New York Times on the impending judicial coup in Thailand
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New York Times on the impending judicial coup in Thailand

New York Times:

Although nominally independent, a number of the judges and top officials in the agencies handling cases against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government have had longstanding antagonistic relationships with Ms. Yingluck and her party.

“It no longer makes sense to attempt to explain the current political situation in Thailand by relying on legal principles,” Verapat Pariyawong, a lawyer and commentator, said in a Facebook posting. “The current situation is more or less a phenomenon of raw politics whereby the rule of law is conveniently stretched and stripped to fit a political goal.”

Wicha Mahakhun, the member of the commission who is charged with handling the case, has sparred with Ms. Yingluck’s party before. He was appointed by the military in 2007 to rewrite the Constitution after the overthrow of Ms. Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup d’état.

The new Constitution was intended to blunt the governing party’s electoral power in part by making half of the Senate appointed by judges and the heads of agencies, instead of directly elected.

“We all know elections are evil,” Mr. Wicha said at the time, arguing that power must be transferred into the hands of judges rather than elected representatives, who he said had caused the country to “collapse.

People, especially academics who want to see the Constitution lead to genuine democracy, are naïve,” he said.

BP: Argh. Now, remember that as blogged about in 2007, but had forgotten who had said that.

The article continues:.

Likhit Dhiravegin, a prominent academic and frequent commentator on television, said last week that an “orchestrated” judicial coup was already underway.

This is a coup conducted inside the system by using regulations,” he said. “Don’t deny it — everybody knows about it, inside and outside the country.”

Tensions escalated late last year, when the governing party passed a constitutional amendment restoring the Senate as a fully elected body.

The Constitutional Court struck down the change, ruling in November that making the Senate fully elected was an attempt to “overthrow” democracy, a decision that has been criticized by constitutional scholars.

The activism of the courts has renewed a debate about double standards in Thai society. Government supporters point out that the leader of the protest movement, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, is wanted on murder charges for his role in a crackdown that left dozens of “red shirts” — supporters of Mr. Thaksin — dead in 2010. He has ignored numerous requests to appear in court.

Government supporters also question the priorities of the National Anti-Corruption Commission. The rice subsidy case has swiftly been pursued when other cases that appear to be obvious examples of corruption have languished.

In the case of the rice subsidy allegations, Ms. Yingluck said over the weekend that the proceedings appeared rushed.

“We are wondering if we were treated as same as other persons holding political positions,” she said.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission sought to rebut that allegation Monday, saying that the investigation had been underway for nearly two years.

Whether or not Ms. Yingluck was guilty of “neglect of duty” in the rice subsidy program, the case goes to the heart of the conflict between protesters and supporters of the governing party.

BP: Although, because of the outcome of the Senate election, it seems the likely path for removal of Yingluck is regarding the transfer of then NSC Chief Thawil. There is no parliament in place to elect a new PM and the EC has decided (see here and here) that an election is not possible for now in the current climate so this won’t change soon. Somehow either the Court or the Senate will then attempt to appoint a new PM, but we still have a caretaker Cabinet in place. Then, we wait for the red shirt reaction…