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.

Chai-Anan Samudavanija and republicanism

5 08 2009

Chai-Anan Samudavanija, formerly a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, is a long-time ally of Sondhi Limthongkul. He was also a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra for a considerable time, and seemed to stay longer than Sondhi. Chai-Anan jumped ship when the People’s Alliance for Democracy was in Sondhi’s hands. Chai-Anan is also close to the palace, as director of Vajiravudh College and a member of the Royal Institute.

Chai-Anan has been a regular commentator at ASTV and his columns have been rather incendiary whenever the political temperature has risen over the last couple of years.

In a recent issue (Manager Online, 2 August 2009: “สังคมไทยแบ่งเป็นสองฝ่าย”), Chai-Anan writes about the divisions in Thai politics and society.

Interestingly, he begins with a “former minister” who comes up with a different division: there are those who want the monarchy (ฝ่าย “เอาเจ้า”) and those who don’t (“ฝ่ายไม่เอาเจ้า”), the monarchists and the republicans. Here the “former minister” is referring to the people, not political leaders, for he says that Thaksin is largely irrelevant to this division, and whether he is around or not, the people are in these camps.

Chai-Anan says if this is the case, then people had better worry for the country, because the monarchy has always been there.

How did it come to this? He acknowledges Thaksin’s policies were welcome in the villages and increased his electoral stock, but wonders why republicans have emerged.

His answer is that there seem 4-5 groups: (i) those who dislike some privy councillors and this flows on to a disdain for the monarchy itself; (ii) those who mislead rural people and taxi drivers and pay for them to join the movement and demonstrations; (iii) a group in Chiang Mai who give rise to feelings about an old Lanna that had its own monarch and independence from Bangkok; (iv) others who feel that the current monarchy is remote from the people, unlike monarchs of the past; and later he adds (v) intellectuals who are closet republicans.

Chai-Anan is worried. He wonders why people don’t think about Thaksin’s bad deeds or blame him for the seeming acceptance of corruption amongst the younger generation. He asks rhetorically, was it Thaksin or Thaksin’s money that people liked?

Perhaps Chai-Anan should answer the question himself instead of pointing to others. He certainly benefited by holding several well-paid positions when Thaksin was premier. It seems pathetic and arrogant of Chai-Anan to seek to denigrate others when he was on the gravy train himself.

For Chai-Anan, Thaksin still has political influence because he has created a politics that operates like a marketplace.

He believes that the police are 100% for Thaksin and the red shirts. If Thaksin and the republicans grow in size and influence, it will be the fault of those police who refuse to do their duty.

Finally, Chai-Anan worries that if the republicans expand, the monarchists have little in their arsenal with which to counter-attack. He sees the monarchists arguments as only holding sway with the older generation, while the under 30s seem uninterested in nation and monarchy.

If all this is to be the fate of Thailand, the place will be ruined.

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