CNN & The Conversation on what the double whammy Thai judicial coups means (Up-Date 3)

With successive bouts of “Judicial Coup” in Thailand, first by the Constitutional Court, and then by the Anti Corruption Unit what is next for Thailand? Latest here in Thailand is that Suthep has up his demand for an appointed PM, while the Red Shirts say that appointment, will cause a civil war.

(Up-Date 1) A grenade and gun attack on Suthep’s gathering, late at night, killed 3 and injured about 20. Total number of killed since Suthep went active is about 25, all sides. Thailand’s army chief, Prayuth, after the USA says, will likely not stage a coup, has come out, to say, if the Thai crisis, continues to be violent, the army may use force (What-ever that means). Also, Thailand’s care taker Prime Minister, is trying to come to an agreement, with the well known, anti-democracy, Thai election unit to set an election date. Today, at one of the meeting between the two, Suthep protesters disrupted the meeting. The care taker prime minister, latest statement to Reuters, is that he doubt, the July 20th “Tentative General Election Date” is still possible (End).

(Up-Date 2) New York Times reports BANGKOK — Thailand’s economy shrank more than expected in the first quarter, data showed on Monday, as exports remained weak and months of political unrest threatened to tip the economy into recession. The state planning agency, which compiles data on gross domestic product, said there had been a 2.1 percent contraction in the January-March quarter, compared with the previous three months. The first quarter recorded a contraction of 0.6 percent from a year earlier. The agency, the National Economic and Social Development Board, lowered its 2014 G.D.P. growth forecast to between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent from between 3 percent to 4 percent. The country has been governed since December by a caretaker administration with limited fiscal powers, and the crisis seems likely to continue as protest groups seek to install an unelected government. The outlook for the April-June quarter and beyond is grim, analysts say. “Chances are, we are going to see another technical recession in the economy, given that the second-quarter G.D.P. number is likely to be rather poor as well,” said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist with DBS Bank in Singapore (End).

(Up-Date 3) Reuters reports Thailand’s acting prime minister on Monday ruled out resigning as a way out of a protracted political crisis that is stunting economic growth, as anti-government protesters stepped up pressure to remove him and install a new administration. Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan has replaced Yingluck as caretaker prime minister, but the anti-government protesters say he has no legal standing and they want a “neutral” government to push through reforms. Niwatthamrong met members of the Senate, which is trying to come up with a way out of the deadlock, but he told them he would not resign. “The current cabinet is legal in every way … it must stay until a new cabinet of ministers is elected in. We cannot install another prime minister while we have an acting one in place,” Niwatthamrong said in statement following the meeting. Thailand has not had a functioning lower house of parliament since Yingluck dissolved parliament in December. Bangkok is the scene of a tense stand-off between government supporters loyal to Yingluck and her brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and opposition demonstrators drawn from Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment. The upper house Senate, the country’s only remaining legislative body, says it could select an interim prime minister but it wants the caretaker government to step down first. That has incensed protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who wants the caretaker government removed right away. “We will take democratic power and hand it back to the people,” Suthep, a former deputy prime minister in a government run by the pro-establishment Democrat Party, told supporters late on Sunday (End).

The following is three opinion, one from Australia’s Lowly Institute, the Conversation, and CNN. Thailand, of course, sits smack at the center of mainland Southeast Asia, and is a country, China and USA, also increasingly Russia and many in the middle east are looking at, like a hawk, searching for a dependable ally. Apart from the specific Thailand issue, then the regional diplomacy issue, there is of course, the economic picture, as next year, the first phase of ASEAN’s AEC will commence, and Thailand, from a country at the forefront of preparing for ASEAN’s AEC, many now term Thailand, quote: “The Sick Man of ASEAN.” That sick man characterization, comes at a very negative time, as a recent survey of the globe’s people, the global people is now “Most Optimistic” since 2007, but the global survey notes, in some part of the globe, like Thailand, the mood is getting more and more pessimist.

On the Thai crisis, Gwynne Dyer, a syndicated columnist in some 50 countries, say on May 08, 2014, quote: “If you are trying to get rid of your country’s legitimately elected government, it helps to have the constitutional court, the national anti-corruption commission and the election commission on your side. And Thailand’s constitutional court has come through for the opposition once again: It has just ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and nine of her cabinet ministers for improperly removing a civil servant from office. This is the latest move in an eight-year campaign by the old political establishment and its middle-class supporters in Bangkok to destroy a populist party — twice renamed and currently called Pheu Thai — that has won every election since 2001. The street protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) that have intermittently paralyzed Bangkok since last November get the headlines, but the courts remain an indispensable weapon too.”

