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A Week in Review: June 11-17, 2011

Worse than perjury, terrorism and murder?

In amazing Thailand, which of the following crimes would be considered the most serious: perjury, terrorism, murder, corruption or littering? Find out here...

Welcome to Amazing Thailand: where perjury and terrorism are considered minor offences; where arson and rioting go unpunished; where murder is covered up; where corruption is institutionalised; where convicted criminals are allowed to leave the country to “watch the Olympics” before starting their prison sentence; and where throwing a cigarette butt on the floor will result in the swift and arbitrary enforcement of the law.

Thailand’s shameful disregard for the rule of law took another downward spiral last week when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) dismissed a seemingly solid case of perjury against Pheua Thai's No.1 list candidate Yingluck Shinawatra.

The woman who seems increasingly likely to become Thailand’s next prime minister had been accused of committing perjury by providing false information during the asset concealment case against her brother and the then prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.

While the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions ruled against Thaksin in this case, no action was taken against witnesses, including Yingluck, whose testimony was shown by the court’s verdict to be false.

Questioning the integrity of the person who would be Thailand’s next prime minister, opponents demanded that Yingluck answer the charges of perjury. But in response to the accusations, the SEC said that it could not prosecute Yingluck because the offence was not serious enough.

And, despite the accusations of perjury, a third of Thais rated Yingluck as a good role model in a recent ABAC poll.

But perjury is not the only offence considered too minor to be taken seriously in Thailand.

Having barricaded themselves into one of Bangkok’s main business districts, disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of people; having concealed an armed militia within their midst; having threatened violence and arson, and then openly urging their supporters to commit such acts; having resisted arrest and taken the arresting police officers as hostage; and having terrorised and intimidated countless civilians, a number of red shirt leaders were unsurprisingly charged with committing acts of terrorism last year.

However, the Thai courts do not deem such acts as serious enough to merit detention. Currently out on bail, these same red shirt leaders now occupy positions high on Phuea Thai’s party list and stand on the verge of gaining the ludicrous political immunity that is enjoyed by members of parliament in Thailand.

But terrorism is not the only offence considered too minor to be taken seriously in Thailand.

A total of 91 people died during the protests. While the red shirts regularly bandy this sad statistic around as proof of their victimisation, the fact remains that up to a quarter of the dead were security personnel, commuters, and opposition protestors who were killed by the red shirt’s own armed militia. Also, the first victims of the troubles on April 10 were soldiers who were, at that time, armed only with batons and riot shields.

But regardless of who was responsible, each and every one of those deaths was tragic and needless. Nothing has changed in the wake of the riots and, more than one year on, not one person has been charged with any of the deaths.

Both the army and the red shirts have failed to even accept that they were responsible for any of the deaths. Reconciliation remains a long way off in such an environment.

But murder is not the only offence considered too minor to be taken seriously in Thailand.

The (alleged) financer of the riots not only remains at large, but also continues to pull the strings of his political puppets back in Thailand.

Speaking from his hideout, Thailand’s fugitive former PM announced last week that he hopes to return to Thailand in time for his daughter’s wedding in December. Of course, he is free to return whenever he pleases, although he would need special permission to be allowed out to attend his daughter’s wedding.

Clearly seeking to strike a chord with his impoverished supporters, Thaksin complained that he doesn’t have much money left and he is down to his last 30 billion baht or so.

He blamed his newfound “poverty” on the Thai government for “stealing” his money. Of course, by “his money”, he was referring to the money he stole from Thailand through massive abuse of his position of power and trust as prime minister.

With his “clone” sister set to become the next PM, Thailand can look forward to more of the same.

Yet despite the seriousness of his crimes, Thaksin is still adored by a majority of Thais who, while admitting that he was corrupt, point out that he did at least throw them a few scraps – which is more than the Democrats have ever done.

Knowing that they have the support of the masses, Phuea Thai is unconcerned about the rule of law and has stepped up its campaign to bring Thaksin home.

However, Phuea Thai has changed its tact and is no longer referring to its plan as an ‘amnesty’ for all, but is now calling it a ‘panel for victims of injustice’.

Why not just call it what it is? The campaign to bring Thaksin back to Thailand without facing the consequences of his crimes.

Would a durian by any other name smell just as rancid?

You can say what you like about Thaksin, but at least he has never thrown a cigarette butt on the floor.

Paul Snowdon – June 18, 2011

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