Rule of law and the princess

16 02 2017

It wasn’t that long ago that PPT posted on the “appointment” of Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol as something called a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

As we noted then, it seemed very odd to appoint a Thai princess to deal with anything related to the rule of law. After all, Thai royals are protected by a feudal law and hold artificially elevated positions in a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law.

Remarkably, it seems to us that the palace and UNODC have responded.

The Nation reports that the royal daughter’s “invaluable experience” and her “long-held interest in the judicial system” are cited as reasons for her appointment. UNODC “told the press yesterday that the [p]rincess had been chosen … due to her enduring passion for the judicial system and also because she has been a professional practitioner in the field for a long time.”

They didn’t say that her “long time” goes back to September 2006 when she was appointed Attorney in the Office of the Attorney General. Yes, “long time” is a mammoth 10 years during which time she’s also had a hectic social and palace life and went off to be Thailand’s ambassador in Vienna for a couple of years.

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov reckoned this 7 or 8 years of experience “is invaluable” and “enables her to speak with authority on the need for effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.” He’s shoveling buffalo manure. Inclusive institutions? Like monarchy, puppet assemblies and military dictatorships? Other UNODC officials also shoveled the manure making ludicrous claims about the princess’s “experience” and “skills.”

The princess seems to have responded too. She has “pledged to move forward with the principle of rule of law in the region in line with the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.” She declared “the appointment offered her the opportunity to champion the UN’s position on the rule of law and fairness in the criminal justice system.”

Great! Fairness and the rule of law are more of less absent in Thailand, so we expect she will try to do something positive about lese majeste and illegal military regimes in her country. Is she going to speak out against them? Is she going to support lese majeste prisoners and ensure they are entitled to bail and other constitutional and legal rights?

There’s the test. Our assumption is that she’ll fail it because the position of the monarchy and its associated hangers-on depends on this feudal law and its cruel political use and implementation.

Supporting feudal monarchism

8 02 2017

We know that the military dictatorship has little sense of irony. It seems part of the UN has caught the lack of irony disease. That lack of perception means that, as it has done previously, UN offices manage to collude in creating and reinforcing feudal monarchism in Thailand.

pattyWe say this based on a report in the Bangkok Post that “… the King’s daughter … Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol is to become a goodwill ambassador for the rule of law in Southeast Asia, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime announced on Wednesday.”

The irony of appointing a royal, protected by a feudal law and from a country ruled by a military dictatorship that illegally seized power and now uses military courts and thumbs its nose at rule of law, in favor of rule by law, seems lost on this UN office.

In fact, UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas is quoted as stating: “She doesn’t see herself as above the law and is interested in helping out to advance justice reform…”.

In fact, she is above the law. While in its written form the lese majeste law does not apply to her, every Thai knows that, in practice, she is “protected,” just like dead kings and deceased king’s dogs.

How a feudal “princess would help to promote justice reform” in “Thailand as well as the rest of Southeast Asia” is not clear. After all, her experience is of Thailand’s compromised and politicized “justice” system.

Yes, we know she allegedly has “a special interest in prison issues, particularly women in prison,” but even the UNODC website has little about this since this “interest” was happened upon back in 2008-9.

In an earlier post, we speculated that palace’s need to reorient its propaganda to promote the new king and his (official) family. As in the past, UN offices are targeted in this effort to promote feudal institutions.

Corruption and the stars

26 01 2017

In our last post on corruption, where Thailand’s plummeting ranking on Transparency International’s perceptions index was discussed, we ended with this: We can hardly wait for the junta’s toadies to “explain” this.

Well, not a toady but The Dictator himself has “explained” the precipitous plunge. It is a truly wonderful and magical account that should begin, “Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…”.

General Prayuth Chan-ocha, self-proclaimed premier of this magical land stated that “overall the country’s rankings in several criteria ‘were not all that bad’.” We imagine that he’s thinking of other rankings, perhaps those he keeps in his own head.

He then “explains”: “Don’t forget that everything [corruption scandals] happened in the past…”. Here, he seems to be babbling about the recently revealed corruption scandals that have come day after day. He is obviously unaware that this recent news does not impact the released ranking. At the same time, he conveniently neglects nepotism in his own family, military corruption, the remarkable and unusual wealth of almost every general appointed to his puppet agencies and more. He also neglects the crumbling of anything remotely resembling rule of law in Thailand.

The General then got astrological. He claimed soothsayers had predicted “that things that have been concealed will all be revealed.” We doubt he means nepotism in his own family, military corruption, the remarkable and unusual wealth of almost every general appointed to his puppet agencies.

