Thai Politics Updates July 2012
Tension rose continuously during the month of July, until the verdict of the Constitution Court on the constitutionality of the charter amendment process was finally delivered on June 13. It was feared that a verdict of unconstitutionality would lead to the Pheua Thai party being dissolved, triggering renewed violence. Tension was eased when the Constitution Court dismissed the complaints that the article 291 amendment constituted an attempt to overthrow the monarchy, while the government backed down and decided to postpone the third reading of the article 291 amendment (on rules governing constitutional revision) until the next parliamentary session. I.
Thai-American relations The saga on the US request for the use of U-Tapao airport continued this month. At the end of June, the Cabinet passed a resolution to organize a consultative parliamentary debate on the subject, which is to be held at the next parliamentary session starting on August 1. The government eventually decided to arrange the debate on the matter after very vocal opposition to the project from government opponents, notably the Democrat Party, which insisted that the project fell under Constitution Section 190 on agreements affecting Thailandâ€™s sovereignty, and thus required parliamentary approval. Among other criticisms voiced were concerns that the project would be cover for American spying in the region (presumably on China), that Thai national security could be jeopardized, and that the Chinese government would be upset at Thailand hosting the project (PAD spokesman Panthep Pongpuapan reportedly asserted that the project could be cover for testing of American weapons that use electromagnetic waves to cause earthquakes, possibly implying that the US caused the earthquakes that struck Asian countries in recent years). Nasa had announced on June 29 that it cancelled its science mission planned for September-October, because of the delay in getting necessary approvals by regional authorities to support the mission.(The Nation, 29/06/12), reportedly officialized in September 2010 through the signature of a joint statement between NASA and the Thai Sciences, Technology and Environment Ministry Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA). According to media reports, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of Chulalongkorn University's Institute of Security and International Studies, said he had learned from a high-ranking American official that US President Barack Obama had cancelled his plan for a trip to Thailand after his participation in the East Asian Summit in Cambodia in November. He pointed to a possible connection between the president's decision and the delay in Thailand's approval for the Nasa project, leading to its cancellation. The academic said the cancellation
of Obama's trip would adversely affect Thai-US relations and cooperation. Thai Ambassador to the US Chaiyong Satjipanon said there was no official announcement yet as to whether Obama would cancel his trip to Thailand. (Bangkok Post, 30.06.12). Pheu Thai party members denounced the cancellation of the science mission, notably Parliament President Somsak Kiartsuranon and Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul who vowed to file a lawsuit against the Democrat Party for its failure to bring the project for consideration by Parliament when it was in power in 2010. The Democrat Party reportedly responded that the joint statement signed by Nasa and GISTDA when the Democrats were in power was not linked to the current project proposed by Nasa (The Nation, 29/06/2012) and accused the government of having a hidden agenda of seeking a US visa for Thaksin in exchange for allowing NASA to conduct its study on Thai soil. Prime Minister trip to Europe (France and Germany) Yingluck Shinawatra paid an official visit to France and Germany between 19-20 July 2012. In France, she met with French President Francois Hollande (PS) and Prime Minister JeanMarc Ayrault (PS). The latter hailed Thailand for "again finding the road to democracy and stability after a period of tensions" (The Nation, 22/07/12). French President Francois Hollande mentioned Thailand’s recent "commitments in favour of democracy and freedom" as they met in Paris on July 20 (AFP, 20/07/12).They agreed to "diversify economic relations" and discussed political, educational and cultural cooperation, (Office of the Elysee, 20/07/12), to boost military ties and said their defence ministries would sign a cooperation agreement. In Germany she met with Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU). They also agreed to boost bilateral relations, especially with regard to technical assistance and exchange of expertise. Preah Vihear and Thai-Cambodian relations Thailand and Cambodia performed a pantomime of withdrawing soldiers from the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple. Thailand complained that Cambodia was leaving soldiers in the area disguised as civilians or police. For its part, Thailand deployed up to four companies of Border Patrol Police (actually paramilitary security forces). Kittisak Ponpai, head of a group calling itself Power of the Land, declared that members would rally in Si Sa ket to protest the troop withdrawal, insisting that the area is Thai territory and adding that Thailand does not have to follow the order of the International Court of Justice (which ordered both Thailand and Cambodia to withdraw soldiers). After the supposed withdrawal, Supreme Commander Gen Thanasak Patimapakorn said that Indonesian observers may no longer be needed at the disputed territory because the border situation has stabilized. Meanwhile, the director of the Defence Ministry’s Policy and Planning Office, Gen Nipat Thonglek, has appealed to the public to send in photographs of the fences erected at Preah Vihear by Thai authorities in 1962 in response to the original ICJ ruling on the territory; Nipat said that the fences were put up in compliance with the ICJ ruling, 20 meters from the temple stairs on the north side of the complex and 100 meters from the building on the west side, and that the photos would prove Cambodia’s acceptance of those boundaries. The ICJ is expected to rule on Cambodia’s request for interpretation in September of October 2013. Despite all this, Thai-Cambodia government to government relations appear to remain calm and amiable.
