Courts brook no criticism

30 08 2019

In recent years, the Constitutional Court has been highly politicized. It has made all kinds of decisions that are barely recognizable as legal in any fair or impartial sense. Despite decisions that have been brazenly biased, the court is keen to police any effort to call it out.

This is why the court has blown a gasket over recent commentaries that have annoyed.

A recent Prachatai report commented on a social media storm that had erupted over the judicial harassment of Associate Professor Kovit Wongsurawat, a political scientist at Kasetsart University. He had “received a letter from the Office of the Constitutional Court summoning him to meet the Secretary-General of the Office over an ‘inappropriate’ tweet.”

Yes, a tweet! That tiny comment was posted on 26 June 2019 when Kovit “said that the Constitutional Court is ‘beyond shameless’ for accepting a petition about 32 MPs who hold shares in media companies, but not suspending them.”

Obviously, Kovit was comparing this favorable treatment of the military-backed government’s MPs when compared with opposition MPs and candidates.

But it got worse. The Bangkok Post reports that Sarinee Achavanuntakul, an independent academic and columnist, “has been served with a summons for contempt of court…”. This time a “civil case involving contempt of court by publication was filed by Supradit Jeensawake, secretary of the Supreme Court’s Election Cases Division.”

Sarinee’s case “refers to the Prachachon 2.0 (People 2.0) column titled Perils of Excessive Rule by Law (revisited), Case of Media Shareholding by MP Candidates … published in Krungthep Turakit newspaper on May 14, 2019.”

A copy of a memorandum by Mr Supradit to Jinda Pantachote, chief of the division, who approved the proceedings, was also attached.

In the article “Sarinee cited as an example of the dangers of excessive use of rule by law a case in Sakon Nakhon in which the court banned a FFP MP candidate from running in March.” She made the obvious point that the court was dim in its “interpretation” of “media business” and pointed how how this “interpretation” could lead to ridiculous uses of the law.

She is now accused of contempt of court.

The courts offer little “blind justice.” Rather, they offer undeniable support for the ruling class. Protecting lopsided justice means the courts are also policing their critics.

Ruling class and the unruly

28 04 2019

It is always enlightening – or should we say, confirmatory – when members of the ruling class speak for the regime.

Recently, Thai PBS reported on comments by Supreme Court President Cheep Chulamont where he pondered how to make Thais obey his ruling class and their regime.

He whined that the “problems” facing the country – he means the ruling class – “stem from the Thai people themselves” because, he says, they “do not accept one another and do not accept the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, which has set the roles and responsibilities of all organizations…”. Cheep moans: “How can the Thai people live in peace if they do not accept the rules?”

Let’s translate. The constitution was foisted upon the country by an illegal military coup. It was crafted by junta lackeys to promote the interests of the junta and the ruling class. It was “passed” by a “referendum” where people were prevented from campaigning against it, with not a few being jailed by both the military and civil judiciary, enforcing junta decrees.

His claim that the “court has no vested interests” is, we think, disingenuous. Cheep knows full well that his courts represent the ruling class and apply double standards.

One of the main reasons for this is that the judiciary has been brought under the control of the monarchy, at least over the course of the last long reign.

Like so many before him, Cheep bleats that the hoi polloi should stop being unruly and obey the ruling class. Blind obedience will allow some scraps to fall to them from the ruling class’s glutenous feast.

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.

Judiciary licks the military boot

22 06 2018

It was only a few days ago that PPT pointed to the 2014 military coup as an illegal act that caused serious damage to Thailand’s reputation (and still does). Yet the courts have always accepted that coups are retrospectively legal because the (military) criminals make them so.

Confirming this, the Bangkok Post reports that the “Supreme Court has refused to accept a case in which activists accused the junta of insurrection.” The courts have again licked the military boot.

The Supreme Court upheld “lower courts’ decisions, … decid[ing] … Section 48 of the 2014 interim constitution exempts the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) [the junta] from any criminal and civil liabilities. Although the 2018 [2017] constitution replaced the interim charter, the new constitution endorses it in Section 279, the last provision.”

In other words, the judiciary accepts that any military thug can forcibly overthrow the legal government and excuse itself of the laws in place at the time by simply granting themselves impunity.

That decision is the status quo for Thailand. The judiciary in Thailand has virtually no independence. More than that, the current judiciary is almost entirely composed of coup-supporting anti-democrats.

Another privy councilor gone

3 03 2018

King Vajiralongkorn had no sooner arrived back in Bangkok from Germany when another privy councilor was sent packing.

Wirach (or Virat) Chinvinitkul (วิรัช ชินวินิจกุล), a former vice president and secretary of the Supreme Court and a member of the junta’s National Reform Steering Assembly was only appointed by the king on 13 December 2016. He was removed by announcement on Friday.

We await stories, announcements and rumors on why he was removed.

It is interesting to observe that some have reported that the king has been in Germany from 29 December 2017 until 28 February 2018.