The following is from the Lowly Interpreter (Source)

Thai PM removed by judicial coup: What now?

8 May 2014 9:11AM

By The Interpreter; Published by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, an independent, nonpartisan think tank based in Sydney. It publishes daily commentary and analysis on international events.

We seek a global audience, but our perspective is Australian. Like the Institute itself, The Interpreter has a strong commitment to analytic integrity. Its editorial stance is independent, non-partisan and directed towards informing and deepening the debate about international policy.

Thailand’s political crisis seems to have finally reached a tipping point. The country’s Constitutional Court found Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra guilty of abuse of power yesterday. The ruling, declared live on Thai TV, will force her and nine of her ministers to step down with no recourse for appeal. The cabinet has elected the commerce minster, Niwatthamrong Noongphaisan, as caretaker prime minister.

The court found that Yingluck’s 2011 transfer of the National Security Council Chief was done with a ‘hidden agenda’, in violation of the constitution. This was in relation to Section 266 and 268 of the constitution, which declares that officials should not use their positions to benefit their own interests. Yingluck appointed a relative in place of the incumbent National Security Council Chief.

Thailand has a long history of politicisation of its judiciary (an in-depth look at Thailand’s judicial coup culture is here and here). Yingluck’s dismissal is widely seen as having been orchestrated by her political opponents rather than through an independent process by the judiciary.

Thailand’s judiciary, including the Constitutional Court, is seen to be strongly in favour of the Yellow Shirt group, largely made up of Bangkokians and the wealthy elite. But the Yellow Shirts, who have taken to the streets in protest during the past six months, are unlikely to be entirely satisfied by her removal. Many still believe that the Shinawatra’s influence in politics is too great and an appointed reformist council should be installed before new elections take place. A mass rally is planned for Friday at Lumpini Park in Bangkok.

On the other side, Yingluck’s Red Shirt supporters have long declared that they would descend on the capital if she was forced from office.
The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a Red Shirt organisation, has planned a mass rally on Saturday with tens of thousands expected to travel to the capital. A Red Shirt adviser and former military officer told the BBC in April that 200,000 armed guards would be ready to march on Bangkok if Yingluck was forced from office.

The military has repeatedly stated during the crisis that if violence boiled over it would intervene. That point seems to be growing nearer.
There had recently been some hope that progress was being made toward a break in the deadlock. The tone of political dialogue had been more conciliatory in recent weeks and a new election date set for 20 July. The dismissal of Yingluck will change that dynamic — whether it is for better or worse remains to be seen. Regardless, the real battle now lies in the streets. If history is any judge, expect violent protests followed by a military coup.


The following is from the Conversation (Source)

Thai judiciary wins another round against elected government

The following is from the The Conversation (Academic rigour, journalistic flair)

8 May 2014, 3.16pm AEST

Author: Kevin Hewison; Professor of Politics and International Studies and Director, Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University; Centre Administrator ARC Centre of Excellence; Monash University; Kevin Hewison does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

Having faced down six months of sometimes violent street protests and avoided a military coup, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was yesterday brought down by Thailand’s Constitutional Court. The court decided that the transfer of an official amounted to a breach of the constitution. Another nine cabinet members involved in the transfer decision were also sent packing. None of them will be able to stand in any forthcoming election.

Being prime minister at the head of an elected government in Thailand has become a precarious existence. Yingluck is the fourth elected premier to be ousted since 2006. Each of those governments has been associated with Yingluck’s eldest brother, Thaksin.

Thaksin was elected three times. The Constitutional Court annulled one of his victories, with Thaksin eventually being ousted in a military coup in 2006.
In September 2008, Samak Sundaravej was disqualified as prime minister for receiving a small honorarium from a television cooking show. His successor, Somchai Wongsawat, lasted only a couple of months, with the Constitutional Court dissolving his party for electoral fraud.

Yingluck’s removal may yet result in further political conflict. The immediate future of the government, its supporters’ reaction and its opponents’ response will play out over the next days and weeks. We will certainly see efforts to bring down the current interim administration and further delay elections.
Politicised court shows its power

The court decision was based on a case that involved the transfer of a senior government official who had been strongly associated with the royalist opposition to Yingluck and her party before its 2011 election victory. He had also been one of the directors of security operations in which the military attacked “red shirt” supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin.

In addition, the transfer was considered necessary in order to replace a political appointment as police chief. The replacement police chief was related to Thaksin’s former wife.

