Crispin on the Judicial Coup
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Crispin on the Judicial Coup

When Thailand’s Constitution Court finally rules on whether or not to dissolve the ruling People’s Power Party (PPP) and two of its junior coalition partners on electoral fraud charges, there is a chance that the long-awaited decision sets in motion a concatenation of court-endorsed events that overhauls the country’s politics and bids to bring its dangerously escalating political conflict to a conclusive end. The Constitution Court reviewed evidence from the three parties’ defense teams on Thursday and has called for a meeting of party representatives on November 26. A final verdict is expected soon thereafter. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat has advised his 
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PPP members to prepare to jump ship to the Puea Thai party in the eventuality the PPP is disbanded and the party’s top executives are banned from politics. 
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The move would be aimed to circumvent a dissolution decision and allow former PPP members to form a new government as Puea Thai members rather than having to dissolve parliament and hold new elections. Most Bangkok-based analysts have that as their baseline case scenario, with a Puea Thai party-led government lasting long enough to disperse the 2009 budget and other spending measures to help coalition parties build up their financial war chests for a new round of elections in either late 2009 or early 2010.
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BP: It is becoming more obvious that the current government, in some form, will last longer than expected (i.e beyond this year). They need to amend the constitution first and that goal is still a minimum of 6 months away.
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Now, the crucial part:
However, a top leader within the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement, which for the past three months has laid siege to Government House in a bid to topple the PPP-led government, predicts a wholly different scenario after the widely expected guilty verdict, one that exploits a perceived loophole in the Thai constitution and would amount to a sort of judicial coup. 
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The Thai charter allows politicians from disbanded political parties 60 days to regroup under a new party banner. However, the charter fails to indicate explicitly who or what agency would have the legitimacy to govern in that interim period. The PAD source claims that Constitution Court, Supreme Court and Administrative Court judges have discussed establishing a “Supreme Council”, consisting symbolically of nine members, to fill the political vacuum. 
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The proposed authority – which the PAD source likened to China’s State Council or cabinet – would be empowered to appoint an interim prime minister and cabinet, and also pass legislation by decree. The same source indicated that the planning had come far enough along that behind-the-scenes 2006 coup-maker and former spy chief Squadron Leader Prasong Soonsiri is the top candidate to chair the proposed council, and that Privy Councilor and palace favorite Palakorn Suwanarat would likely be appointed interim premier. 
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Once and if the said council is formed, it would presumably move quickly to push through the controversial political changes the PAD has advocated through its protests, including a move towards a part-appointed, part-elected Lower House of parliament, where conservative institutions, including the military and courts, would hold sway over the appointment process. 
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Such a move would intentionally diminish the popular voice and by association former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s and the PPP-cum-Puea Thai’s democratically delivered political power. It would also mirror the military-drafted 2007 charter’s rollback of a fully elected Senate, which was enshrined in the progressive and now annulled 1997 charter. Prasong led the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly in 2006 and 2007 and oversaw the passage of reams of reactionary legislation. 
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The PAD-favored scenario would allow the conservative forces that have aligned behind its movement – including segments of the military, bureaucracy, opposition Democrat Party and, at least symbolically, the monarchy – to overhaul the country’s politics in the name of the rule of law and without resorting to what would likely be an unpopular military putsch. 
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It would also be consistent with the recent trend towards the “judicialization” of Thai politics, an apparently royally endorsed concept where high courts and esteemed judges fill the role the monarchy has traditionally played in mediating complex political disputes. 
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Conservative agenda
It’s unclear for now whether a judicial coup is mere wishful PAD thinking or the actual hidden agenda of conservative forces to forge a final, non-violent solution to the country’s debilitating political crisis while in the process guaranteeing the future centrality of the monarchy in Thai society after the highly revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej eventually passes from the scene. 
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BP: Whether this actually happens is still unknown and whether it is wishful thinking by someone from the PAD. Then again that judges would gather together to discuss what they see as desireable political outcomes would not be out of character and how they can use their judicial power to achieve this is not unknown. I doubt PPP supporters would stand by quietly and they are able to mobolize in large numbers, as evidenced by the November 1 rally. 
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Would they really do this before the ASEAN meeting? 
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btw, Handley on members of the judiciary and the Privy Council (PDF):

Former navy chief Admiral Chumpol Pachusanon was then added (2005); and justice ministry veteran and ex-Supreme Court president, Santi Thakral (2005). Demonstrating the apparent focus on maintaining networks of influence and information through the justice ministry, yet another former Supreme Court president was named to the council in August 2007, Atthaniti Disathaamnari