A court in Thailand inched closer to its counterparts in neighboring Burma last week when it sentenced an anti-coup protestor to 18 years in prison. The Bangkok criminal court convicted Daranee Chanchoengsilapakul on three counts of lese majesty arising from statements she made in a rally to support the ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. In the speech, she connected the 2006 military takeover to the palace, and drew parallels between events in her country and the fate of the monarchy in Nepal, which was abolished in 2008 after a popular uprising.
The charges were brought against Darunee following a complaint from Sondhi Limthongkul, the leader of the army-sponsored anti-Thaksin movement that occupied the prime minister’s offices for three months and the national airport for about a week last year. Neither he nor any of his cohorts have been brought to justice over those events, despite the massive criminality involved, including assaults and alleged murders, wanton vandalism, and theft of public and private property. While targeting opponents for alleged crimes of thought and speech, Sondhi and allies continue to spread their own vitriol through a variety of broadcast and Internet media.
The judges made little pretense of conducting the trial fairly. Continue reading
Posted in censorship, courts, crime, human rights, Jurist, protest, rule of law, Thailand, UN
Tagged Bangkok Criminal Court, Chanchoengsilapakul, Da Torpedo, Darunee, Shinawatra, Sondhi, Thaksin
"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
Posted in army, constitution, courts, human rights, Jurist, military, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand
Tagged 2007 Constitution, Abhisit, Abhisit Vejjajiva, ASEAN, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Bangkok, Pattaya, Sondhi Limthongkul, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra
As troops and antigovernment protestors clashed on Bangkok’s streets again this week, a furious battle also played out in the media over casualties. Government spokespersons and army officers insisted that bullets had not been fired into the crowds. Their opponents said the opposite.
Soldiers had at times pointed their weapons at people, and some of the red-shirted demonstrators had been shot, but there were few reliable details of who was hurt, how, where and why.
Staff at the prime minister’s office blamed Red Shirts on motorbikes for a melee with local residents that left two dead. Other sources were less certain about the identities of the protagonists, but doubtful voices were drowned out as local outlets obligingly reported the official version. Meanwhile, emailed narratives of battles around the city had it that the Red Shirts’ rivals were in some areas backing up the army, but there was no immediate evidence to support this claim either.
What all this goes to show is not which side is to blame for the street blockades and bloodshed of the last few days, but how difficult it has become to believe Thailand’s media. Since 2006, when domestic news agencies and many overseas ones fell over each other to enthuse about the army’s latest power grab, the biases of newspapers, magazines and broadcasters have become more pronounced, their coverage more partisan, and their opinion-makers seemingly more sure of themselves even as things get less certain.
In normal times, the impoverished domestic journalism which has become a hallmark of Bangkok has made following current affairs there difficult; with the city under siege and a state of emergency declared, it has made following them all but impossible. Continue reading
Posted in army, censorship, human rights, journalism, military, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Abhisit, Bangkok, Bangkok Post, Hiriam Johnson, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, Prachatai, red shirts, Shinawatra, Thaksin, UDD, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, Vejjajiva, yellow shirts
[Die rechtliche Verfolgung der Taten der PAD]
According to news from Thailand this week [of December 18], police are set to lay charges against protestors responsible for blockading parliament after the leader of the main opposition party finally succeeded in becoming prime minister without having to win an election.
News reports said that police were compiling video footage and other evidence of demonstrators that threw rocks at vehicles, assaulted passerby, damaged public property and kept parliamentarians trapped within the legislature.
These are serious offences and if the police have the evidence they need, they should certainly try to prosecute. But the crimes of this group pale by comparison to the scale of criminality demonstrated by their opponents, those who occupied Government House for three months from August, and the two main airports for a week from the end of November.
In fact, the number of serious crimes committed under the banner of the group calling itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy is so large that it’s hard to imagine police officers even having time to investigate the melee outside parliament on Monday. Continue reading
Posted in crime, police, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Bangkok, Don Muang, Government House, PAD, Penal Code, People's Alliance for Democracy
The verdict to dissolve three parties in Thailand’s coalition government and ban the prime minister and his party executives from politics for five years is the latest in a series of increasingly surreal judgments that have brought the country’s senior judiciary to the center of its political mayhem. It follows a ruling by the Constitutional Court’s predecessor last May to terminate the party of the ousted Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, from which the newly-disbanded People’s Power Party was born. It also follows another unanimous ruling from the court this September to throw out the then-Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, for cooking on TV.