Constitution Court and the Charter amendment process In the midst of heavy pressure exerted by both yellow and red-shirts upon Constitution Court judges, the Constitution Court processed with the cases about the constitutionality of the amendment of Article 291, which it accepted last month for consideration.
Five complaints were filed questioning if the charter rewrite proponents might have violated article 68 of the Constitution, dealing with misuse of constitutional rights and freedoms to try overthrow democracy with the King as head of state. The five complainants are Gen Somjet Boonthanom, Wanchongchai Chamnankij, Vierat Kalayasiri, Warin Thiamcharas and Bovorn Yasinthorn. Another complaint was filed by yellow shirt Chamlong Srimuang. As for the five complaints about the article 68, the Constitution Court set hearings on 5th and 6th July and approved a list of 15 witnesses on both the defendants and accusation side. Witnesses on the accusersâ€™ side are members of the drafting assemblies for the last two constitutions - 1997 and the current charter, as well as opposition and Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. The defendants chose four witnesses including Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit, Pheu Thai secretary-general Jarupong Ruangsuwan, former constitution drafting assembly member Bokin Palakula, and House of Representatives secretary-general Pitoon Pumhirun, and later added two other witnesses, former senator Kanin Boonsuwan and Udomdej Rattanasathien. Nattawut questioned the credibility of the witnesses, saying they are those who tried to overthrow the power of the people and joined the Democrat Party's political rally.(Bangkok Post, 08/07/12) As for the petition, the Constitution Court ordered the 416 lawmakers and cabinet ministers who voted in support of charter amendment drafts to justify their decision, including 305 government MPs, 75 senators, cabinet members and the House speaker. They were given 15 days to submit their statements. It was widely discussed at the end of June whether the court had authority to accept such a petition directly. Indeed, article 68 states â€•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. In the case where a person or a political party has committed the act under paragraph one, the person knowing of such act shall have the right to request the Prosecutor [Attorney General] to investigate its facts and submit a motion to the Constitutional
Court for ordering cessation of such act without, however, prejudice to the institutions of a criminal action against such person.‖ However, judges of the Constitution Court have argued in various places that this article should have been interpreted as ―In the case where a person or a political party has committed the act under paragraph one, the person knowing of such act shall have the right to request the Prosecutor [Attorney General] and/or to investigate its facts and submit a motion to the Constitutional Court for ordering cessation of such act‖ Look at the information in the following link—it may be worth mentioning in the context of the court’s claim that it could accept the petitions directly. http://asiancorrespondent.com/84027/why-has-the-thai-constitution-court-changed-itsinterpretation-of-the-law/ The following questions remain unanswered: 1- Can a coalition of MPs from various parties in the exercise of parliamentary powers be considered ―a person or political party‖? and 2Can the MPs in parliament be considered as exercising rights and liberties, or are they performing duties ?‖ On the website of the Constitution Court it is stated that only the Attorney General can file a motion to the Constitution Court (www.constitutionalcourt.org.th, cf Asian Correspondent, 06/06/2012). Anyway, extreme tensions were feared in the lead up to the verdict as a decision of unconstitutionality would allow the Constitution Court to dissolve the Pheua Thai, the coalition parties and to ban their executive committee members for 5 years – (NB: Yingluck Shinawatra is not on the Pheua Thai executive committee—a tactical decision likely made to avoid just this sort of danger). In June, after the Constitution Court decided to accept the petitions directly, the Office of the Attorney General reportedly formally announced that it had considered the petitions and deemed them groundless, so it was not forwarding them to the Constitution Court (which would have ended the matter had the previously-established petitioning procedure been followed). In the lead-up to the verdict, Yingluck called on the Constitution Court to "make the judgment fairly and base their decision on facts" (The Nation, 03/07/12) and Thaksin to accept the Court’s ruling (The Nation, 04/07/12). Thaksin’s instruction not to fight the Constitution Court was discussed after a controversial clip was released featuring a conversation between Somsak Kiatsuranond and red – shirts, allegedly shot during Somsak’s birthday party in Petchabun province on June 27, in which Somsak reportedly explains that the Pheua Thai Party's decision to back away from the vote on the third reading of the charter amendment bill was Thaksin’s strategy to safeguard Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Abhisit Vejjajiya said the clip was a proof that Thaksin directed the operations from abroad. (Bangkok Post, 5/06/12) Meanwhile, red-shirts called for the Constitution Court judges to resign. UDD leader Tida Tavornseth said that red-shirts will take to the streets in huge numbers if the Constitution Court judges do not resign, no matter what their ruling is on the
