwong, in demonstrating against red shirts by dressing in royalist pink. Vasit and Charas are reported to have sworn an oath before the statue of King Rama VI to protect the nation [from nasty red shirts]. Their crowd chanted royalist slogans, sang royalist songs and demanded that Abhisit not dissolve the House, which was the only red shirt demand at the time. Leaflets claiming Thaksin Shinawatra had defamed the king were also distributed at that rally.

Parinya Thewanarumitkul, vice rector of Thammasat, is generally considered reasonably independent, having been critical of the Puea Thai Party and red shirts prior to the last election and also critical of the military’s 2007 constitution.

The only two who are relatively unknown quantities, at least to PPT, are Kittisak Porakati, a law lecturer of Thammasat and Supachai Yavaprabhas, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science. If readers know more about them, we’d be pleased to update this post.

That means that the Office of the Ombudsman has appointed seven well-known and outspoken partisan “experts,” making a mockery of the claim that “the opinions of the advisers of the ombudsman would be neutral…”. Rather, the Ombudsman appears partisan and biased.

The first meeting of this sub-committee of the PAD Ombudsman is due to be held next week. Don’t expect anything other than partisan politicking from this lot.

You get the general idea of where all this is going in The Nation, where it is reported that the political allies of the panel of “experts” is opposed to any suggestion of rewriting a constitution that was written at the behest of a military junta and is meant to be able to be revised in parliament. Indeed, the current government has won two elections (as People’s Power Party and then as Puea Thai) where it promised amendments as part of its policies.

The Nation reports that the PAD has “issued a statement opposing the ruling coalition’s attempt to rewrite the Constitution in a way that would “allow Thailand to come under the grip of parliamentary dictatorship by evil political capitalism”. That’s all PADspeak for Thaksin and its disdain for voters and elections that produce outcomes it hates. It has called a rally for 10 March.

Meanwhile, a group of 50 senators is also opposed. This is the usual suspects in the Senate, mostly appointed under junta-established rules in the 2007 constitution. They include Surajit Chiravet, Somjet Boonthanom, Kamnoon Sidhisamarn and Rosana Tositrakul. Rosana was clear: she reckoned the whole process of constitutional amendment was “to whitewash the wrongdoing of a certain former prime minister.”Like other royalists, they see rewriting the charter as “tantamount to overthrowing the 2007 Constitution.”

PAD’s words were only slightly different, viewing the “ruling coalition’s amendment as an attempt to overthrow the charter, which is an illegal act against the Constitution.” Of course, all of them simply ignore the actual provisions in the constitution for changing it in Section 291. But it isn’t the constitution they seek to “defend” but the system of elite rule under the monarchy, emblazoned in the junta’s constitution. Expect others from the anti-Thaksin alliance of the past few years to rejoin PAD and the opposition to constitutional reform.

Update: And just to remind readers that the opposition to the charter amendment is a yellow-shirt rallying point, the Democrat Party has made essentially the same points as PAD and the appointed senators in opposing change. The old team is very firmly reunited.

Political conflict continuing

14 01 2011

Xinhua has a useful report on political conflict and the prospects for 2011. It begins with the claim that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said “that he is likely to dissolve the parliament in April although his term will finish in December and will call for a fresh election. While analysts forecast that the general election may be held not earlier than April after the charter amendment receives the parliamentary endorsement or at the latest by October after the parliament approves annual budget for fiscal year 2012.”

Recall that this is trumpeted by Abhisit an “early” election…. PPT has long believed that this government would hold off on an election for as long as possible – perhaps even testing the constitutional requirements – or would go to the electorate when it thought it had done enough “fixing” to ensure it would win. In fact, October would just about be the end of the current term, so not really “early.”

Even so, Xinhua says analysts think the decision by the government to “arrange earlier election” – note our skepticism above on the use of the word “early” –  is “a way-out to avoid possible confrontation with the anti-government ‘red-shirt’ movement. The expected election will eradicate, to some extent, the conditions which once led to violence in Thai politics last year.”

We doubt that an election won by Abhisit and his coalition on the basis of repression, jailing, censorship, killing and fixing is going to do that.  But, as Parinya Thewanarumitkul, a law lecturer at the Thammasat University, states: “If the government continues to stay in the office, the pressure outside the parliament will increasingly grow and eventually lead to confrontation again. The declaration of the premier to dissolve the house in April will lessen the external tension at a certain extent.” Prajak Kongkiarti, a lecturer at the Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science, is cited as more or less agreeing with this sentiment.

Well, perhaps, but if Abhisit was interested in releasing tension, he could have gone to an election in 2009 or 2010. We think he’s been keen to do the fixing first. Then, assuming a victory, the establishment could make all kinds of claims about legitimacy and use this to further repress political and regime opposition.

Xinhua makes this comment: “Legitimacy of the Abhisit government has been questioned since the first day that the Democrat party took the office in 2008 as it was allegedly formed by the military in a military camp.” And, that alliance has been greatly strengthened since then. The Democrat Party is now the military’s preferred option for maintaining the military’s hold on politics.

Prajak goes on to explain that an election would not solve the political crisis, and mentions “several remaining obstacles [that] include the case of 91 deaths. The new government is duty-bound to answer questions regarding facts and justice as well as recently occurring violence.” He also notes that political disputation is “acceptable in democratic society, so [a] polarized civil society in Thailand is not uncommon phenomenon as it is witnessed in every corner of the world.”

He sees conflict continuing and evokes a kind of clash of elites theory, pointing to an ongoing struggle between to competing ruling classes or elites. He adds: “So long as the two groups keep wrestling for power and the trouble of bipolar state has not really been addressed, it is difficult to alleviate conflicts in civil society. The chance that the violence will resurge remains highly possible if this controversial political structure exists in Thailand.”

There’s a lot of political theory going begging in this view, not least on the relationship between civil society and state. That said, PPT tends to agree that conflict will continue. But rather than a bipolar clash of competing elites, we’d tend to see the conflict between elites as having deeper structural roots in the Thai political economy.

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