Like the cooking show verdict, the judges this time ruled on a narrow legal question under section 237 of the 2007 Constitution. According to this clause, any member of parliament found to have committed or abetted an offense under the electoral act, or contrary to any order or announcement of the Election Commission, shall be deprived of voting rights. These offences could be minor, may change from time to time with new orders from the commission, and do not even constitute criminal acts. But anyhow, if it can be shown that the party leader or any executive member knew about the offense and failed to do anything about it, then it is mandatory that the party is dissolved and its executive banned.
Imaginary scenarios for how a similar law might apply to other professions don’t need to be stretched very far to realize the section’s absurdity. Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, crime, Jurist, military, police, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand
Tagged 2007 Constitution, Constitution Court, Constitutional Court, Election Commission, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, People's Power Party, PPP, Samak, Samak Sundaravej, section 237, Shinawatra, Sundaravej, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra
History repeated itself in Thailand this week when a top court for the second time in as many years dissolved the biggest political party, along with two of its partners, and effectively banned its leader and executive members from politics.
The Constitution Court, which inherited the job from an interim tribunal that issued a similar order against the former ruling party last May, unanimously disbanded the three coalition partners in accordance with section 237 of the 2007 Constitution.
Under this remarkable clause, which an unelected panel wrote into the charter on behalf of the 2006 coup makers, political parties must be dissolved if it can be shown that they failed to prevent electoral offences from occurring in their ranks.
In football, this would be the equivalent of a rule that if one player gets a red card, the whole team is disqualified from the league, with the captain and coach sent into early retirement.
The ruling allowed the political extremists, who had brought thousands of human shields to occupy the airports for a week, to declare victory and go home in time for the king’s birthday on Friday.
Irrespective of the formal grounds for the sentence, in timing and content it has been perceived as endorsing the extremists’ ideology and goals. In effect, the court has indicated that while vote buying cannot be tolerated, hijacking public facilities, vandalizing property, shooting at people and vehicles, illegally detaining fellow citizens, attacking state officers and setting up a proxy police force not only can be tolerated but can even be rewarded. Continue reading
Posted in constitution, courts, human rights, police, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand, UPI
Tagged 2007 Constitution, Bush v. Gore, Constitution Court, PAD, PPP, Stephen Breyer, Supreme Court
Organizers of the prolonged raid on the Bangkok international airport have insisted that they will bring down the government at any cost. In targeting the airport they have taken a dramatic strategic step and have also made a move of enormous symbolic importance.
Suvarnabhumi Airport represents modern Thailand. The new airport was a huge project aimed not only at cementing the country’s commercial place in Asia but also at demonstrating how far it has come by comparison to most of its immediate neighbors.
Under normal circumstances, legions of security personnel would have protected the terminal, accompanied by the dire warnings of senior officers about anyone thinking to damage national prestige with funny business that might upset foreign tourists and businesspeople. Under normal circumstances, the police would have quickly moved to prevent or end any seizure, just as they did when protests occurred on government premises against the interim military regime last year.
But these are not normal circumstances. Crowds have already spent months occupying Government House, defying court orders to vacate, as well as one attempt to forcibly dislodge them. Now they are seemingly also at liberty to camp out in Thailand’s showpiece airport, with the expectancy that another military putsch will bump both them and the incumbent government out.
All these events speak to the complex interests that are at work behind and through the cynically named People’s Alliance for Democracy. Continue reading
Posted in army, courts, crime, military, police, politics, protest, rule of law, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Bangkok, Government House, PAD, People's Alliance for Democracy, Suvarnabhumi, Thai Rak Thai
It has been a frantic week in Burma’s closed courts. At least 60 people have in the past few days been sentenced for their roles in last year’s mass protests, including high-profile activists, monks, a blogger and a poet.
The blogger, Nay Phone Latt, was given a sentence of 20 years and six months for having defaced images of national leaders, writings and cartoons in his email inbox, and for having had contact with other people involved in the protests.
The young man’s mother cried when she heard the verdict. She had been told to expect a sentence of around 10 years, but on just one charge under a new hold-all Internet law he was given 15.
The poet, Saw Wai, was sentenced to two years on a much more old-fashioned charge of upsetting public tranquility, which can be thrown at just about anyone for anything. He got it for writing a concealed anti-dictator message into a Valentine’s Day poem.
It wasn’t very well concealed. But well enough that the censors missed it and the magazine went to print before he was found out.
Then there was Ma Su Su Nwe, who received 12 years and six months for being at the forefront of protests that began after the government increased the price of fuels in August. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, courts, dictatorship, human rights, Myanmar, protest, rule of law, UPI
Tagged AHRC, Asian Human Rights Commission, Aung Thein, Gambira, Khin Maung Shein, Ma Su Su Nway, Ma Su Su Nwe, Nay Phone Latt, Nyi Nyi Htwe, Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, Saw Wai, Win Maw
Over half-a-million people in eastern Burma are living in temporary dwellings, forced out of their villages as a result of fighting, insecurity and the whims of local army commanders. Around 100,000 are hiding in jungles, valleys and hills.
