Double legal standards jeopardize Thailand

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"We want to complain about a missing husband. He left home to join the Red Shirts and went missing." "He went missing on the day the army broke up the mob?" "No. On the day the police summoned him."

At a meeting of lawyers and jurists in Hong Kong this week a participant from Thailand identified the key issue for her country’s legal system as political control of the judiciary. Her statement was remarkable not because it revealed something that other participants didn’t already know, but because not long ago few professionals from Thailand willingly admitted that their laws and courts operate according to double standards. Now, few can deny it.

The double standards have been all too apparent this month. Following protests that forced leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and partner countries to flee from a summit venue in Pattaya, the incumbent prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, imposed a state of emergency as blockades and violence spread in Bangkok. The army deployed. A court promptly issued arrest warrants for the red-shirted demonstrators’ leaders. Some were quickly rounded up and detained, while others went into hiding.

By contrast, the yellow shirts that took over Government House and two international airports for an extended period last year were allowed to stay put until the government was forced out through a court ruling on a narrow question under the army-imposed 2007 Constitution. No soldiers came to eject them. The legal process took weeks to move against the organizers. When the new prime minister was questioned on the authorities’ inactivity he disingenuously said that it was a matter for the police, not him. The criminal inquiries have been repeatedly postponed and at no time have the yellow shirts’ leaders been held in custody. One of them, businessman Sondhi Limthongkul, last week survived a shooting attack on his car.

Although the ousted Thaksin Shinawatra regime undermined the work of the upper courts, it was the 2006 military coup that brought them back firmly and openly under executive control. The coup leaders shut down a senior court, appointed a tribunal in its stead, had it go after the former premier, declared themselves immune from prosecution and proclaimed all their orders lawful. After voters re-elected Thaksin allies to the lower house of parliament (top judges are now responsible for the upper), it took two absurd legal cases against successive prime ministers for the coup-makers to finally get a government after their own heart, rather than one that the electorate wanted. The judges responsible for the verdicts included men who owed their jobs to the generals.

The double legal standards in the handling of rival political camps have done nothing to diminish the likelihood of further bloodshed and uncertainty in the near future. On the contrary, the obvious differences in how the yellow shirts and red shirts have been treated will only encourage government opponents to resort to increasingly extralegal means to get their way. Both sides and their backers have the aptitude and means for violence. Thanks to the politicizing of Thailand’s courts, now they have more appetite for it too.

Source: Thai courts’ use of legal double standards encourages extralegal means by opposition

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3 responses to “Double legal standards jeopardize Thailand

  1. I wish the whole world know the truth of Thailand violence killed many ciivilians by non-elected government by Apisit which military back up.

  2. http://www.demotix.com/news/red-shirts-riot-bangkok

    See military government under Apisit killed civilians.

  3. Three UDD leaders let out on bail

    Bangkok Post, Published: 25/04/2009 at 12:00 AM

    The Criminal Court released on bail three leaders of the UDD yesterday but prohibited them from instigating unrest, disturbing police investigations or leaving the country.

    Veera Musikaphong, Natthawut Saikua and Weng Tojirakarn were let out on bail of 500,000 baht each after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva lifted the state of emergency in Bangkok imposed during the Songkran riots last week.

    The bail was granted on condition that the three who were charged with instigating unrest in connection with the violence in Bangkok last week would not engage in any acts of provocation, disrupt police investigation into the riots or leave the country.

    Mr Veera, Mr Natthawut and Dr Weng met about 100 supporters who turned up at the Criminal Court yesterday. Mr Veera thanked the court for recognising people’s constitutional right and releasing him and his fellow UDD leaders.

    He said he would consult with lawyers if they could join the UDD rally at Sanam Luang today.

    He was afraid that his participation in the rally could violate the conditions of his bail.

    Mr Natthawut said he would first try to verify the report that many people had been killed in the military crackdown on protesters on April 13. He said after the crackdown had started, many red shirt demonstrators and taxi drivers told him on the phone that a number of people had been killed.

    He said he did not think those people would have lied.

    Dr Weng also thanked the court for granting him bail and he promised not to defy the bail conditions.

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