Bad Week for City Continues; How Thaksin Will Fight Extradition

Interesting commentaries continue to pour out on the dramatic events of this weeks; Thaksin’s flight from Thailand is worldwide news, as evidenced by this analysis from The Economist and an editorial chiding Thaksin published in the International Herald Tribune after first appearing in the Boston Globe.

A key point made in the IHT piece is that Thaksin’s own actions in defending himself and also using the Thai courts undercut his claim that the Thai courts are illegitimate. That is an important point, because it speaks to the likely tenor of Thaksin’s arguments to British authorities in defending himself against extradition efforts and possibly in seeking political asylum.

The argument (as laid out by my friend and sometime sparring partner Cheburashka from the City message boards) is that the cases against Thaksin were set in a motion by a coup government, a coup government which inserted clauses into the new Constitution that exempted themselves from prosecution for the 2006 coup, and hence are politically motivated to the core. Further, political influences are at work driving the judiciary’s decisions.

There is a lot to unpack here, but what’s at stake is whether we should regard Thailand’s basic institutions, however flawed and imperfect from a rigorous democratic point of view, as essentially legitimate. It is true that the current cases against Thaksin were set in motion by the investigations of the Assets Examination Committee, a body set up by coup leaders to investigate corruption during the Thaksin era. The AEC did not have authority to prosecute charges, only to investigate them; cases themselves are to be decided by the Thai Supreme Court. The Supreme Court could and may decide to refuse to hear any or all of the cases, depending on the strength of the evidence, and has the power to render verdicts. This is an important distinction because it is simply not the case that the people who orchestrated the coup are now also the people who have the capacity to evaluate the assembled evidence and cast judgment on Thaksin. I have seen no compelling evidence that the cases against Thaksin have not been carried out according to the letter of Thai law.

It is certainly true that the provisions of the current Constitution providing amnesty for coup leaders are problematic from a democratic point of view; but they were also probably a precondition for any hopes of achieving political stability in post-coup Thailand. That clause prevented the spectacle of the newly elected PPP attempting to raise charges against coup leaders, a spectacle that the Thai political system would likely have been too fragile to bear.

The crux of the issue is whether the Thai Supreme Court is truly independent and is making a good faith evidence to weigh these cases on their merits. The Supreme Court is appointed by the king, and it is open to impartial observers of Thailand to argue that the conflicts around Thaksin have much to do with the perceived threat to royal power he represented, and that there may be tacit royal approval for action against Thaksin. On that note, it is open to the impartial democratic theorist to argue that system of constitutional monarchy (and its attendant legal system) is badly flawed and too constricting on democracy.

But it’s not clear that Thaksin Shinawatra can make that point. The imperfections of the Thai legal system and political order are ones he has lived with and indeed thrived under. His use of the legal system for his own purposes suggests that he considered the courts legitimate when it suited him. For him to claim now that the courts are stacked against him can only be considered a self-serving argument that flies in the face of the fundamental principle that no man can be the judge of his own case. Moreover, he cannot consistently argue that Thai’s legal institutions are fundamentally unjust and also continue to profess loyalty to the king.

The British judges who likely will soon be assessing these matters will be focused with the question of how to evaluate the institutions of less-than-perfect democracies. Thailand’s version of constitutional monarchy has numerous features that make it problematic from the standpoint of liberal democracy. But does that mean that the institutional framework itself, and hence the charges against Thaksin, is illegitimate and not worthy of international respect? I doubt authorities in the UK would go that far (though it’s not impossible they might). To win, Thaksin will likely have to show that the cases against him somehow violated Thailand’s own legal framework. That may be hard to do, especially considering that most leading analysts and academics in Thailand appear to regard the pursuit of the cases against Thaksin as legitimate and reasonable (if not long overdue), and as the IHT argued an important step in showing that no one however powerful and rich is above the law.

Thaksin’s case would be strengthened, however, if the judiciary fails to pursue other cases of corruption against figures from other parties, or if it takes other steps which hint at unfair, politicized treatment of Thaksin. It also would be strengthened if it reaches one or more guilty verdicts that are not well-supported by the available evidence. That’s why the news Wednesday that the courts will not start trial in the other cases pending against Thaksin in his absence, which might initially seem like good news for the exile, may actually work against Thaksin in the long run. The stated reason for not starting those trials is that trials of that seriousness cannot be started without the defendant present to acknowledge the charges at an initial hearing. The judiciary’s respect for the letter of its own law actually strengthens the case that it is following its rules to the best of its ability, contrary to Thaksin’s charges.

A great irony of all this is that one of the central criticisms of Thaksin’s rule in Thailand was the way it undermined due process in the 2003 War on Drugs and contributed to a culture of state-sponsored violence in the country. An Amnesty International blogger this week thus sardonically discusses Thaksin’s new found love of individual procedural rights.

Apart from all this–or perhaps not so far apart–Manchester City did little to dispel worries that off-the-pitch turmoil might affect performances on the pitch by losing 1-0 at home in the first leg of their UEFA Cup qualifier against Danish outfit FC Midtjylland in a performance City fans are describing as dire. Just 17,000 fans (reportedly) attended the match in the 48,000 seat City of Manchester Stadium. Perhaps the highlight of the night for City was the post-match remark by Midtjylland manager Thomas Thomasberg that City played like a “stupid” side, a remark that might provide some motivation for the second leg.

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8 Comments on “Bad Week for City Continues; How Thaksin Will Fight Extradition”

  1. annony Says:

    Quote … “There is a lot to unpack here, but what’s at stake is whether we should regard Thailand’s basic institutions, however flawed and imperfect from a rigorous democratic point of view, as essentially legitimate.”