That is the latest assessment of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, which brings international and local donors together in a common effort to support and work with people in some of the most militarized areas of Burma.
The consortium once concentrated its efforts on refugee camps and makeshift settlements immediately opposite Thailand. However, since 2002, it has increasingly studied and documented the movements of people throughout areas deeper inside Burma, in order to get a better picture of who is moving, where they go, and why.
The picture is disturbing. According to the consortium’s new report, army orders, insecurity and related factors forced people in 142 villages and hideouts across the frontier areas to move in the past year alone. This is on top of the roughly 3,200 sites abandoned since 1996. Continue reading
Posted in army, Burma, human rights, military, Myanmar, poverty, protest, UPI
Tagged Cyclone Nargis, IDPs, internal displacement, Kevin Malseed, Malseed, Nargis, Shan State, TBBC, Thailand Burma Border Consortium
Amid all the reporting about the latest chaos in Bangkok was a remark from a very dangerous man who usually knows something about who is pulling the strings and why.
According to General Pallop Pinmanee, his old classmate and protest leader Major General Chamlong Srimuang had planned his arrest on Monday, which preceded the fighting outside Parliament, in order to “try to create a situation like the Black May incident” of 1992.
Little wonder. Chamlong emerged a hero then, seemingly urging people not to provoke violence, being pulled from the thousands sprawling on the streets after the army moved in, and finally, kneeling before the king with the unelected prime minister to claim his place in history.
Although things are very different this time around, one constant is that Chamlong and his allies have planned for people to be killed. Sixteen years ago, the numbers of casualties were perhaps more than they expected. This week, judging from the tone of Chamlong’s inane statement about national duty before death, maybe they haven’t been enough.
One of the difficulties for human rights workers in Thailand during the last few years has been how to stay involved in pressing national affairs without getting caught up in the scheming of Chamlong and others like him who inhabit all sides of the current fracas. Continue reading
Posted in human rights, human rights groups, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged Ambedkar, Black May, Chamlong, Jit, Pallop, Panlop, Phoumisak, Phumisak, Pinmanee, Poumisak, Pumisak, Srimuang
This week a lot of people are marking two important anniversaries on the calendar of historic events in Burma.
For one, it is the first anniversary of the 2007 protests that began after an as yet unexplained dramatic fuel price hike and ended with a nationwide crackdown on tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of monk-led demonstrators. It is also 20 years since the extinguishing of the 1988 uprising by a newly comprised and utterly ruthless junta, which has since reincarnated itself a number of times over.
A third anniversary of perhaps even greater significance has been largely overlooked. Sep. 26, 2008 in fact marks the 50th year of military dictatorship in Burma. Continue reading
Posted in army, Burma, constitution, dictatorship, human rights, military, Myanmar, politics, protest, rule of law, UPI
Tagged Ne Win, U Nu
Two years to the month since the army in Thailand launched its latest takeover of government, the proof of its success is in the mayhem and madness on the streets of Bangkok and the utter farce to which politics there has again descended.
On the one side is a prime minister who is as much an accident of history as a denier of it, a dinosaur politician who should by now have been extinct from public life, let alone leading it; a man who at times can hardly form a coherent sentence, let alone a coherent government.
He and the gaggle of Thaksinites that gathered around him in a rebranded party for last year’s ballot were at the time cast as saviors of the masses, come to take democracy back from the generals. They may have won the vote, but the army, which quietly shelved plans for its own candidates, had in the meantime moved the playing field.
On the other side is an alliance of people united in their hatred of the ousted prime minister, and increasingly, of anybody else connected to him; an alliance motivated to oppose the elected government’s plans to amend a Constitution that a military junta forced down the country’s throat.
It is also an alliance whose foremost demand on behalf of democracy is that it wants less of it, and that too at a time that the country already has less of it than it did before the army had its way in September 2006. Half of the 150 seats in the Senate are now appointees, and how many people know who they are or how they got there, let alone what they do?
That the whole parliamentary process is at its lowest ebb since the early 1990s is exactly what the generals and their backers intended. Although the coup was aimed at removing that manager and manipulator of party politics, Thaksin Shinawatra, and dismantling his network, he was just the embodiment of the main target: the party political system itself. Continue reading
Posted in army, constitution, dictatorship, human rights, military, politics, protest, Thailand, UPI
Tagged 1997 Constitution, Black May, May 1992, PAD, PPP, Samak, Samak Sundaravej, Shinawatra, Sondhi, Sondhi Limthongkul, Thaksin, Thaksin Shinawatra