In a recent post, we noted that capacity for the Democrat Party to use the Constitutional Court in opposing particular bills in parliament rather than resorting to thuggish behavior that denigrates a significant institution in a democratic system.
Indeed, while the Democrat Party and its People’s Alliance for Democracy allies coordinated their attacks on parliament this week, they also coordinated a legal challenge to a bill that proposes a process for changing the military’s 2007 constitution.
In this case, the Constitutional Court again demonstrates that it is a biased and politicized kangaroo court: “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted” in the interests of the royalist elite.
This Court has repeatedly and consistently demonstrated its political nature since it was grabbed by the military following its 2006 coup and used to ban a whole generation of politicians and dissolve a range of political parties. That all of them were associated with pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties and coalitions is one measure of the Court’s unadulterated bias.
In all of its politicized decision-making, the one that best reflects the Court’s political location and, remarkably, its disdain even for the military’s constitution, is the ludicrous decision on the constitutionality of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul’s secret 2009 trial on lese majeste.
Cutting a long story short, in that case, Darunee petitioned the Constitutional Court for a ruling on whether the prosecutors’ request for the trial to be held in camera contravened Sections 29 and 40 of the constitution. Section 40 states: “A person shall have the rights in judicial process as follows: … (2) fundamental rights in judicial process composing of, at least, right to public trial…”. Remarkably, the Court simply threw this aside, demonstrating that, in political cases, the Constitutional Court ignores the constitution!
We should also add that the Court has been shown to be corrupt in a series of videos that have been largely buried and forgotten, not least because the Court is protected from criticism or any attacks on their decisions with provisions that amount to their own lese majeste-like draconian laws. In these cases of corruption, the Constitutional Court was negotiating a favorable outcome for the Democrat Party in cases against it.
The most recent demonstration of the hopelessness of the Constitutional Court came this week as the Court ordered parliament to suspend its consideration of a charter amendment bill, pending a review of its constitutionality.
This particular bill is opposed by the Democrat Party, unelected and yellow-shirted Senators and a plethora of ultra-royalists, who demand that the military’s constitution be maintained unchanged. That constitution was enacted in a referendum conducted in an atmosphere that the Asian Human Rights Commission described a “heavy-handed undemocratic atmosphere…”, observing that the “… junta … coerced, threatened, bought and cajoled part of the electorate…”. In other words, the ultra-royalist coalition wants no change to the royalist’s and military’s political rules.
The Bangkok Post reports that the Constitutional Court has hastily agreed to consider several petitions that make the claim that the bill “will essentially cancel the 2007 charter, amounts to an act to abolish the democratic regime of the constitutional monarchy.” This refers to Article 68 of the military’s constitution which states:
No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State under this Constitution or to acquire the power to rule the country by any means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution.
Of course, in the past, it has been only the military that has thrown out previous constitutions. Under Article 291, the prerogative for amending the constitution is with the national assembly.
The Court’s official spokesman stated that “escalating political tension had forced the Constitution Court to take swift action.” This “swift action” is said by some legal academics to be illegal because it infringes the processes set out in Section 68.
Yes, it is convoluted, but the basic point is that the Constitutional Court is again acting in a politicized manner by the simple act of acceptance of the petitions. Further, the spokesman warned that “if parliament ignores the suspension order and proceeds with the third reading,” this “may reflect an intent as claimed in the petitions…”.
In fact, the proposal to amend the constitution is no threat to the existing political system, and the petitioners’ have provided no evidence that it could be. Rather, they construct an imaginary case that the elected government is intent on overthrowing the monarchy.
Interestingly, the Court spokesman noted that “although the five complaints are against the acts of political parties, they will not lead to their dissolution” if the petitions are upheld. In fact, Section 68 specifically defines dissolution for parties, and this point has been emphasized as a threat to Puea Thai Party.
The Constitutional Court has previously dissolved pro-Thaksin parties, most remarkably in 2008, when, in another period of political conflict perpetrated by PAD, it dissolved several parties in the elected government to have it replaced by the military-backed royalists under Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Abhisit must be hoping for another political act by the Court.
Red shirts didn’t accept that decision. PPT doesn’t imagine that another politicized decision by a biased and corrupt court that essentially defends the interests of those who planned and implemented the 2006 coup, will lead anywhere other than further destructive conflict.
Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports that “The Pheu Thai Party and legal experts yesterday were gearing up for impeachment proceedings against the court’s judges whom they claim violated the constitution as they had no right to take up protest petitions without a final opinion by the Office of the Attorney General.”
Update 2: Also at the Bangkok Post, former Thai Rak Thai government minister Chaturon Chaisaeng said the Constitutional Court’s actions amounted to a judicial coup. He argued that the Court’s “use of power outside its jurisdiction was tantamount to pushing the country toward a new crisis of which the consequences would be much more serious than the past ones.” In addition, Chaturon urged parliament to “disobey the Constitution Court’s order, which is illegitimate, and go ahead and hold a joint sitting to vote on the bill in the third reading.”