charter amendment bill, because they lack the legitimacy to remain in their positions (Bangkok Post, 06/07/12). Finally, on the 13th of July 2012, the Constitution Court judges voted 7 to 1 to dismiss the petition for lack of supporting evidence. (One of the judges, Jarun Pukditanakul, a 2007 Constitution drafter who campaigned for its approval by referendum, withdrew from the panel after a lawyer for the bill's supporters said during testimony on 5 July that Jarun’s presence was inadequate because he had earlier urged people to vote in support of the 2007 charter arguing that it could be changed later on). In its press release on 13/07/12, the court addressed four points. - First, the judges ruled 7:1 that the court had the authority to accept the petitions concerning Section 68 threats to democracy and the monarchy directly rather than through the Office of the Attorney General, and even in the face of the OAG’s refusal to forward petitions, because if the court waited, it would be too late to stop a threat to democracy or the monarchy. - On the second point, whether parliament can abolish the constitution in its entirety and write a new one, the eight judges ruled unanimously that it is illogical for organizations established under the constitution to be able to abolish that constitution, and that since the 2007 Constitution was endorsed by referendum, if the government seeks to create a drafting assembly to write a new constitution, the government should first hold a referendum to see if the public endorses the attempt; otherwise parliament could amend particular sections of the constitution in isolation, in accordance with Section 291. - On the third point, whether the amendment bid amounts to an attempt to overthrow constitutional monarchy and seize state power by unconstitutional means, the judges were unanimous in saying that the complainants did not provide sufficient evidence to prove this accusation, adding that various legal mechanisms remain to prevent such usurpation should it be attempted. - On the final point, whether to Pheu Thai Party should be dissolved for the attempted amendment, the court said that since the amendment was not shown to be an attempt at overthrowing constitutional monarchy, there was no need to consider this issue. To sum up, on the argument whether the charter amendment bill could be seen as intended to abolish the country's democratic administration and the constitutional monarchy, the court ruled that the proposed amendment to Section 291 to set up a constitution drafting assembly cannot be taken as having such an intention. The court also ruled that if the constitution is to be rewritten in its entirety there should be a public referendum because the 2007 Constitution was endorsed by referendum. Reactions were mixed in the ―red‖ camp. Chaturon Chaisaeng suggested Pheua Thai MPs first amend charter sections regarding the Constitution Court to limit its powers and prevent it
from using the ruling as a precedent to directly receive future complaints made under Section 68 (Bangkok Post, 15 July 2012) .The next day, the enlightened jurists of Nittirat group held a press conference calling for the dissolution of the Constitution Court, which they saw as having over-reached its power in intervening in charter amendment procedures, the assigned role of the legislature. They called for a new panel of judges to be formed to replace the Constitution Court. They also proposed to establish an appointment process that would provide for more linkage between the people and the judges. They proposed that 2 judges be nominated by the Upper House, 3 by the Lower House and 3 by the Cabinet. Constitution Court judges should not have held official positions in any organizations created by the 2006 temporary constitution. Each political party should also be able to appoint a judge to sit on the panel. Somrit Chaiyawong, spokesman for the Constitution Court, later confirmed that the court's suggestion of a referendum had been a recommendation, not an order. Parliament has the right to consider whether to proceed immediately with the third reading of the bill to amend Section 291 of the constitution, he said. Debates about whether to go ahead on the third reading of the bill or not however did not last very long, and it was finally decided to postpone the bill to the next parliamentary session, starting on August 1.