Chiranuch loses appeal

23 12 2015

red candleThis post is essentially one of record. Chiranuch Premchaiporn was was first arrested when the offices of Prachatai were raided by the Crime Suppression police on 6 March 2009, on accusations of allowing webboard comments with lese majeste content. The content on the website said to be problematic was from 15 October to 3 November 2008. Chiranuch ran the webboard.Chiranuch computer

On 30 May 2012, Chiranuch was found guilty under the Computer Crimes Act and slapped with an 8-month suspended sentence, reduced from 12 months, and US$630 fine. In early October 2012, Chiranuch decided to appeal her conviction. Her appeal was rejected on 8 November 2013. She then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Prachatai now reports that the Supreme Court on 23 December 2015 confirmed the verdicts from the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance. The Supreme Court also criticized Chiranuch for not deleting the offending posts quickly enough, noting a delay from a Saturday to Monday. Chiranuch denies this.

It also criticized her for not doing enough to facilitate police investigations on lese majeste and computer crimes. While this is a strange claim, given that Chiranuch was being charged and investigated, it is also denied, pointing to failures on the part of the police investigators.

Elite impunity

20 12 2015

Judicial double standards are pretty much the only standards in the royalist elite’s Thailand. The military has always had impunity when it murders citizens and run its coups. So it seems do civilian and military-backed regimes that have ordered murderous crackdowns.

It was in April and May 2010 that Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban presided over to murderous military attacks on red shirt protesters.

Their prosecution had been recommended by the Department of Special Investigation. Its recommendation followed “several court rulings that found some protesters were shot dead by soldiers acting on the orders of the now-defunct Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), set up by the then-Democrat [Party]-led government under Mr Abhisit.”

On Friday, the Appeal Court again delayed, until 17 February 2016, its ruling in a case involving these two. The delay was caused by Suthep simply not showing up in court.

In August 2014, the Criminal Court dismissed murder charges against Abhisit and Suthep ruling “it did not have jurisdiction in the case, which should have been brought before the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Position-Holders.”

Abhisit and Suthep have always “denied the charges and submitted a petition to the court arguing the DSI did not have the power to handle the investigation.”

The Criminal Court then ruled that “the two men had declared a state of emergency and ordered soldiers to clamp down on the protesters, and allowed them to use weapons and live ammunition to retake areas occupied by red-shirt demonstrators.” It decided that the two had ordered the murderous military attacks “in their legal capacity as prime minister and deputy prime minister” and these were not criminal attacks.

It does seem that only red shirts are subject to the courts and horrendously unfair treatment.

Jatuporn denied

29 06 2011

PPT got it wrong a couple of days ago, confusing the lese majeste charges against red shirt leader and Puea Thai party list candidate Jatuporn Promphan and the withdrawal of his bail on charges alleging terrorism following a speech where he was accused of lese majeste.

The outcome of his continued jailing, however, looks pretty much the same whatever the reason for detention. As reported in the media today, the continued detention of Jatuporn has significant implications for the upcoming vote and Jatuporn’s political future.

This is because Jatuporn may well be disqualified when he is elected next Sunday. Given that he is No. 8 on the party list, he is sure to be elected. Denying Jatuporn his place in parliament is not going to deny Puea Thai a seat as someone lower on the list would move up. However, it would amount to an act of political revenge by his opponents.

Some think that if he is allowed to temporarily leave prison to vote, he may be safe. Will he be allowed to vote? The only precedent is “Korkaew Pikulthong, another red-shirt leader, who ran in a by-election in a Bangkok constituency while in detention, but was not allowed to leave the prison to vote.”

Election Commission member Sodsri Sattayaham has publically discussed the potential means by which Jatuporn will be disqualified.

Sodsri said if “Jatuporn is not allowed to get out of the prison to vote, but is elected, the EC would possibly not endorse his election…”. In a later story she is reported as more definitive: “Sodsri said that if Mr Jatuporn did not exercise his right, he would be considered lacking in qualifications to be an MP.”

In the earlier account, Sodsri stated that Article 26 of the Election Act means that “a person who does not vote in an election loses his or her right to run as an election candidate.”

To be honest, we are not sure which Act Sodsri is referring to here and the EC site appears virus infected, so we are not linking to it. We think that there’s probably ample scope for interpretation by the politicized EC.

Sodsri also mentions “Section 100 of the constitution prohibits a person who is in detention under a court warrant or a legal order from going to the polls.” That is accurate. However, Section 102 specifically excludes the part noted by Sodsri when dealing with the qualifications of a candidate.

In this sense, Sodsri is pointing to the possibility of a consideration that requires that Jatuporn be prevented from voting so that he would then be disqualified as a candidate because of “being under suspension of the right to vote.”

She goes on to claim that if Jatuporn was “disqualified he could petition the Supreme Court’s election cases division, because a case like this had never happened before…”.

Sodsri appears to be coaching on this matter.

