Updated: Double standards and lawlessness in the justice system

1 10 2017

PPT has regularly been posting on the gross failures of the justice system. Thailand’s justice system has long been pretty awful, but since the 2006 military coup that awfulness has been compounded by the fact that particular courts have become little more than political tools for the royalist elite and, in recent years, the military dictatorship’s instrument.

For this reason Bangkok Post editor Umesh Pandey’s op-ed “Hypocrisy of double standards” is an important statement on a defining failure of the justice system.

Writing after the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions decision to imprison former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, where “[t]he court’s verdict did not state whether the rice pledging policy implemented by Yingluck and her government was wrong but only stated that she neglected her duty in curtailing corruption in the scheme.”

If this is the courts definition of malfeasance, then PPT can’t think of a premier for several decades who wouldn’t be held guilty, including the current military one. But this use of the law is reserved for Yingluck as the military dictatorship wanted to be rid of her.

As Umesh observes,

The verdict left some room for appeal but less than 24 hours after it was handed down, the military government that overthrew the Pheu Thai-led government of which the Shinawatras were the key backers came out with new rules that force any appeal to be lodged by the convicted person and not through lawyers. To make matters worse, the statutory limit on the case, which is usually about a decade or so, is a lifetime.

From Ji Ungpakorn’s blog

He adds that in most jurisdictions, “new rules are effective only after they are put in place, but this is Thailand and in Yingluck’s case the rules were effective retroactively.”

Of course, applying rules and laws retroactively has been a hallmark of military juntas. For example, juntas regularly absolve themselves of criminality when they overthrow governments and constitutions. A more egregious example was the use of Announcement No. 27 (2006) of the then junta  to dissolve Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 using the junta’s Announcement retroactively. It was the junta’s Constitutional Tribunal – its Constitutional Court – that concocted this decision (while at the same time acquitting the parties that supported the coup).

On the current retrospective use of rules and laws, naturally enough it is royalist-military stooge Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee, who said the new law, which was only published in the Royal Gazette on 28 September and took effect the next day, applied in Yingluck’s case. As Umesh states, this “basically closes the door on any appeal by Yingluck against the verdict and leaves no room for her to return to Thailand in the foreseeable future unless she’s willing to be behind bars.”

Umesh continues:

The case has raised more questions than it has answered. Many on the street believe that all these rules being put in place by those in power have a single aim of trying to curtail the power and marginalise the once powerful Pheu Thai Party. And to further cement this possible misconception [PPT: we can’t possibly imagine that this is a misconception] is the fact that other political parties are being left to do what they like and their party members and leaders are not being prosecuted even when they are in breach of the law.

To illustrate the double standards at work, Umesh points to the case of anti-democrat leader, coup plotter and “former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who has been accused of violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code by committing misconduct or dereliction of duty for his handling of the 6.67 billion baht project to build 396 police stations under the Abhisit Vejjajiva government…”.

As he notes, that case began before Yingluck’s case, and had dragged on and on:

Little has been heard about it since May 2015 when Mr Suthep was still a monk and once after that when the anti-Pheu Thai “independent” National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) decided to change one of its outside members because Mr Suthep claimed he was biased against him.

This outside member was none other than Vicha Mahakhun, the NACC subcommittee chairman in charge of investigating Mr Suthep’s misconduct. Mr Vicha was hired as an outside member after he retired from the chair of the subcommittee in which he had implicated Mr Suthep.

But here’s double standards twist: Why is there no related case against Abhisit? After all, he was the premier when the alleged malfeasance took place.

While this dereliction of duty case continues to drag on, Democrat Party leader Mr Abhisit, who was Mr Suthep’s immediate boss, is basically left off the hook. There is no such case because Thailand’s judicial system is rigged, politicized and subject to the whims and desires of the military junta.

Umesh concludes:

All this gives the impression that those in power are trying to come up with a million explanations for their snail’s pace of investigation into those aligned to the people in power, but to the general public this kind of move is nothing more than what has been repeated a million times over the past decade — the implementation of double standards.

The blatant breach and different interpretation of rules for different sides makes one wonder how this country can achieve its goal of reconciliation and move on.

The junta’s answer is probably something like: “Just give us a few more years to embed double standards so deeply that they will be the only standards.”

Update: We hit the publish button a little too quickly as we wanted to write more about lawlessness. The best example of the courts acting against the law is lese majeste. There have been several cases where persons have been charged with lese majeste against royals, dead and alive, who are simply not covered by the law. The most recent case of this legal ridiculousness was just last month where courts and the Office of the Attorney General have agreed to proceed with a case involving Princess Sirindhorn who is not covered under Article 112.