Charter amendment content This month, amidst the political saga with the Constitution Court and the amendment process, there was little room in the media for public debate on the content of the charter rewrite. However, two set of proposals, by Pheua Thai MP Watana Muangsook and Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung deserve to be mentioned. Both proposed that the Constitution be revised on an article-by-article basis after the Constitution Court suggested that in case of an overhaul of the Charter, a referendum be held first. (cf. supra) Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung made 5 proposals: (1) all senators must be elected; (2) the Ombudsmen must be dissolved; (3) the Constitution Court and the Administrative Court must be merged into a department under the Supreme Court (4) the Election Commission should only have the duty to manage elections, and should not issue red and yellow cards (5) members of the Election Commission and the National Anti Corruption must be selected by the House and sit a four year term. Pheua Thai MP Watana Muangsook proposed 7 points for consideration: (1) improve the checks and balances on the judicial branch; (2) revise article 67, which currently puts communities' interests over the public interest; (3) revise article 190, which requires parliamentary consideration before the government makes an agreement with a foreign country; (4) revise article 237 on political party dissolutions; the subjecting of independent agencies to scrutiny; (5) elect all senators and (6) revise article 309, which legitimises the coup-makers. (The Nation, 25/07.12)
The election of senators is a consensus among Pheua Thai party members. ―If senators are only in charge of screening legislation, they do not need to be elected. But if they are empowered to impeach anyone, they must be elected‖ (Wattana Muangsook, Bangkok Post, 25/07/12)
National reconciliation Linked to charter change are the issue of national reconciliation (and the possibility of amnesties) and the controversial character of Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin’s speeches are increasingly ambiguous about the question of reconciliation . On July 17, in an interview with Channel News Asia, he declared ―I forgive everyone. Don’t worry that they might you know, insult me with verbal, or with legal, or whatever. I forgive them all. I just want to be part of Thai society. I want to live my normal life. (…) I can go everywhere in the world, except my homeland. Why? I should be able to go to my homeland, my motherland. But now every country welcomes me, except my motherland," (Channel News Asia, 18/07/12) He also renewed his calls for a highly-controversial amnesty, already expressed in a phone in on May 19, 2012 "I want to see reconciliation. I want to see peace and unity in Thailand. I will bring my people and come together with those who are against me and then we will do something.‖ Thaksin’s birthday in Hong Kong Thaksin turned 63 on July 26. On this occasion, he invited his supporters to join him for celebrations in Hong Kong. He made a phone-in to the Pheua Thai headquarters in Bangkok and sent 64,000 doughnuts to friends, including reporters. Pol Gen Priewpan, national chief police officer, and brother of Thaksin’s ex-wife, made the trip to Hong Kong to visit the convicted-to-two-year-jail-sentence ex-Premier. This move was widely criticized. Abhisit Vejjajiya, former Prime Minister and Democrat party leader, reportedly declared "How can it be that a national police chief travels to meet a fugitive?" (Bangkok Post, 26/07/12). Some opponents spoke of seeking to charge Priewpan with dereliction of duty or malfeasance for failing to arrest Thaksin, but supporters argued that Thailand’s national police chief has no legal duties in Hong Kong, and besides, Priewpan took leave for the trip. Appointments Policy adviser Pansak Winyarat, a former adviser to ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has been appointed chief policy adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, In the words of the US Embassy, Pansak is Thaksin’s Oracle.* According to the government spokesman, PM’s chief policy adviser is responsible for giving advice and making recommendations to the prime minister regarding policies on the economy, public health, social affairs, culture, environment, foreign affairs, legal reforms for development, and administration of justice affairs. (for more info, see http://asiancorrespondent.com/85274/the-oracle-returns-tobecome-chief-policy-adviser-to-yingluck/)