Dutifully, in another report, it is revealed that within hours of receiving an application from Jatuporn’s lawyers for his temporary release to vote, the Criminal Court on denied it.

The court stated “that the charges against Mr Jatuporn are serious and there is sufficient reason to believe that he could again cause unrest in the country if allowed out of prison to vote.”

Promoting fear and controlling red shirts

2 03 2010

Part of the campaign against the “Thaksin regime” involved the widely predicted victory against Thaksin Shinawatra in the Supreme Court. As PPT mentioned after that verdict, this was just the beginning, and a series of wider actions against Thaksin, his family and others are underway.

We do not know anything about government blacklists, although while now denying it, there were reports earlier about such a list of people from the opposition being watched (The Nation, 2 March 2010). However, the same report has an account of what are now the usual scare tactics against red shirts from the ruling Democrat Party.

Democrat Party parliamentarian Pramual Aimpeaexpressed concern for the rally planned by the red shirts today, saying security agencies must prevent a repeat of the Songkran rampage and cancel the bail of those arrested in connection with the uprising.” He is reported as saying: “If the red shirts don’t have their leaders, they can’t instigate turmoil. I don’t understand why police do nothing when they know these people are going to set our house on fire and why they have to wait till people die or get injured first…”.

Meanwhile, Dittaporn Sasasamit,aspokesman for the Internal Security Operations Command, said the agency had been planning to prevent any mayhem by the red-shirt rally on March 12 through intelligence measures and the prevention of any campaigns in schools to cause chaos. The plan may be adjusted according to the situation.” Mayhem….

PPT spent most of today listening to radio. The army and government stations are wall-to-wall anti-red shirt news and propaganda, interspersed with royalist propaganda and advertising for the monarchy. Most notable were statements regarding the potential for violence and entreaties for “all Thais” to reject the red shirts. Also noted were statements about the military’s preparedness to act against the red shirts.

As before, this campaign will involve false leads, false accusations, threats, the odd staged bombing and the like. The royalist government has found this more effective than invoking the Internal Security Act. It is also classic ISOC stuff.

The verdict, security and judicialization

28 02 2010

Continuing a theme of posts on judicialization and the enhancement of security, PPT provides these two links to stories by two of the most experienced foreign political reporters/commentators based in Thailand. Their perspectives on these matters can be read in conjunction with PPT’s earlier post.

Marwaan Macan-Markar at Inter Press Agency News (27 February 2010) points out, commenting on the Thaksin Shinawatra assets case, that the “800 million U.S. dollars, which the court did not seize on account of it having been made before Thaksin was became prime minister ... will remain frozen till other cases against Thaksin are resolved, according to the courts.

Marwaan cites historian Thanet Aphornsuvan on the judiciary: “This verdict confirms the continuing role of the judiciary in resolving political crises in the country…. The Supreme Court is being increasingly asked to play an important role, so I was not surprised by the verdict. The judges settled for a compromise rather than take all of Thaksin’s assets.” PPT remains unconvinced that this was a “compromise.” Thanet is further cited: “The judiciary is now so powerful it is almost becoming another sovereign power. It is more powerful than the legislative and executive branch of government.”

Marwaan sees the shift to the judiciary as political enforcer as “rooted in an April 2006 speech by the … monarch…”. He has a partial list of other judicial decisions that have repeatedly targeted the pro-Thaksin political forces and notes the king’s “two important speeches to groups of judges in recent weeks. He called for justice to be shaped by the spirit of ‘righteousness’.”

Shawn Crispin at Asia Times Online (27 February 2010) also has some useful comments. He observes that the “court-ordered seizure of Thaksin’s assets is in line with the gathering trend towards the ‘judicialization’ of Thai politics, an apparently royally endorsed concept where high courts and judges assume the role the monarchy has traditionally played in mediating the country’s complex and often heated political disputes. Observers noted that King Bhumibol Adulyadej symbolically addressed groups of judges on two occasions in recent weeks, urging them to adjudicate with ‘righteousness’ the cases they handle.” Crispin adds that the king “made a similar address in the lead-up to a Constitutional Tribune [sic] decision in May 2007 that resulted in the legal dissolution of Thaksin’s former ruling Thai Rak Thai party and banned 111 of the its top executives – including Thaksin – from politics for five years.

Crispin also notes the Abhisit Vejjajiva government’s increased attention to security: “The government has pre-emptively responded to the threats by mobilizing joint civilian and security force teams across 38 provinces, including in Bangkok, and the erecting of new security cameras in areas of the national capital, including this week in front of the Supreme Court.” PPT would add that several of these “threats” are largely manufactured by a non-stop barrage of accusations and often false stories emanating from within the government.

His story finishes by speculating that Thaksin may be “keeping his financial powder dry to press his case for a royal pardon after the eventual succession from Bhumibol to his heir apparent son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.” While Thaksin is no Pridi Bhanomyong, he no doubt knows – not least through a family connection – that Pridi was forever an enemy of the palace and was never permitted to return.

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