More retroactive “law”

14 07 2017

One of the most significant acts by the military-backed regime put in place following the 2006 military coup was the dissolving of the Thai Rak Thai Party through the application of a “law” applied retrospectively.

That application of a junta decree indicated and demonstrated double standards in the judicial system and promoted the further politicization of the judiciary. Today, almost all arms of the judiciary are politicized and biased. In lese majeste cases, the law is not even considered important in gaining convictions.

We are not saying that the judicial system in Thailand was ever independent, unbiased and fair, but the deterioration under the influence of military regimes and their civilian clones has been precipitous.

Whatever one thinks of Thaksin Shinawatra, the Bangkok Post’s report that several court cases against the former prime minister “are expected to be resumed in absentia following a new organic law endorsed by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)” is another example of the manipulation of the law and the politicization of the judicial system.

It is no surprise that the reduced puppet NLA “voted unanimously … to pass the controversial draft organic law on criminal procedures for holders of a political position.” (The NLA is reduced as several puppets resigned to prepare for the junta’s “election,” suggesting that the NLA has been tipped off on the date of the election, while the public is kept in the dark.)

While the change to the law to allow for trials in absentia may be considered a useful change, it is clear that this is “Thaksin’s Law,” meant to banish him from Thailand forever. (Of course, he is not the first “enemy” of the monarchy to be banished from Thailand for life.)

As the Post report notes: “Cases which have gone to the court before the enactment of this law will also be affected, meaning the law will be retroactive….  In general, rule of law forbids prosecutions under laws passed after the alleged crimes were committed.”

The anti-democrats will cheer this. Yet they are complicit in the undermining of the rule of law in Thailand.





“Everyone must adhere to the law”

27 06 2017

Knuckle-draggers, knuckle-heads and other anti-democrats have gotten pretty darn agitated by Yingluck Shinawatra’s recent tears. We don’t imagine that any of them can see past their hatred of a popular politician and her troubles as concocted by the military dictatorship.

But one line by Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan caught our eye. In dismissing Yingluck, he reportedly stated that “everyone must adhere to the law.”

Prawit is the nitwit with the tongue

If that were true, he wouldn’t be Deputy Dictator and illegal coup-makers would be jailed.

If that were true, the popcorn gunman wouldn’t have been acquitted.

If that were true, the Thai Rak Thai Party would not have been dissolved using law retrospectively.

If that were true, the military dictatorship would have 3,000 people awaiting trial for reposting a BBC Thai story on King Vajiralongkorn.

If that were true, there would have been an investigation of the theft of the 1932 plaque.

If that were true, all those committing torture, disappearances and so on, would be jailed.

If that were true, military murders would be jailed.

If that were true, the Red Bull killer would be in jail.

If that were true…. We don’t need to go on. This general is a nasty nitwit.





The corruption glacier I

14 02 2017

In a recent post, PPT commented on the many failures of the National Anti-Corruption Commission: it is politicized, biased and just plain slow. Glacially slow.

Two stories today emphasize these points. The first seems like a story of stalling, inertia and perhaps incompetence. Yet is also illustrates the politicization of corruption and bias. We only cover that story in this post and will follow up with a second but related post on the other story.

At the Bangkok Post, former academic and former NACC commissioner Medhi Krongkaew raised questions “over the slow progress of the investigation into alleged bribery payments made by a British alcoholic beverage giant [Diageo] to Thai officials in 2011.” Back then, Diageo “agreed to pay the US Securities and Exchange Commission more than US$16 million (561 million baht) to resolve Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act offences involving bribes to foreign officials in India, Thailand, and South Korea between 2003 and 2009.”

In this case, the official/political figure is pretty well identified, but not in the Bangkok Post story, which kind of fades away. Medhi lets himself off the hook by saying “he was not responsible for probing the case, all he could do was forward the information received from the US to the other NACC members who were directly responsible for the investigation…”. He said, “I don’t know what has been hindering them…”.

It’s not a bad question for both Medhi and the NACC are anti-Thaksin Shinawatra, and this case is about people close to him. Part of the story is here. But the more detailed account is a PDF. This is a bit long, but worth reading through:

From April 2004 through July 2008, DT [Diageo Thailand], retained the services of a Thai government and foreign political party official … to lobby other Thai officials to adopt Diageo’s position in several multi-million dollar tax and customs disputes. For this … DT paid approximately … $599,322. DT compensated the Thai Official through 49 direct payments to a political consulting firm … for which the Thai Official acted as a principal. Most, if not all, of the $599,322 paid to the Consulting Firm was for the Thai Official’s services and accrued to his benefit.

