Updated: Manipulating law

PPT has had numerous posts since the (illegal) 2014 coup on how the military junta abuses the law. These posts have included the political use of courts, using military courts, abuse of lese majeste, impunity,  corruption ignored, and more.

One of the defining characteristics of military dictatorship is the political use of law: what the dictatorship does is legal (or ignored) and what opponents do is illegal.

Two recent reports highlight these double standards.

In the first, with just 5 of the 7 new members of the Election Commission selected and approved, the mini-EC is to meet “to select a new chairman Tuesday, although some experts have warned such a move could be illegal.”

In the junta’s 2017 constitution, the EC is mentioned dozens of times as having particular roles to play in all things electoral. It is a necessary for the EC to be in place and operating for elections to take place.

With just five members approved by the puppet National Legislative Assembly but, “whose appointments have yet to be submitted for royal endorsement,” this non-EC  “will meet to discuss how to choose the EC chairman and then proceed with choosing someone — probably from among their own ranks.”

We say “non-EC” because Article 222. “The Election Commission consists of seven commissioners appointed by the King upon the advice of the Senate…”. (In the first instance, with no Senate, it is the NLA.)

That is, not just 5 as-yet-unapproved members.

Confirming the position is only held after appointment by the king, Article 223 states: “The Election Commissioners shall hold office for a term of seven years as from the date of appointment by the King…”.

In other words, any actions taken by cannot be considered legal (unless the junta deems it legal).

The “secretary-general of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), insisted the action would not contravene Section 12 of a law governing the poll agency, as some have suggested.” Perhaps he’s also thinking of Article 223 which also states:

During the period in which an Election Commissioner vacates office prior to the expiration of the term and an Election Commissioner has not yet been appointed to fill the vacancy, the remaining Election Commission may continue to perform duties. However, if there are fewer than four Election Commissioners remaining, the Election Commission may carry out only an act which is necessary and unavoidable….

Yet is is not clear that selecting a chairman is “necessary and unavoidable.” It is even less likely that this can be done by EC commissioners who have not been appointed by the king.

Law professor and constitution drafter Jade Donavanik has “warned that picking a chairman from among the EC members could be a breach of the law.” He claims the “law states that the first chairman to be named since it was enacted can only be chosen after all seven election commissioners have been installed.”

By choosing a chair before being officially appointed and without two commissioners is clearly dubious. The idea that two foundation commissioners are deprived of the right to participate in selecting a chairman or from being chairman is also dubious.

There are various ways of considering how this dubious process impacts the junta. If the EC awaits the two other commissioners being appointed and also awaits the royal endorsement, then presumably the “election” is delayed further. That might suit the junta. But, then, it might be that the EC and its selected chairman, if done by the 5 commissioners (whether royally appointed or not), can be challenged in the courts and the whole “election” process thrown out. That might suit the junta. But if the junta does think it is ready for its “election,” then it may want it to go ahead.

In the end, the junta will probably decide what it wants and make that legal.

The second story involves the junta itself filing a computer crimes charge against Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward “Party” (still to be approved as a party by the EC).

The “accusation came after Mr Thanathorn and two others broadcast live on ‘The Future We Want’ and ‘Thanathorn Juangroongraungkit’ Facebook pages.”

What has caused the junta to get prickly? It seems the Facebook broadcast involved “commentators allegedly implicat[ing] the NCPO [junta] when they talked about the luring of former MPs by using the lawsuits against them as a bargaining chip.”

That point has been made by several others, including Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It is also suggested that the “commentators also asked their Facebook followers to sign up to ‘revamp the judicial system’.” That must be the junta’s judicial system.

On the first concoction-cum-complaint, as Thanathorn makes clear, ” it’s common knowledge. I have no intention to accuse or tarnish the NCPO but its action shows it had really done it and views us as an enemy.” He added that he also had “first-hand information on such offers from a number of ex-MPs who were approached.”

The junta, operating illegally through intermediaries who are recruiting for the junta’s Palang Pracharath, maintains the fiction that it is not doing this. Everyone can see it, it is widely reported, but the junta demures.

The junta’s minion Col Burin Thongprapai, who filed the complaint two weeks ago, states: “Mr Thanathorn mentioned the NCPO, which is a distortion of facts and an accusation against the NCPO. It’s also an attack on the judicial system.”

He said the junta had ordered-asked the police to take action.

The law can be whatever the junta wants t to be and it uses it freely and abusively to eliminate and hobble its political opponents. But that’s what you get when you have an arrogant and corrupt military dictatorship.

Update: The (non-)EC went ahead an “elected” a chairman. Now we await the ramifications. Maybe it will be like “investigating” the Deputy Dictator and will melt to nothingness? According to another report, junta minions explain the “need” for a chairman as urgent because of the “need” for an “election” sometime “soon.”

Meanwhile Thanathorn is defiant of the junta. He has rejected the charges against him, saying “he would continue making comments on political issues in his regular online broadcasts through his Facebook fan page.” He added, “It’s the right of everyone…”. Using the term “right” places him in conflict with the junta which prefers duties and obedience to rights. And, stating the obvious, Thanathorn said: “The NCPO used its power to suppress the public who have political views that differ from its own…”.

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