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April 27, 2013

Reversing Thai Democracy – the Imprisonment of Korkaew Pikulthong

It’s been another terrible week for Thai democracy with the kingdom’s judicial system adding one more political prisoner to its jails – democratically-elected Pheu Thai MP and Red Shirt leader, Korkaew Pikulthong.

This time the act of imprisonment didn’t even have the cover of a criminal conviction nor has anyone been found guilty of any offence. Korkaew’s imprisonment came about as his bail – on charges relating to what many consider to be entirely politicised matters – was removed by the Criminal Court after he dared to publicly express an opinion about Thailand’s infamous Constitutional Court.

Korkaew’s original charge came from the illegitimate Abhisit-regime making a politicised decision to use legal threats to intimidate the leadership of the pro-democracy Red Shirt movement.  In 2010, after 100 Red Shirts had been shot and killed on the streets of Bangkok, Abhisit’s Democrat Party government conjured up bogus terrorism charges against Korkaew and 23 other Red Shirt leaders. Of course only Abhisit would have such an abject misunderstanding of the rule of law as to create claims of terrorism against an entirely legitimate and largely peaceful pro-democracy protest. Yet the long-term aim of these charges wasn’t to necessarily secure convictions. On the contrary it was to create an atmosphere of intimidation wherein the Red Shirt leadership could be returned to prison at any time deemed necessary.

In addition, it is now abundantly clear that Korkaew’s imprisonment and withdrawal of bail is meant to work on two other levels. The first is to silence any criticism of the Constitutional Court and its attempts to waylay perfectly legal changes to the Thai Constitution as proposed by the Thai people’s democratically elected representatives. Secondly, the imprisonment of Korkaew is a further signal that Thailand’s unelected “Deep State” is willing and able to use the judiciary in order to curtail the democratic process.

To further understand the politicised nature of the revocation of Korkaew’s bail it needs to be set against the court’s treatment of Democrat Party MP Kanchit Tabsuwan. Kanchit has been charged in connection with a brutal murder after a man was caught on CCTV at a gas station firing several bullets into the head of his victim, killing him instantly. The police are not seeking any other individual in regards to this case and there has not been any question of Kanchit being denied bail. It is therefore not unreasonable to question the basis whereby legitimate protest is deemed “terrorism” and murder is considered a lesser, bailable, offence. Of course, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Kanchit is a Democrat Party MP and therefore not subject to the same rule of law that has been consistently and ruthless invoked against anyone who dares to be a Red Shirt.

Those analysing the present political situation in Thailand should be under no illusion that the connection between acts like the imprisonment of Korkaew and the use of the kingdom’s notorious 112 lese majeste laws are explicit. In a democracy decisions affecting basic constitutional rights should be fully open to scrutiny, discussion and objection. The Constitutional Court’s decisions and their validity must become part of the everyday public discourse of Thai democracy if that democracy is to flourish. Korkaew’s imprisonment is clearly a breach of his political and freedom of expression rights. He must be immediately released without condition and no further intimidation carried out by the Constitutional Court against its critics must be enacted.

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