Department of Special Investigation The Cabinet on the 30th of July approved the Justice Ministry's appointment of new nine specialised committee members in the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) Special Case Committee. Committee members to replace their predecessors from September 7 are; Kraisorn Barameeauychai (law and justice administration); Chaikasem Nitisiri (law and criminal code procedure); Narinpong Jinapak (law, liberty and freedom protection); Pradit Ekmanee (law and justice process); Montri Sokhatiyanurak (economics and finance and banking); Mahidol Jantharangkul (finance and banking and IT); Rewat Wisarutwet MD (medicine and public health); Pol Lt General Suchart Muankaew (criminal case investigation procedure) and Anuporn Arunrat (law and international trades).
Court cases - Investigation into the April May 2010 riots The DSI chief Tharit pengdit announced on July 9 the theft and arson at the CentralWorld department store during the red-shirts street protests of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) during April-May 2010 were not the actions of mysterious â€•men in blackâ€– as claimed by Suthep Thaugsuban, ex-Deputy Prime Minister. So far nine people have been charged in connection to the incident: five unidentified men, two male minors and two men, Saichon Phaebua and Phinit Channarong. The two minors and Mr Phinit face additional charges of theft at the shopping centre, along with six others. - Possible Bail revocation for UDD leaders Questions on whether the attitudes of core red-shirt leaders during the lead up to the Constitutional Courtâ€™s verdict were in breach of their bail conditions were taken up by the Criminal Court for consideration. Most of the red-shirts are still free under bail, since they were arrested in May 2010. However, those red-shirts who also have an MP seat are protected from detentions since they have parliamentary immunity. The first to be summoned was Korkaew Pikungthong. Later in the month, the Office of the Constitution Court filed six separate police complaints naming some 81 red shirts as suspects on charges related to offending and intimidating the high court in connection with the verdict on the charter-amendment bill. Court spokesman Somrit Chaiwong reportedly said that "The filing of complaints is the only way to shield the judiciary against intimidation," (The Nation, 31/07/12) 1-red-shirt leader Yotwarit Chooklom, aka Jeng Dokjik, was named for allegedly offending the high court's judges in the line of duty as per Articles 136 and 198 of the Criminal Code. He is also charged with intimidation by inciting fear as per Article 392 of the Criminal Code.
2-red-shirt leader and Pheu Thai MP Kokaew Pikulthong is named for coercion by threatening the use of force in order to obstruct judicial review. His alleged violations fall under Articles 139, 140, 198 and 292. 3- Pheu Thai MP and red supporter Prasit Chaisrisa. The charges are based on Articles 136 and 198. 4-red-shirt Anurak Jentawanit is named for allegedly fabricating charges against the judges in connection with his police complaint filed on July 5. The charges against him are based on Articles 172, 173 and 174. 5- 26 red shirts face fabrication charges as per Articles 172, 173 and 174 after filing a complaint against the judges at Khu Khot police station, Pathum Thani, on July 14. 6-red ally Wuthipong Kotchathamkhun and some 50 unidentified red shirts have been named as suspects for offending the judges in the line of duty. Their charges, based on Articles 83, 136 and 198, stemmed from protest activities at the high court building on July 16.
