Opinion: Red Shirt sentence another case of double standard in Thai justice system

I have known Dr Weng Tojirakarn and his wife Arjarn Thida for more than a decade, he is not a violent man.

In fact, he is one of the loudest voices among the Red Shirts leaders in calling for a non-violence movement.

For him to be sentenced to jail for two years and eight months for inciting violence and resisting arrest is laughable and contrary to reality.

Let me be clear, there is no denying that he organized an illegal assembly 13 years ago.

But, he did it as a political activist looking for a change. The violence that followed was not something within his control and something that spiralled from peaceful intent.

That the supreme court would jail him is the clearest sign of the double standard that exists within our judiciary system.

Double standard

Six leaders of People’s Alliance for Democracy, also known as the Yellow Shirts, got eight months for invading and destroying property inside the Government House in 2008.

Now five Red Shirts get two years and eight months for similar crimes with the only difference being that it happened outside the residence of late Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.

Thus according to the Thai courts, destroying property at a privy councillor’s house is somehow a graver threat to national security than trashing the government’s main offices and decision-making centre?

Where is the fairness here?

Both Red and Yellow leaders deserve to be punished for failing to stop violence at their protest sites. 

But, the people in power should also know that sending political activists to jail or disappearing them will not end the extreme polarization in Thai politics.

Reconciliation needed

A real reconciliation process which concentrates on truth-seeking is necessary to end the conflict. That means both sides have to be held to the same standard and confront the same truths.

Polarization can be fixed by encouraging the society to talk and debate on issues that they do not agree with instead burying it or jailing it and throwing away the key.

There must be a space for political activists and the public to talk about their differences without being intimidated and threatened by the government.

But it seems the government is more interested in the veneer of justice and upholding the double standard at centre of the political divide than actually addressing real issues and administering fairness.

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