The polarization of Thai courts

Asia Time’s Shawn Crispin has a new piece about the ongoing legal proceedings against former Prime Minister Thaksin. While much of the article focuses on the economics and corruption of Thailand’s telecom industry, there is some fascinating discussion of how both the Abhisit government and Thaksin-inspired opposition have co-opted “rule of law” language. Here are a few highlights:

The Thaksin-aligned, red-shirted United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)… has in recent weeks ramped up its criticism of perceived double standards in the justice system, conspicuously coinciding with Thaksin’s asset-case verdict. The exiled former leader cryptically said this week in a Thai-language message to his supporters that “there can be no peace in a society without justice”…

While the UDD complains about judicial double standards, some say it is ironic that Thaksin’s lawyers are in his defense relying chiefly on the sanctity of a previous Constitutional Court decision that was handed down while he was still in power. It was the same group of judges that ruled in 2001 to overturn a National Counter Corruption Commission decision that Thaksin had intentionally concealed his assets in a disclosure statement legally required of elected officials…

Then as now, Thaksin’s supporters put pressure on the legal proceedings through threats of chaos and street violence should the ruling go against him. Significantly, Abhisit and his top deputies have stood firm by rule-of-law arguments in settling the case, despite the UDD’s and Thaksin’s apocalyptic threats. 

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