He stated: “Astrologers said that it is the year of exposing the truth, but I am not concerned about it as I am always ready for scrutiny…”. The astrologers may be right, but Prayuth is a liar. He has not allowed any independent investigations of allegations against his regime. Even the investigations of the current round of corruption cases are all being internally “investigated.”

Prayuth further “explained”: “When any information has been revealed, inquiries must be carried out. But don’t try to dwell too much on it. We have to consider both positives and negative impacts.” Positives seem to include the enrichment of the so-called great and the good close to the regime.

The rest of his comments were even more farcical. Perhaps he could have just said, “And they all [the junta] lived happily ever after…”.

Forced confessions and lese majeste

25 01 2017

In a recent post we used the term  whiffy to describe a deal approved by the military junta to extend a contract to manage the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center for one of Thailand’s richest.

If that deal was whiffy, then a recent story at Prachatai details a case that reeks.

It is apparently another case of a political activist being accused of lese majeste and then being fitted up. In this case, being held in detention until he “agreed” to plead guilty.

Burin Intin, a welder from northern Thailand, was arrested about 27 April 2016. He was taken from the police by soldiers and detained at a military base before being indicted on two counts of lese majeste and computer crime charges on 22 July 2016.Burin

He was arrested as the military junta cracked down on dissidents. Burin had been campaigning online for the release of the eight from the Neo-Democracy and  Resistant Citizen groups arrested for opposing the military junta’s illegal rule.

The military junta’s thugs declared that Burin had committed lese majeste in his “private chats” on Facebook and it was soon revealed that at least some of his chats were with Patnaree Chankij, the mother of activist student Sirawith Seritiwat, who has also been charged with lese majeste in another bizarre case.

The conversation was referred to by police using these (translated)  words:

In the [Facebook] chat, Mr. Burin who used his Facebook account named “Burin Intin” had posted messages obviously deemed defamatory to the monarchy. During the chat, Mr. Burin had also wrote “Don’t criticise me for saying all these”, and a reply had come from a Facebook account “Nuengnuch Chankij writing ‘Ja’.

Having been held for almost nine months, on 24 January 2017, Burin changed his plea before the military court to guilty on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. He will be sentenced on Friday.

It is a common tactic of the thug-authorities to drag out lese majeste cases until they get a guilty plea. This tactic is a form of torture.

Burin has stated that, on “the night when he was detained at the military base in Bangkok, army officers demanded his Facebook password, but he resisted by keeping his mouth shut.” He claims that he was then beaten:

a heavily-built man in plain clothes, with a knitted hat, gave Burin four hard slaps on the head, while an interrogation officer threatened him by saying “You surely won’t survive. You won’t be able to get out [of this place]. If you won’t tell me [your password], I will take you somewhere where you will face even harsher treatment.”

Burin insists he did not give up his password yet police “used conversations claimed to have been obtained from Burin’s Facebook inbox as supporting evidence to press charges against him.”

It also appears that “the documents to support the charges appear to have been prepared even before the police raided his house and confiscated his computer.”

This is just one more lese majeste case where laws and the rights of citizens are simply ignored and thug-authorities steamroller cases to conviction. The “justice” system in Thailand is very deeply flawed, but nowhere is it so lawless and unconstitutional than in the use of the lese majeste law and the framing of “suspects.”

Thailand’s “justice” system, always dubious, is now a sham. Previous shaky notions of rule of law have been expunged to create an injustice system of rule of and by lords, with the lords being the military, monarchy and the royalist elite.

Monarchy, judges and prosecutors

19 01 2017

Dead kings, live ones, the princeling judges of the courts of law and now prosecutors are protected from all kinds of “threats,” implied, imagined and real.

Thailand’s process of judicialization has gone a long way under various royalist regimes and their constitutions since 2006. Judges and prosecutors are untouchable.

To emphasize how far this process has gone, crippling any notion of rule of law, a report in the Bangkok Post will appear ludicrous to most readers.

It seems that the seemingly august  prosecutors in the case at the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions hearing the political case against Yingluck Shinawatra are easily frightened.

On “Oct 7, 2016 around noon,” two court spectators were considered to be “staring at prosecutors in an intimidating manner.”no-justice

Intimidation through staring. There’s a cultural aspect to this but presumably prosecutors are used to dealing with criminals like rapists, murderers, drug dealers, torturers and even hi-so types with excellent connections. But staring bothers and frightens them. Perhaps they feel closer to the criminal types.