The opposition Democrat Party opposed these transfers, which led to a series of court cases and investigations. The Constitutional Court’s decision was that Yingluck had violated two sections of the constitution. The most significant breach was that Yingluck had used her position to interfere in the transfer of a permanent government official.

In most countries such transfers are normal. This is no longer the case in Thailand and, even though Yingluck had not proposed the transfer, the court decided she was responsible as she had signed the transfer. The court also considered that the transfer was executed “too hastily”, indicating a “hidden intention” that was “not in the national interest”.

Leaving aside the legal debates about this case, this latest judicial intervention is confirmation of the power of the judiciary and its remarkable politicisation.
In many jurisdictions, the courts are meant to act as an independent institution that underpins democracy. Even if this was the hope of some in Thailand, the political activism of the judiciary was ignited by the Thai monarch’s call for the judiciary to sort out a political impasse following elections boycotted by the Democrat Party and several other smaller parties in 2006. Since then, the judiciary, and the Constitutional Court in particular, have engaged in a judicial war against each of Thailand’s elected governments. Most strikingly, the court has even restricted the powers granted to parliament under the 2007 constitution.

Because the country’s judiciary is so highly politicised, decisions that defy legal logic have become the norm, with the judiciary consistently acting against elected governments. In essence, such decisions, sometimes based on flimsy accusations and charges by opposition activists, undermine the very democratic processes the judiciary is supposed to protect. Celebrating anti-government protesters are likely to demand elections only be held under new rules to ensure their opponents cannot be re-elected. EPA/Barbara Walton

‘Judicial coup’ never in doubt

There was never any doubt that the Constitutional Court would oust Yingluck once the case was referred to it. Indeed, the court reached its decision – which took almost two hours to read – within a day of hearing the last of Yingluck’s evidence and witnesses. That is evidence enough that the court had its verdict before hearings were concluded.

Such obvious political bias also suggests an orchestration with those opposed to the government. The decision will reinforce views among the government’s supporters that Thailand’s political system is inherently supportive of the royalist elite. They see this elite as not just opposed to the will of the majority as expressed in elections but also as manipulating law and politics to protect their economic and political power.

The government has described the court’s decision as a “judicial coup” and its supporters will agree. Whether and to what extent the red shirts will mobilise in support of the teetering government remains to be seen.

For the government’s opponents, the court’s decision is vindication of their claims of the government’s corruption. The ouster of Yingluck has been one of the street protesters’ main demands.

This success will encourage them to push for the immediate ousting of the Pheu Thai government. They will also demand that elections be delayed while the opposition codifies new political and constitutional rules that will extinguish the chances of any Thaksin Shinawatra-associated government ever being elected.
The following is from CNN (Source)

The Following is from CNN (Source)

‘Political freefall’

Bangkok (CNN) — Ousted Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces impeachment by the country’s Senate, following her indictment by an anti-corruption body the day after a top court removed her from office.

Members of the National Anti-Corruption Committee unanimously decided to indict Yingluck for dereliction of duty over her government’s controversial rice subsidy scheme, NACC member Wicha Mahakun told reporters in Bangkok Thursday. The Senate will now vote on whether to impeach her.

Asked how the 46-year-old could be impeached when she had already been dismissed from the premiership, Wicha said the case still needed to be reviewed by the Senate, as Yingluck could be banned from holding political office for five years if impeached.

Analysts had speculated that Yingluck’s replacement as caretaker prime minister, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan, may also be implicated in the affair, but Wicha did not announce any measures against the new premier.

An NACC committee was also considering whether to file criminal charges against Yingluck, but had not yet found sufficient evidence, he said.

The program, introduced in 2011, pledged to pay farmers well above the market rate for their rice, but has run into financial problems.

Critics say it has wasted large amounts of public funds trying to please rural voters, hurting exports and leaving the government with large stockpiles of rice it can’t sell without losing money.

Yingluck has previously said she was only in charge of developing policy around the scheme, not its day-to-day implementation, accusing the commission of unfair treatment.

‘Political freefall’

The news broke as both sides of Thailand’s political divide are vowing mass rallies in Bangkok in the wake of the former prime minister’s ousting, with analysts warning the country faces “political freefall” and the potential resumption of violent clashes.

As tensions and rhetoric escalated Thursday, officials confirmed a grenade had been thrown at the house of one of the Constitutional Court judges whose ruling Wednesday forced Yingluck Shinawatra and nine cabinet ministers from office, in what her supporters see as a “judicial coup.”