Prosecutors were supposed to announce on 4 July whether they would indict several core People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders in connection with the 2008 seizure of Government House, the 2008 occupation of Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports, and alleged defamation against Thaksin Shinawatra and Newin Chidchob; instead, prosecutors announced they are deferring a decision until 23 August because the cases must be thoroughly examined. - Corruption The Supreme Court on July 23 fined Rak Thailand Party leader Chuwit Kamolvisit Bt2.4 million for expanding a massage parlour without a building permit 10 years ago. - Abuse of power The Criminal Court on 25th of July sentenced former chief ombudsman Teeradej Meepian to two years in jail, suspended for two years, for wrongfully awarding himself and his immediate staff monthly meeting allowances while he was in office. He was immediately disqualified from his current position as senate speaker, but not from being an ordinary senator. Former ombudsman Poolsap Piya-anant received the same suspended sentence as Gen Teeradej.Pramote Chotemongkol, former secretary-general of the Office of the Ombudsman and a current ombudsman, was sentenced to one year and four months in jail, suspended for two years. (Bangkok Post, 25/07/12) - Lèse majesté The charges against Chotisak Onsoon for refusing to stand during royal anthem at a cinema in 2007 were dropped the last week of July. ―Chotisak's refusal to heed the royal anthem cannot be construed as a royal insult as per Article 112 of the Criminal Code," chief prosecutor Visit Sukyukol in charge of the case (The Nation, 20/07/12)
Joe Gordon, the Thai-born American citizen who was arrested in May 2011 and subsequently convicted on lese majeste charges for posting translated excerpts of The King Never Smiles on the internet, was granted a royal pardon and freed; the media lost track of him upon his release, and he may have returned to the United States. Thitinant Kaewchantranont, a 63-year-old New Zealand-resident Thai woman was apparently arrested, a and detained for psychiatric evaluation after making a rude gesture towards an image of the King outside the Constitution Court. Thitinant had been scheduled to depart Suvarnabhumi airport for New Zealand, but about 200 people picketed outside the airport in protest. She did not appear to try board the flight but police say that had she attempted to leave she would have been prevented from doing so; a THAI Airways source claimed that the airplane’s captain had vowed to refuse to take off with Thitinant on board. Reports have asserted that Thitinant has a history of mental illness. A vendor, Ekachai Hongkangwan, is on trial for lese majeste after being arrested in March 2011 for possessing 70 CDs that contained a recording of a segment from Australian Broadcast Corporation’s Foreign Correspondent programme, which in turn included footage from a private video of the Crown Prince. Ekachai’s defense lawyer reportedly attempted to address the veracity of the facts that are deemed defamatory, but one of the presiding judges declared that it is irrelevant whether the details on the recordings are true or not, highlighting that truth is not a defence in lese majeste. Another source (Political Prisoners in Thailand website) has reported that the judges have not actually allowed presentation of the evidence in courtroom, saying that the matter is delicate and care must be taken; the article asserted that the reason for this is that the footage was produced by persons close to the royal family and is damning of them, especially the Crown Prince. The defence has also reportedly approached ABC for some form of help or supporting statements, but ABC has reportedly rejected the request, saying the program was made for an Australian audience and Ekachai’s use of it violates ABC’s copyright, so ABC will not provide any statements, and there should be no need for the defence to contact ABC again. -Detention conditions A support network for people affected by the use of the lese majeste law was launched on 5/08/12. Their main demands include the right to health care, the right to bail and the right to be free from torture for all the remaining detainees. The network was launched at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand by 10 representatives under the leadership of Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk, whose husband Somyot was arrested on April 30, 2011 on lèse majesté charges. Core representatives also included Pranee Danwattananusorn, whose husband Surachai was sentenced for lese majeste in February 2012, and Keechiang Thaweewarodomkul, whose son Thantawut was also condemned for lese majeste. However, it was reportedly said that since the death in May 2012 of Akong, sentenced to 20 years in jail for lese majeste, lese majeste detainees experiencing health problems were being given access to treatment, like Daranee Charncherngsilapakul, and Surachai Danwattananusorn.
