Who says Thailand can't catch the big fish?
Didn't the average Thai see anything wrong when the ex-premier's wife took part in a bidding process for a choice piece of land from a government agency?
Well, Suthichai, great spin there, but neither Pojaman nor Thaksin were prosecuted and found guilty for subverting the bid process.
Of course, most Thais were suspicious. But the term "conflict of interest" was never really taken seriously in Thai society then. Besides, we were asked: "What's wrong with the premier's wife, with tons of money, offering the highest bid? Who else could make a higher offer?"
Again, no court found Thaksin guilty of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the state or that there was collusion during the bidding process.
In other words, we Thais were told in no uncertain terms that instead of questioning the premier's political ethics, we should all be grateful because only the richest family in the country could buy that piece of land at that price.
Suthichai just makes up shit as he goes along. Nobody has ever made this lame argument.
(Of course, if we had cared to check, the Bt772 million that won the bid was lower than the Bt870 million in the first open and off-line bidding process. But then, we were supposed to be in an economic slump and all price tags were depressed, they later claimed.)
How many investigative reports did The Nation do that uncovered the Shinawatas criminal conspiracy to engage in collusion and defraud the state during the bidding process? How many court decisions were the Shinawatras guilty of for committing that crime? The answer is zero.
But now that we have heard the Supreme Court's verdict, we should know better. It's perhaps the most valuable political lesson any politician vying for high office should learn: Yes, conflict of interest is bad and punishable - in fact as punishable, if not more so, than other acts of more blatant corruption. No matter how you frame it, it's still stealing money from taxpayers in broad daylight.
How many investigative stories did The Nation do proving that the Shinwatras stole money from the state? How many court decisions found the Shinawatras guilty of stealing? The answer again is zero. Why wasn't the land confiscated if it was stealing?
The court had this to say about why former premier Thaksin Shinawatra should be put behind bars for two years, without probation:
"…The first defendant (Thaksin, in this case) held the position of prime minister and had been handed the trust to administer the country for the highest benefit of the state and the people. But he ended up breaking the law although, as head of government, he should have set a good example by being honest and made this evident and behaved with good political ethics … therefore, he should not be granted a suspended sentence…."
Wow, Thaksin was found guilty by a court of law for being unethical. Actually, he was found guilty of signing off on land documents during his tenure because Thailand has a community property law. That's it. That is the crime.
Thaksin's lawyers had told us all along that he didn't have any direct influence over the central bank's Financial Institutions Development Fund (FIDF) that was handling toxic assets at the height of the 1997 economic crisis. We didn't really believe what they told us. But who were we to put up any counter-argument against the wealthiest and most influential family in the country?
There was no evidence presented in this case that Thaksin influenced the FIDF to overlook Pojaman's land deal. If there was, he would have been convicted of that crime. But he was only convicted of the crime of being PM while his wife bought land.
But when the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Thaksin's influence "could have deterred other bidders", we couldn't have agreed more.
Again, no evidence. Just Suthichai's lies and spin.
In fact, it must have come as a great confidence-building boost for the common man that the court's highly informed legal interpretations are based on the average citizen's logic and standards of ethics: no matter how you phrase it, when a big guy does bad things to favour his own clan, the small guys suffer; and when lots of small guys suffer, the country as a whole stands to lose.
Highly informed legal interpretations? You'd have to be a complete idiot to buy into that. Again, no evidence that the big guy did any favors to benefit his clan. Nope, no conviction of that crime. No evidence brought forth on that point in this case.
It was therefore a great spirit-lifting revelation that the Supreme Court came back with the ruling that it was wrong for the then premier to argue that he wasn't in a position to influence the FIDF because it wasn't a government agency. The court's verdict insisted that, for all intents and purposes, the FIDF was in fact a government mechanism. Besides, since the finance minister was running the show there, the premier couldn't possibly argue that his influence couldn't be felt at the bidding, when his wife was a prominent and active participant in that bidding.
Again, no evidence that Thaksin influenced the FIDF and no conviction on that point. Why wasn't the land confiscated?
The man on the street is now vindicated. Our suspicion has been confirmed. And the verdict has done us proud. We can now tell the world: Who says Thailand can never be serious about fighting corruption and getting rid of the inherent conflicts of interest in high office?
Suthichai really has some balls to talk about conflicts on interest when he has been nothing more than a propaganda piece for the Democrat Party, the PAD, and the junta when it was in power. Really, Suthichai, tell us how many contracts on Thai military TV you got when the junta was in power? Or could you explain to the public how it was that your brother got to take over iTV/ThaiPBS, after it was nationalized under questionable circumstances, a week before the election?
The columnists at The Nation love to bleat on about ethics. If being an unethical journalist was a crime, all the columnists over there would be sitting on death row.