Lt. Gen. Paradon Patthanathabut, security advisor to the Prime Minister, said nobody was hurt in the early morning attack on the home of judge Jumpot Kaimook. “It landed on his garage,” he said.

The court removed Yingluck, who was elected in 2011 and had been serving as caretaker prime minister until elections could be held, after finding her guilty of violating the country’s constitution for reassigning a senior security official in 2011.

The official was replaced by the then national police chief, whose role in turn was given to Priewpan Damapong, a relative of Yingluck. Damapong is the brother of the ex-wife of Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother who was overthrown as prime minister in a military coup in 2006 and has since lived in self-imposed exile to avoid a corruption conviction.

‘Polarization to intensify’

The dismissal of Yingluck, who has been replaced by Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong, has deepened Thailand’s protracted political crisis, which has occasionally spilled over into deadly violence.

Analysts say the move has heightened the risk of clashes between opposing camps, and made near-term compromise solutions unlikely.

“The post-Yingluck polarization is likely to deepen and intensify,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.

“We are now looking at a political freefall… Much worse looks likely in the near term, before we can hope for improved circumstances in the longer term.”

Analyst Paul Quaglia, director at PQA Associates, a Bangkok-based risk assessment firm, said the court’s removal of an elected prime minister on what he described as “fairly weak” grounds was viewed by the government’s supporters as a case of politically motivated judicial overreach.

“They consider it a way to usurp democratic elections,” he said.

Yingluck is the third Thaksin-linked prime minister to be dismissed by the Constitutional Court, which also dissolved Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai political party in 2007, raising suspicions among government supporters that the institution was biased against them.

Thitinan said the appointment as caretaker prime minister of Niwatthamrong, seen as closely affiliated to Yingluck and her brother, was poor judgment, especially when another deputy prime minister, Pongthep Thepkanchana, would have been a more acceptable compromise candidate.

“He lacks the stature and networks to see through an interim caretaker administration,” he said. “Nevertheless, no matter who comes in as the new caretaker, the tensions will mount.”

Widening divide

Thailand’s widening political divide pits anti-government, predominantly urban “yellow shirt” protesters against the pro-government, mainly rural and working class “red shirts.”

The yellow shirts, drawn mainly from Bangkok’s middle class, royalist establishment, allege that Yingluck is her brother’s puppet and seek to rid Thai politics of her family’s influence.

Led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), they began their protests in November, outraged by her government’s botched attempt to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for the return of Thaksin to the political fray in earnest.

Parliament was then dissolved in December ahead of a February general election that was disrupted by anti-government protesters, and subsequently ruled invalid by the Constitutional Court.

The yellow shirts are seeking a new government — but not through elections, which the opposition Democrat Party has boycotted, arguing the alleged corruption of their political rivals makes widespread reform necessary before any meaningful vote can be held.

“They claim the Thaksin clan as they call (it) is corrupt and has dominated the country’s politics, and the only way forward is to remove the Thaksin influence from politics and not have elections,” said Quaglia.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister for the Democrat Party, has instead called for power to be transferred to an unelected “people’s council.”

But Quaglia said the opposition’s real motivation for avoiding elections was clear.

“The Democrat Party say ‘No, we can’t have elections,’ because they know they will lose those elections.”

In contrast, the red shirt supporters of Yingluck and her brother, many of whom hail the north and northeast of the country, accuse the court of bias against their side.

Hundreds of protesters from the anti-government PDRC gathered in Bangkok Thursday as they have for six months, calling on supporters to join them for a mass rally Friday to push for a new government.

PDRC spokesman Akanat Phrompan told CNN his movement did not recognize the legitimacy of the caretaker government.

“Currently there is no government to govern this country, so we must find a way to appoint a new government.”

‘Breaking point’

Meanwhile, the red shirts are planning their own rally in Bangkok Saturday to protest what Quaglia said they saw as “a judicial coup.”

In the wake of the court’s ruling Wednesday, supporters at the red shirts’ Bangkok headquarters were defiant.

“This is the breaking point now, everything is leading up to the breaking point,” Kanthira Ketawandee, a Bangkok piano teacher and Yingluck supporter, told CNN. “I would say Yingluck has died (in) her duty for democracy.”

Thida Thavornset, a red shirt leader, urged supporters to join Saturday’s rally. “We won’t give up until we win.”

Elections are scheduled for July 20, but Thitinan said he believed it was “unlikely” that a vote would proceed in the wake of recent developments.

“The PDRC appears intent on pressing on for an appointment government of its preference, which can only galvanize red shirt protests,” he said. “A showdown is looming.”



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