The October 1976 Network,composed of relatives of victims of the 1976 bloodshed, reportedly announced it would support the lese majeste network.
-Human rights: Death penalty to fight against impunity On the 30th of July, the Criminal Court declared five former Kalasin-based policemen guilty for their involvement in the extrajudicial killing of a 17-year-old boy in 2004. Three of them were sentenced to death, another to life imprisonment, and the other to seven years in jail. Three police senior sergeant majors. the deputy superintendent of Muang Kalasin station at the time of the murder as well as his supervisor, the former superintendent of Muang Kalasin Police, was found guilty of trying to help his subordinates cover up the crime. The victimâ€™s family lodged a complaint shortly after their sonâ€™s death, despite intimidations from the police officers/perpetrators. It is one of the first prosecutions of policemen involved in extra- judicial killings during Thaksinâ€™s highly controversial "War on drugs" which caused 2,500 deaths. This verdict can be hailed as a breakthrough towards the end of impunity in the Deep South and the advancement of human rights in Thailand, however, the choice of the death penalty, whose principles contravene basic human rights, seems to invalidate this hypothesis. (at the beginning of August, all five were released on bail) Southern insurgency This month witnessed an apparent escalation of violence in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand; Thai security officials said that insurgents were stepping up their activities coinciding with the beginning of the Ramadan fast.
Economy and society
Policy implementation: Flood prevention Amidst suspicions of funds mismanagement, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) affirmed its willingness to closely monitor implementation of the government's multi-billion-baht flood prevention projects. Vicha Mahakun, a member of the NACC, said it will form a committee to keep watch on the projects implementation as well as a bidding process to deter corruption. One controversial bidding condition is that the bidders must have a proven record of having undertaken a project worth about 30 billion baht, which was seen as unreachable for many Thai companies. By the end of the month, corruption had been uncovered in several irrigation projects in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son provinces, according to the Office of the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC). (Bangkok Post, 30/07/12)
Policy implementation: Enforcement of law on natural parks
A national park was stormed by 3,300 armed forestry representatives to destroyed nine resorts that authorities claim encroached on the forest reserve of Thap Lan National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima province. (Bangkok Post, 29/07/12) Policy implementation: Rice Pledging Program Several observers, notably academics associated with the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), attacked the government over the rice pledging policy, under which farmers get up to 15,000 baht per tonne for white paddy rice, and up to 20,000 baht per tonne for jasmine hom mali rice, prices up to 40% above market prices. The government buys the rice, and periodically auctions amounts off, but an industry observer commented that buyers are colluding to submit bids below the government’s costs, resulting in failed sales. Thailand has slipped from its position as the world’s largest rice exporter, and the government appears to be stockpiling rice rather than selling right now. The Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives said that Thailand has thus far spent about 258 billion baht implementing the government’s rice mortgage policy; from 7 October 2011 to 29 February 2012, 118.4 billion baht was reportedly spent to buy 7 million tonnes of rice from about 1.1 million farmers, and the government expects to buy another 9.5 million tones for 139.5 billion baht between March and September 2012. The bank has asked cabinet for an additional 10 billion baht capital for the scheme, making a total of 60 billion baht, but cabinet refused, and ordered the bank to separate its general business operations from the implementation of government projects. TDRI asserted that up to 100 billion baht could be lost this year because of the policy. Prominent economist Ammar Siamwalla asserted that the government’s rice-pledging scheme is pro-rich, anti-poor, and very damaging, increasing the cost of living for the entire public. He complained that the scheme is biased in favor of farmers who produce larger amounts of rice over those who produce smaller amounts.
