The court ruled that the three parties had to be dissolved and scores of party executives banned from politics for five years, triggering a collapse of the government. Such a stiff penalty — to deprive people of their civic rights through a form of collective punishment — is enshrined in the 2007 constitution, which was drafted by a committee selected by the military junta that was in power following a September 2006 coup./>While such judicial power is being cheered in some quarters as a welcome development to save Thailand’s flawed democracy, others are asking aloud if proper legal procedure is being followed in arriving at such radical verdicts./>Typical among the critics is Prasit Pivavatnapanich, who has been troubled at the speed at which the judges delivered their unanimous verdict after two of the accused parties finished giving their final statements./>‘’The court started reading out their verdict for this case within 30 minutes to an hour of the final statements,’’ says Prasit, an associate professor at the law faculty at Thammasat University, in Bangkok. ‘’I have never seen this happening anywhere in the world.’’/>‘’Many Thai people are wondering why the court rushed to deliver the judgement,’’ he revealed in an interview. ‘’The court should have taken more time and adjudicated with caution, since dissolving a political party and denying its leaders the right to vote is a serious matter.’’/>In fact a statement released by Prasit and four other dons from his law faculty after the ruling drew attention to other embarrassing details. ‘’After the complainants finished the closing declaration, the constitutional court read the decisions immediately with mistakes and had to correct (them) during the reading,’’ the statement noted./>Such flaws have consequently helped give rise to a view that sees this powerful court in poorer light. ‘’Some Thai people, including me, are wondering if the court had written the judgement already, before the final statements were given,’’ says Prasit. ‘’People will begin to have doubts about this judicial process.’’/>Doubts arose after the judges suddenly announced on Nov. 28 that the court had no more time to listen to the witnesses and evidence of the accused parties and set Dec. 2 as the final day of the case. This abrupt decision came after the accused parties had been guaranteed time to present testimony in their defence./>The banned PPP drew attention to this about-turn in its first formal response after Tuesday’s ruling. ‘’The rush to dissolve the political parties before finishing examining witnesses makes society lose confidence in and have doubts about the courts,’’ it said, before adding a damning indictment: ‘’It can be called a judicial coup.’’
Marwaan in IPS:
BP: The statement in Thai from the 5 professors is here. They also note (courtesy of commentator Naphat) that some of the judges are not qualified (ie in the same way as Samak because they have extra-curricular jobs – see here) to be judges. The decision was rushed for political reasons although all and sundry will declare that the “rule of law” has prevailed.
Such forms of arbitrary collective punishment are ridiculous. Do we punish other editorial staff at newspapers for the actions of one? Do we remove for their positions all military officers because of the actions of one? No, of course not.