The Thai Official served as a Thai government and/or political party official throughout the relevant period…. At various times the Thai Official served as Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, and Advisor to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. The Thai Official also served on a committee of the ruling Thai Rak Thai political party, and as a member and/or advisor to several state-owned or state-controlled industrial and utility boards.… The Thai Official was the brother of one of DT’s senior officers at that time. Several members of Diageo’s global and regional management attended meetings with the Thai Official and senior members of the Thai government.

The Thai Official provided extensive lobbying services on behalf of Diageo and DT in connection with several important tax and customs disputes that were pending between Diageo and the Thai government. For example, with respect to excise taxes, the Thai Official coordinated and attended numerous meetings between senior Thai government officials and senior Diageo and DT management, including two meetings in April and May 2005 with Thailand’s then Prime Minister. In May 2005, shortly following the meetings arranged by the Thai Official, the Prime Minister made a radio address publicly endorsing Diageo’s position in … calculating excise taxes.

On Diageo’s behalf, the Thai Official also met repeatedly with senior commerce, finance, and customs authorities in charge of the transfer pricing and import tax disputes, as well as with members of the Thai parliament. The Thai Official’s services contributed to Diageo’s successful resolution of several components of these disputes…. Based in part on the Thai Official’s lobbying efforts, the Thai government accepted important aspects of DT’s transfer pricing method and released over $7 million in bank guarantees that DT had been required to post while the tax dispute was pending.

DT improperly accounted for the monthly retainer that it paid to the Thai Official through his Consulting Firm….

Diageo essentially made “improper payments to government officials…”.

Anyone familiar with the NACC and the political nature of its work would think this is a home run. They can get the easily identified TRT official and send some barbs Thaksin’s way as well.

Or can they? After all, back in December, it was revealed that metropolitan police chief Pol. Lt. Gen. Sanit Mahathavorn was on the payroll of the giant alcohol and beverage producer Thai Beverage Plc. The top cop was, and we assume, still is getting 600,000 baht a year as an “adviser” to the alcohol firm.

That seemed like a conflict of interest to many, but not to the police force. The Bangkok Post reported that the Royal Thai Police “confirmed that metropolitan police chief … is not violating police rules by holding an advisory role with a major alcohol conglomerate.”

If it’s “good” enough for the police, then presumably an official/adviser/deputy secretary to a premier/committee member of a political party/member and/or adviser to state-owned/state-controlled boards/consultant is in the clear as well?

Medhi’s raising an opportunity for political point scoring. Why hasn’t it and isn’t it being hit out of the park? Corruption Park?

We say more in our next post.





Ditching parties

10 12 2016

The anti-democrats working for the military dictatorship to come up with its constitution are chosen because they hate electoral politics and can’t abide elected politicians. This is because such institutions and individuals provide the citizenry with an alternative notion of sovereignty that challenge the hierarchical regime of the “good” and the “great” who claim Thailand for themselves.

A series of articles have appeared in the Bangkok Post discussing the implications of the changes proposed by the anti-democrats working for the military junta.

The first is in the Saturday feature, About Politics. Usually critical, the column this week is pretty much uncritical. We wonder if it is by different journalist or if the regular journalist is self-censoring or under threat or warning.

The report says that the Constitution Drafting Committee’s (CDC) draft organic law on political parties “is wrapped up and almost ready for submission to the palace, with many fearing the contents will build an iron-clad cage around parties big and small.”

Reflecting the ideological beliefs of anti-democrats, one section seeks to rid parties of “puppet masters” claimed to be “lurking behind the scenes and pulling the strings.” This is how you say Thaksin Shinawatra without actually using his name. The idea that a “law” is designed to prevent one person from being politically influential is remarkable. Other individuals in the military and among the great and the “good” are permitted, of course.

The draft “law” allocates tremendous power to the politicized Constitutional Court, which will be able to dissolve parties more or less at any time the powers that be decide the court should do so. Again, Thaksin’s name is not mentioned but they mean him when parties are forbidden to allow “a non-member or a ‘prohibited person’ from directing its administration, however discreetly…”,

Of course, “good” people will be outside this “law.”

The “final version of the draft organic law demands greater accountability from political parties for their actions and their role in forging national reconciliation by tolerating and accepting different political opinions and helping to resolve political conflicts through peaceful means…”.

That means following the junta’s orders and those set out in the so-called 20-year road map. Failure means dissolution.

