Opinion: Legal reform must be added to the list of protester demands

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There are several markers of a civilized society but perhaps none more important than a robust and fair legal system.

In a pluralistic society, the idea of fairness, no matter how nominal, is vital. Inversely, a failure of the courts could be seen as a mark of a crumbling society unable to oppose the corruptions of power.

Thailand is no different.

After over half a decade of military-backed power, Thailand’s already-weak institutions are crumbling. Legal guarantees that are the hallmarks of an enlightened society have been taken away and replaced by a justice system eager to please its pay masters in parliament.

The continued charge, detention, and legal harassment of dissidents and pro-democracy demonstrators has been blatant and flagrant.

Keep concepts that have been reinforced by centuries of jurisprudence from across different legal systems have been suspended in an attempt to intimidate through litigation.

The protesters, as can be seen through their constant bail denials, have not been afforded the presumption of innocence – a key cornerstone of any 21st century legal system.

The dissidents have also not been granted the right of habeas corpus to challenge the institutions which would seek to incarcerate them for thought crime.

But beyond the regime’s use of intimidation through litigation, the legal system has also been employed to maintain and guarantee state power despite meaningful attempts at reform through democratic means.

The Constitutional Court has ruled multiple times in decisions that benefit those that are in power. Its latest ruling on charter amendments has made sure that the process is delayed by a significant amount of time.

Whether meaning to or not, and that is open to speculation, the court’s ruling has almost ensured that the next election could be carried out under the current charter which favors parties backed by the military.

It does so because the military-appointed senate will still be in place by the time the next election rolls around almost guaranteeing the continued rule of General Prayut Chan-ocha.

The protesters are not wrong in seeking to amend the charter to level the playing field and make Thailand’s democracy more democratic.

But before they do, they might want to add reforming the judiciary and legal system to the list of demands.


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