Socrates Wept

It was, I think, Socrates who drew the link between the corrupt state and the number of lawyers and doctors therein: “It is a sign of a very bad and shameful education if in a city there is a great need for doctors and lawyers, not only by inferior people and craftsmen, but also by free people who have been allegedly educated.”

Here, in Thailand, the university entrance exams are arranged such that it is those who receive the very best marks who are able to enter medical school (and also helps explain why there are so many medical doctors in politics), while we have many judges, good proportions of whom were appointed during the recent junta period. This by way of background to the observation that, this morning, I went past one of the various courts of Bangkok and noticed a larger than usual number of people hanging around outside, suggesting something of a big case going on: well, this is probably from a different country but there is news that a judgment has been received. The first part is entirely predictable ‘Court clears Democrats’ and that part can be just cut and pasted. The grounds for the judgment are interesting though:

Prommin alleged that the three Democrats defamed him and the Thai Rak Thai by holding a press conference on March 16 2006, saying three Thai Rak Thai executives had committed election frauds by hiring small parties to contest April 2 2006 election.

But the court ruled that the Democrats held the press conference in good faith to announce the information in had learned.

The court said the Democrats simply wanted to inform the public of attempts to damage the country’s democracy so they had not committed libel as charged.”

So it seems, based on the way this is being reported (which may not be accurate, given the Nation’s legendary inaccuracy and its occasional problems with English), that the court now decides libel cases not on what was said (or written) but on the intention of the people saying it – so, if you are judged to be a good person or to be generally well-intentioned towards the country, you are free to say anything you like no matter how inaccurate or harmful to other people (the Foreign Secretary will be pleased, he has been doing this anyway for some time).  

Thaksin Convicted of Acting as PM while being PM

It is illegal to criticize court decisions in Thailand and I am certainly not going to do so.

From the Bangkok Post:

The landmark verdict is quite significant in the sense that even if there is insufficient evidence to nail a political office holder on graft charges or malfeasance in office, the court can still fault the person in question for breach of political ethics in accordance with the anti-corruption law.”

So, the need for judges to have evidence in reaching a verdict is now definitively rejected (as it appeared to be in the case of the three lawyers who were thrown in jail during the disappearing million baht in a khanom box-gate – the judge said he saw the three lawyers talking so that meant there was a conspiracy).

These were the relevant decisions by the nine person panel of judges:

9-0 – The 1999 anti-corruption act is effective.

9-0 – Appointment of Assets Examination Committee is constitutional with authority to investigate cases.

9-0 – Financial Institutions Development Fund, the land seller, is a government agency.

6-3 – The prime minister has oversight of FIDF.

5-4 – Thaksin Shinawatra violated the 1999 anti-corruption act.

7-2 – Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra is not guilty and her arrest warrant will be cancelled.

7-2 – The Ratchadaphisek land plot and transaction money will not be confiscated.

9-0 – Thaksin is sentenced to a two-year jail term.

(Thanks to Bangkok Pundit for posting this – it comes from the vile Nation which makes me feel dirty just looking at the website these days.)

Interesting split decisions, especially given how the judges were selected for appointment and how they are recompensed. Charges against the Khunying were dropped on a 7-2 decision on the basis that she was not a government official – presumably the minority opinion was that she was a secret government official? Perhaps there was another explanation.