The persecuted prosecutors “filed a petition with the court on Nov 18, accusing the two spectators of contempt of court.” The courts swung into action to investigate the “starers” protect the “stare-ees” and a panel of three very senior judges gave their presumably valuable time to this nonsense important “case.”

The Post reports that on “Jan 17, a panel of three judges led by Wiroon Saengthian, deputy president of the Supreme Court, summoned the two for questioning.” The starers admitted they had stared and were fined 500 baht each.

Thailand’s farcical judicial system just got a lot more ridiculous as it seeks to protect the status quo of the ever more hierarchical society.

Bail denied in lese majeste case

29 12 2016

“Protecting” King Vajiralongkorn is now a major task for the military dictatorship. It believes that attacking young activists kills two birds with one stone, “protecting” the new king from his past and policing and disciplining anti-junta activists.

Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa is charged with sharing a BBC Thai report on the new king on his Facebook page. Thousands of others shared the same report, but the only case of a lese majeste case seems to be against Jatuphat. This is probably because he is a political activist. As Prachatai puts it, he “is a key member of the New Democracy Movement (NDM) anti-junta activist group. He currently faces several charges for organising and participating in anti-junta activities.”jatuphat

Jatuphat, or Pai, was first arrested on 3 December 2016, just two days after the king’s accession. He was initially granted bail, but this was withdrawn “on 22 December after he posted a satirical message mocking authorities on his Facebook account.” Mocking the thugs is almost as dangerous as lese majeste, and his bail was removed because he failed to show “due respect” for the military thugs, kangaroo courts and Keystone Cops.

His appeal for a renewal of bail was rejected on 27 December 2016 by “an appeal court in Khon Kaen Province…. The court reasoned that Jatuphat does not seem to respect the law or state authorities, adding that he could intervene with evidence if released.”

The Bangkok Post reports that the appeals court “upheld the lower court’s judgement, saying the 25-year-old anti-junta activist and law student had shown his behaviour in social media since he was granted bail could be construed as an attempt to challenge state power and to show disrespect for the rule of law. It was likely Mr Jatupat would continue to act that way.”

The notion that there is anything about “rule of law” associated with Thailand’s judiciary, most especially in lese majeste cases, is quite bizarre. In fact, these courts continue the practice of treating all cases that “challenge state power” as “special,” making “law” up as they go along, to “protect” state power.

What rule of law?

22 10 2016

As expected for some time, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been “fined” 35.7 billion baht or more than $1 billion, over her government’s rice program.

The Bangkok Post reports that the military junta has notified her of the “fine.” In fact, it is reported that the order is for  “her assets to be seized.”

The Post report states that the order was “signed by Deputy Finance Minister Wisudhi Srisuphan and permanent secretary Somchai Sujjapongse on Oct 13 … [and] details allegations and losses to the government which occurred from the scheme.” (We assume that they had time to burn on the day of the king’s death.)

Whatever one might think of Yingluck and the Shinawatra clan, this administrative order should be a cause for great concern. Yingluck is right when she says: “Such an order has violated my rights and is not fair…”.

It needs to be remembered that the biggest “fine” in Thailand’s history has not been processed following any court procedure. (We don’t doubt that the junta-loving courts would agree, but the point is that due process has been ignored.) Yingluck had “previously called on the junta to file civil claims in court instead of ordering the 35.7-billion-baht fine, 66 times the 579-million-baht assets she declared in June 2015.”

Yingluck is told to pay up within 30 days. She can appeal “within 90 days if she does not agree with the order.”

It is also worth noting that the order follows a pattern of authoritarian decision-making by The Dictator. It was only in September that General Prayuth Chan-ocha used Article 44 “to have the Legal Execution Department seize the assets of state officials liable to pay civil damages under the scheme. The executors will have immunity in doing their duties.”boot-print

So the junta boss allows immunity for his servants but denies it to all those “nasty” elected politicians that he hates and engages in acts of retrospectivity.

As ever, the junta has trampled muddy military boots across the rule of law.

Yingluck has been “charged with criminal negligence over the rice subsidy scheme and is now fighting the charges in court.” The lawless junta could not wait for due process.

The junta is running hundreds of other cases – as many as 850 –  against Yingluck and senior members of her former cabinet and others related to the rice scheme.

Yingluck has already been”retroactively impeached and, as a result, she was banned from politics for five years.” The junta’s idea in proceeding on the 850 cases is to break Shinawatra clan, cripple the Puea Thai Party and shatter the so-called Thaksin regime.

While anti-democrats will cheer, the rule of law is also broken and it may be decades before the legal vandalism of the junta can be undone.