In his book Naypyidaw: The New Capital of Burma (White Lotus, 2009), Dulyapak Preecharushh writes this about the Burmese junta:
“Additionally, from the late Cold War period (1981-91) to the present, the military regime has faced numerous complex security issues, which are a new threat in the context of globalization such as bombing, terrorism, computer hacking via the Internet and internal intervention by foreign mass media. Consequently the current junta is very confused by the transformation of the security environment because its traditional security perspective focuses on visible enemies and conventional warfare. Moreover, invisible enemies and non-state actors have gradually established complicated networks inside Yangon and the new security threats, especially bombings and terrorism, have dramatically increased throughout the city.”
Thailand is not Burma, of course but this seems to resonate with the mindset of the Thai junta/aristocracy and the way that it is striking its latest blow against democracy today.
As more court verdicts are due to be announced in due course, it might be helpful to consider how the judicial system in Thailand has been transformed since September 19th, 2006. Here are some observations by Chaturon Chaisang from his book Thai Democracy in Crisis: 2y Truths (p.174) on the issue of banning political party executives:
“As for politicians who held office in previous governments and were accused of various crimes which mostly concerned corruption, the crucial point is that the judicial process has been distorted. The Assets Examination Committee was set up by the junta, and comprised biased individuals who vowed outright to deal with a person or group of persons whom they targeted. And the proceedings of the committee were not in line with the practice of the Criminal Code in many aspects.
Then the cases were forwarded to the National Counter Corruption Committee. The problem of illegitimacy arose again, as the NCCC was also appointed by the junta, and was composed of individuals who harboured hatred towards the accused. All this is a distortion of the judicial process, preventing the accused from receiving justice.”
Of course, Khun Chaturon is one of those affected by these decisions since he is one of the 111 Thai Rak Thai executives banned as a result of the retroactive legislation introduced by the junta. Readers may judge for themselves whether this might have affected his opinions.
The issue of retroactive legislation against a set of people issued by an unaccountable body that seized power by threat of violence and then retroactively pardoned itself for an illegal act* is one which is also worth considering.
* Plotting the 2006 coup took place while the 1997 Constitution was in force and was, therefore, illegal. The junta abolished that Constitution once their tanks were in place and then declared an amnesty for all those involved.
It is of course illegal to criticize court decisions and so I will not do it. The Constitutional Court has ruled in an in-no-way surprising move that the People’s Power Party and two coalition parties must be immediately dissolved and their executives banned from political activities for five years (the same ploy was used against Thai Rak Thai a couple of years ago). The judges, who were appointed and paid for by the military junta, brought forward their decision so they would not have to bother with listening to evidence – they believed that they already knew enough. The pretext was ‘vote buying’ as usual. The law involved was part of the junta’s charter which was forced through in a referendum held under conditions of martial law.
PM Somchai Wongsawat, an honest man of great integrity, has been forced to step down and interim PM will be Khun Chaovarat Chanweerakul, who was a cabinet member but not a party executive and hence not subject to the junta’s constitutional ban.
There is a great deal of anger throughout the country as a result of what the PPP itself is describing as a ‘judicial coup.’ The red-shirted pro-democracy supporters have held themselves in check and retreated from the court (judges decamped elsewhere anyway, possibly illegally according to a PPP lawyer).
More violence is possible, however. Since Friday is National Day and HM the King’s birthday, it had been anticipated that people would calm down for the weekend but the judges’ evident hurry to make their decision as early as possible may have imperiled that. Perhaps it will act as a spur for the violence the ultra-rightist PAD thugs and their highly-placed celebrity sponsors have been aiming to provoke for months so as to act as a pretext for another military coup to follow the silent coup.
This is a black day, indeed.
The more that PAD supporters believe that they are justified in what they are doing, the more they will be dangerous time bombs in the future.
This is desperate.
In a shameful show of opportunism, workshy quisling Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, is calling for a no confidence motion in parliament. Abhisit, who has done nothing to articulate any coherent set of policies or ideology for his once proud party, is best known for his extraordinary privileged background and his decision not to contest the 2006 election. Knowing how few people would vote for his incoherent, disorganized party, Abhisit decided to boycott the election and made some obviously false excuses about the power of the elected government and how it was all terribly unfair for people like him. This extraordinary show of his sense of entitlement opened the way for the military coup later in the year.
Now Abhisit has joined with the movement trying to stir up the idea that the country is facing political and economic crisis so as to create the conditions for another coup – or so at least it seems. The Democrat Party had wanted the government to open a general debate in which it could bring a list of complaints about government performance, without of course any suggestion of what should be done. Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej quite rightly rejected this since there is a real need for government to continue to work its way through a number of vital issues – the government is struggling to deal with complex issues that look to be beyond its capability anyway. It has been in office for just four months and has also had to deal with the legacy of the disastrous junta government. It is not necessary to be a fan of democratically elected prime minister Samak to realise that the opposition Democrats may have some unspoken agenda and means of achieving it.
Irrespective of the success of the Opposition forcing a censure motion on the PM and various members of the Cabinet, the Upper House is also set to hold some kind of session assessing government performance. The Senate is now stuffed full of junta cronies and other right wing interests as a result of the new constitution forced through by the junta under conditions of martial law.
Who benefits from the continued period of instability?