Monday, March 26, 2007

Asian Human Rights Commission: Thai Court System a "Mess"

Human rights group slams Thailand's judicial system

Bangkok Post

Bangkok (dpa)Calling Thailand's judicial system a "mess," the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) on Monday urged the country's judges to set an example and conduct speedy and fair trials.The AHRC appealed to the Bangkok South Criminal Court to halt the case of four Thai men accused of plotting to kill a supreme court president. The accused have appeared in court 461 times before 91 different judges since proceedings began in 1993.

The case is an example of the urgent need for "a drastic overhaul of Thailand's criminal procedures," said the Hong Kong-based commission in a statement.

"The failure to bring the trial to a prompt conclusion amounts to a violation of the defendants' fundamental rights under both national and international law."

The accused have staunchly maintained the police set them up and no material evidence has ever been offered against them. Two of the four were imprisoned for seven years before receiving bail.

The court, obliged by law to see that trials are "speedy, continuous and fair" has grounds and the authority to stop the case, but declines to do so, according to AHRC.

In Thailand, forced confessions are the preferred route to convictions and the AHRC described as "conservative" a senior justice ministry official's admission last year that 30 per cent of cases went to court with no evidence.

The military coup last September has stalled tentative reforms initiated by senior judges, but with no constitution in place, no reforms could be expected until a return to civilian rule.

In the meantime, the commission called on judges themselves to ensure that trials are conducted speedily, fairly and continuously.

Thai judge should ensure that evidence exists and if none is brought forward then judges should promptly dismiss cases.

One of the reasons why Thailand is in such a political mess is because the Thai judicial system sucks.

Of course, the Thai media would never do an expose on the judicial system. It just reports whatever foreign NGOs complain about.


Patiwat said...

The media doesn't ever say anything critical against the courts because that would be illegal. The courts have prosecuted those who criticize their decisions.

fall said...

To my understanding, Thai commercial court system border on a cesspool of corruption.
The judge would actually *wait* after the case had been present and evidence shown and documented. This *wait* period is for the judge to write the verdict on the case.

Now, what had not been said is a common 3-15% going rate for *convincing* the judge to write his verdict as you see fit. How else can a poor judge's salary feed his family, get a big house, and mercedeze?

Fonzi said...

Patiwat--You are right, and, of course, that is another barrier to Thailand ever becoming a real democracy.

But I don't think it is illegal to criticize the judicial process, which was my point.

Fall is right also. The judicial system has always been corrupt, to the highest bidder goes the verdict.

During the new constitution writing process, will these things get addressed?


hobby said...

Fonzi: How would the constitution fix those problems with the judiciary?

No amount of rules will be able to fix what is a behavioural problem!

Fonzi said...


You have a point.

1. Make it legal to criticize judges.

2. Make it easier to impeach judges.

3. Make judges declare their assets before a corruption commission.

4. Subject judges to professional review

5. Enforce habeas corpus and the right to a speedy trial

6. Allow for depositions and cross examination of witnesses. Also, the cross examination of police. If the police don't show up or don't provide evidence, dismiss the case.
All evidence of forced confessions, dismiss the case.

7. Allow defense attorneys access to evidence.

8. Allow defense attorneys the right of asking for a dismissal if there is no evidence.

9. Make it illegal to change judges in a trial unless there is a conflict of interest.

10. Make judicial proceedings a matter of public record.

hobby said...

Fonzi: Good suggestions - law is not my area of expertise, and I just took it for granted that all your recommendations would already be enshrined somewhere in the system or the constitution.

The 1997 constitution is supposed to be the best constition because it is from 'the people', so it should be used as a basis and just strengthen the checks & balances where necessary, based on extra knowledge gained over the last 10 years.

Also, I would like to see the degree requirement for MP's removed - it's clearly not fair.
The other significant change I would like to see is a maximum 2 terms for PM (8 years max) - I don't think anyone who has read anything about Thai history would find that too controversial, especially as the 1997 constitution already strengthened major parties.

I would like to start a campaign to make the 1997 constitution with those minor amendments as the fall back constitution in case the referendum does not pass the new one - that would be a reasonable compromise and would allow elections to be held ASAP.