Public spending- Military expenditure A controversy about the use by the Thai army of GT200 and Alpha 6 bomb detectors, reemerged this month after the DSI announced that, based on evidence, they are poor quality and very costly. An investigation into the matter, which had been launched two years ago, delivered its conclusions at the end of the month and concluded that the so-called bomb detectors were bought by 13 state agencies, including the air force, at excessively high prices, ranging from 500,000 to 1.6 million baht a piece. Both GT200 and Alpha 6 bomb detectors were called useless for bomb detection by the DSI chief. (Bangkok Post, 20/07/2012) Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat (who was air force chief of staff when the air force procured the devices) insisted the devices are effective and are still being used by bomb demolition squads in the far South. (Bangkok Post, 20/07/2012) British investigative journalists and subsequently Thailand’s Science and Technology Ministry have concluded that the devices are mere dowsing rods, and do not operate on any scientifically-accepted principles. Student violence
Another case of student violence was reported this month, when three vocational college students were shot dead and three others injured in a lethal motorcycle chase on July the 10th in Kalasin. Lethal violence among rival schools is an endemic problem in Thailand.
Royal celebrations Royal Boat trip to Nonthaburi On the 7th of July, the King, the Queen and the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, embarked on a boat trip to Koh Kret in Nonthaburi. The Royal Family journeyed upriver to inspect riverside communities affected by last year's floods. It was reported that on the return journey, the King stopped at the Royal Irrigation Department in Samsen to preside over the launch of five royally initiated irrigation projects: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, presented the five following projects to the King : Khundanprakarnchon dam in Nakhon Nayok; Kwai Noi Bamrungdan dam in Phitsanulok; Lamphayang Phumpat water tunnel in Kalasin; Thoranit Narumit floodgate in Nakhon Phanom; and Uthok Vipachprasit floodgate in Nakhon Si Thammarat.(Bangkok Post, 07/07/12) Celebrations: 60th Anniversary of the Crown Prince On 28 July 2012, merit-making ceremonies were organized throughout Thailand to pay tribute to the Crown Prince for his 60th anniversary. The celebrations provided an occasion for recalling the achievements of the Crown Prince. According to the Government public relations statement, ―His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the only son, the second of four children, of Their Majesties the King and Queen. He was born in Bangkok in 1952. After completing his primary education in Thailand, His Royal Highness attended secondary school in England and then went to Australia to continue his studies. He graduated from the famous Royal Military College, Duntroon, Australian Capital Territory. After that, he returned to Thailand to take up his duties which, besides serving in the Royal Army, include frequent provincial tours and representing His Majesty the King at various functions and ceremonies. His Royal Highness was invested as Crown Prince by His Majesty in 1972. With funds donated by the public, he established the ―Crown Prince Hospitals‖ to serve as medical and health care centers for people living in remote areas. By the year 1977, Crown Prince Hospitals had been set up in 21 locations. As of the year 2011, these hospitals had become major community hospitals providing services of international standard to the general public.‖ Celebrations: 60th anniversary of the Crown Prince and 80th anniversary of the Queen
The Treasury Department, Ministry of Finance, is producing three types of commemorative coins in commemoration of two special occasion: the 80th birthday of the Queen (12 August) and the 60th birthday of the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn (28 July). Commemorative 80-baht and 100-baht banknotes are to be launched by the Bank of Thailand from 27 July onwards. New rules for motorcades for royal convoys On July 27, it was reported that the King of Thailand, in a bid to help ease Bangkok's legendary traffic jams and other inconveniences, ordered a few changes to the treatment of royals on the roads. On July 27, authorities reportedly distributed 25,000 handbooks to police and other officials with guidelines for directing royal convoys and new protocol for royal appearances in public places. â€•The manual overturns several practices that had quietly irritated the public in a country where open criticism of the royal family is taboo. Among the new rules: shopping malls do not have to shut if a royal family member shows up, and oncoming traffic will be permitted on the road opposite a royal convoy. Palace officials said that the revered 84-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej himself initiated the new guidelinesâ€–. (Associated Press, 27/07/12)