The law also prevents some persons – such as those convicted by the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions – from involvement with a party. Of course, this is another anti-Thaksin “law” and is aimed at the Puea Thai Party. Essentially, this “law” will be used to dissolve the party if it does well in any election the junta decides might be held. Thaksin has been made illegal.

Once the draft organic law comes into force, anything amounting to a “Thaksin factor” in a party’s affairs will be illegal, and the price for breaching the law will see the party cease to exist.

An earlier Bangkok Post report says that the “newly drafted bill on political parties may see the number slashed to 10 from the present 72 based on their records of financial support…”. That’s the word from anti-election election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn.

The plan is to ditch parties 3-4 years because each party must “recruit 20,000 members and collect annual supporting fees of at least 2 million baht.” Somchai giggled that only 10 parties can do that.

Silly Somchai stated that the “draft organic law on political parties … was intended to encourage strong parties with the potential to produce quality work and become institutions.” Perhaps he forgets that this was the plan under the 1997 constitution, and that it was rather good at creating “strong parties.” Of course, one of those strong parties has been dissolved following the 2006 coup – Thai Rak Thai.

The requirement for all party members to contribute funds to the party every year will mean that the less well off members of the population will be excluded.

Yet another Bangkok Post report indicates many of the complaints of political parties, including the anti-democrat Democrat Party. That party babbled about vote-buying. That’s another anti-Thaksin line for the anti-democrats all believe – wrongly – that TRT and Thaksin bought all their votes.

The party might be better looking at why it never gets elected and why it is so keen to get in bed with the military and rabid rightists.

The “law” is meant to recreate political parties that are weak and dependent, as they were under General Prem Tinsulanonda’s military-backed “semi-democracy.”





WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.





More Thaksinism

26 01 2016

Following the appointment of former Thaksin Shinawatra and Thai Rak Thai Party minister Somkid Jatusripitak by the military junta, economic policy seems reasonably familiar. Appointed by the junta as deputy prime minister, Somkid has responsibilities for getting the sluggish economy moving.

The reason his economic measures seem so familiar is that most of them are throwbacks to the period of 2001 to 2005. The policies have involved “innovations” such as rural subsidies that can’t possibly be populist, buying up rubber as if it were rice (yes, Thaksin had a rice price support program) and a revised one tambon, one product (OTOP) scheme. Somkid has defended these policies as measures aimed at strengthening the “grassroots economy.”

Clearly, Thaksin’s economic policies worked in the circumstances at the beginning of the century. They generated growth based on consumption and produced considerable political popularity. For all of its criticism of “populism,” the junta obviously wants a bit of both stimulus and political popularity. After all, it has an unpopular constitution to try to get approved and then, come hell or high water, apparently an election in 2017, where it wants a pro-military, royalist party to do well (read as anything but Puea Thai Party).

The Dictator, General Prayuth Chan-ocha has engaged in a rebranding of Thaksinism. Last year, he declared: “Our national anthem clearly states that Thailand is a nation state (Pra Cha Rat) not populist (Pra Cha Ni Yom)…”.

Under this brand, according to a report at the Bangkok Post, the military dictatorship is to pump “an additional 35 billion baht into rural areas to stimulate investment and consumption…”. It declared this a Pracha Rat “initiative.”

Helpfully, the Post explains that “Pracha Rat stresses a people-state partnership in which the people, the government and businesses work closely together to pursue sustainable development and help farmers, workers and communities secure their livelihoods.”

For the initiative, Somkid said the government (the military dictatorship) would ask for cabinet (the military junta) for “approval to inject 500,000 baht into each village to help stimulate the economy.” He said that “the measure would be proposed to the cabinet today and cover 70,000 villages” and declared that the money “would be aimed at increasing investment in villages through projects such as agriculture processing and value-added farm products while developing water resources in villages to increase efficiency in farm systems.”

Back on 26 February 2001, when Thaksin presented his government’s policy to the National Assembly, he described as one of his government’s “urgent policies,” this: “Establishment of the Village and Urban Revolving Fund, funded with one million baht each as a loan facility available for individuals and households of each community to borrow for local investment and supplementary vocations.”

Somkid and the dictators may be half-hearted and will probably be far more directive in the use of the funds than the TRT government was (because, for the royalist elite, villagers are uneducated and can’t be trusted), but the reversion to Thaksinism or what came to be known as “Thaksinomics” is clear. The political motivations are just as clear.

It remains to be seen if rural Thais will buy the junta’s half-hearted conversion to populism.