Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thai Politics in Black Robes

Courts are supposed to independently and dispassionately apply the law, without being influenced by the preferences and demands of politics…but not in Thailand.

All this "stuff" about the Constitution from the Thai courts is merely a charade in Thailand and Constitutional law is nothing more than just politics in black robes. The Constitution Court justices just vote their own political preferences. They have delivered rulings that have dissolved political parties, banned hundreds of politicians and brought down two democratically elected pro-Thaksin governments. 

The impartiality of judges, who are often accused of serving the interests of the anti-Thaksin establishment, is often questioned. But any questions have now been put to rest as the Constitution Court President, Wasan Soipisuth, openly admitted to such in a seminar on the court’s role in maintaining the balance in Thai politics (organized by the court itself, of course).

Wasan confessed that the rulings to disqualify former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej and to dissolve political parties were, in his word, "careless" and that the court procedures relied too much on individual judges’ personal opinions, and failed to clearly establish what the facts were before making the decision.

He referred to the court's resolution to dissolve the People Power, Chart Thai and Matchima Thipataya parties: “If various groups had not staged so many rallies at the time, the decision might have been different.”  “If the country at that time had been peaceful, the government and the opposition could have joined hands, the country could have moved forward, and I believe most of the judges would have decided not to dissolve the parties," he said. "But the country at that time was chaotic and the Constitution Court had to use its judgment to maintain law and order," he said.

Of course when Wasan says “use its judgment,” he actually means “abuse its power.”  In 2010, there was even more chaos but when the ruling Democrat Party’s dissolution case came up, the court went out of its way to dismiss it due to a technicality.  

He also said that the ruling to dissolve the Palang Prachachon and Chart Thai Pattana parties was also "necessary in order to avoid political chaos".  I suppose it didn’t matter if they were guilty or not.

The favorite law book of Wasan and his cohorts on the bench must be Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  Sentence first, verdict afterwards (we’ll actually debate the case later if we have time). This would confirm the notion that the Constitution Court is a backwards court.

In an effort to try to paint himself and fellow judges as knights in shining armor protecting the kingdom from the evils of Shinawatra, self back patter Wasan went on to say that “the Constitution Court has historically sought solutions for the country in times of political gridlock.” Never mind that these court “solutions” actually did more harm than good and instead of moving Thailand “forward” as he suggests, the court put the country in “full reverse”.

In order for Thailand to be a democracy, the judiciary, i.e. the Constitution Court, needs to be independent and non-political. If not then what is good for the people and for Thailand will continue to be ignored in favor of judgments that favor a particular political party or viewpoint.

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