Cooking up a constitutional storm

In working on an article about Thailand’s Constitutional Court, I came across an interesting LLM dissertation by a Thai lawyer about the 2008 case removing Samak Sundaravej from the prime ministership because he had concurrently hosted a TV cooking show.* In Three-Course Recipe for the Court’s Cookery: A Critique on Thai Democracy and Judicial Review, Verapat Pariyawong criticizes the court not for the result, but for the lack of legal reasoning.

He instead proposes that the court adopt a different analysis for constitutional interpretation: 1) utilize separation of powers as the policy framework; 2) exercise judicial restraint where a political branch of government could better provide a remedy; and 3) balance the decision against any potential adverse effects on fundamental rights.

Verapat also criticizes the court for not clarifying key constitutional phrases (such as “to prevent the exercise of power for personal gain” in § 267). Again, his proposed solution is a three-part test, this time adopted from the 1999 Anti-Corruption Act: 1) the official shares an interest in the private business as an employee; 2) such business is examined or supervised by a government agency; and 3) the interests of the agency might conflict with the public interest.

There’s very little English-language literature on Thailand, and I’m glad I found this thesis. Sometimes, the thesis veers more toward comparisons between Thai and American constitutional interpretation, which is of limited use considering how different the two countries are (a comparison with Indonesia might have been more appropriate). Nonetheless, overall, this is a useful source for its discussion on Thai jurisprudence.

* The dissertation does include a copy of the Cookery decision, but unfortunately it is only in Thai.

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