    I am of the view that your article is extremely bias, misleading and totally ignorant of the truth. However, if the actual point is about the future of Manchester City, then forgive me. But with Taksin rid off, i’ll hope the Manchester City’s future will gone down the path of doom, just like Thailand.

    That’s totally not true. The court Panels against Taksin work in perfect harmony with entities illigally re-established (hand-picked) by the Military Dictators, the court practices were carried in an extremely illigitimate manners. Also, those authorities against taksin would not care how much the people view them as having the most ridiculous “conflict-of-interest” ploblems, over and over. Also, please mind that the “invisible hand” have enormous influence over the media and international manipulative power, including the western allies of the dictatorial circle in Thailand, whom all play the role of suppressing the mass of Thailand, in particular, those residing outside of Bangkok. … Mind my English, I dont’ have time to be careful with my messed up gramma. …

    BTW, the assasination attempt on Taksin around 2 years involved the use of time-bomb with blast radius up to 1 kilometer, and was able to kill half the population within the vicinity, and was set to exploded in a considerately concentrate area of BKK in the rush hour to boost. The Army personale caught was later release as soon as the coup took place. Before locked away back then, he joking commented that even if he failed, there will be a coup anyway and it’ll succeed. The coup also immidiately de-listing the black-listed terrorists and release most back to the street.

  2. annony Says:

    Opps, Please switch the 1st paragraph with the second one please. If you still don’t make the lash-back comment from a Thai Taksin’s lover. (Actually, a humble citizen sick of huge numbers of coup in Thailand, and the usual pattern and motto to justify the act of degrading humanities.)

  3. thadw Says:

    Thanks for the comments annony. As you might be able to see from other content on this blog, I’m sympathetic to the rural poor in Thailand and respect a substantial part of the Thaksin agenda when he was in power. But whatever good he did in that respect was severely undermined by his abuses of power, disrespect for due process, and general tenor of corruption. Those flaws left Thaksin politically vulnerable and undermined both democracy in Thailand and ultimately the interests of the poor outside Bangkok. It’s very difficult to find a balanced assessment of Thaksin as there are partisans on both sides who do not give an inch, but my basic view has been that Thaksinomics–his economic agenda–was basically positive but that Thaksinization–the effort to concentrate economic and political power, moving in the direction of a one-party state with a weakened civil society–was dangerous and a threat to democracy. My views on those points are shaped by the books “Thaksin” and “The Thaksinization of Thailand” which I have cited on this blog many times, as well by regular reading of other sources including those relatively sympathetic to Thaksin such as New Mandala and Bangkok Pundit.

    All this is relevant as to why I’m inclined to think that if there is a possibility of reaching long-term stability in Thailand, it must rest on respect for the existing institutions, however flawed. And as I said in the piece, I certainly think they are flawed. And yet, they have allowed Thaksin’s old electoral majority to win power and presumably govern in their interest. Isn’t that what is the important thing from your point of view, not Thaksin himself?

    Also, I’m not clear why you think the article is biased–you’ll have to explain more. I tried to lay out what I think the essence of Thaksin’s defense will be, which is a claim that the existing institutions are flawed and tarnished. And I said that he will probably have to show or prove that the judiciary itself, who is making the ultimate call on this, should be regarded as flawed and biased beyond repair. Those are exactly the arguments you seem to be making. What did I get wrong?

    My point is I have doubts that those arguments will be accepted by the UK courts or the world community more broadly, though of course that remains to be seen. However if a legal verdict against Thaksin is returned based on completely shoddy evidence (I have not seen anyone argue that the evidence in the Pojaman conviction was not solid) that would not hold up in other courts, then yes Thaksin’s case for resisting extradition and getting asylum will be much stronger.

    As to Thailand itself (apart from the Manchester City angle which as you observe is my main focus here), I completely see the logic of a critique of the royalist role in Thai politics, the way the rural poor traditionally are shut out, and so forth. But I don’t see a plausible way to change any of that that doesn’t involve working within the existing institutional framework. Are you going to have a revolution against the king and his network of influence? I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s any other choice but working with the current institutions, and that involves accepting their legitimacy. The same institutional framework that allows the PPP to hold power now also allows Thaksin to be prosecuted. From a democratic point of view, if breaking ties with Thaksin is required to allow the PPP to hold power in its own right and fend off the anti-democratic agenda of the PAD, then that is a net gain, don’t you think? It seems to me that Thaksin’s (presumed) exit from the scene opens up new positive possibilities for a Thai politics that revolves around substantive agendas and not debates about one man.

  4. malcy Says:

    Hi TW, First time I’ve found a blog that covers Thaksin Shinawatra and makes the link to MCFC. Very useful. Hope you dont mind I have created a link to your blog on my site (we’re non-commercial fyi).

  5. Vichai N. Says:

    By now UK and specifically MCFC fans would have realized that Thaksin’s cash favors carry disturbing pricey favors to the benefactor be returned.

    Once Thaksin realized that his cash-suasive charisma nor ‘honest mistakes’ tears could not sway the Thai judiciary, he had to flee to exile.

    Thailand’s judicial system is not perfect. But Thailand’s judiciary had been very careful to carry out due process to the letter in Thaksin’s and his wife’s judicial cases not only because Thaksin employ/employed the best defense lawyers, but also because millions of rural Thais are tuned to the Thaksin & wife’s trials. Those millions of Thai rurals would surely protest in rage at any hint of unfair judicial treatment of Thaksin Shinawatra and his wife Potjaman.

    UK should repatriate Thaksin Shinawatra & wife to Thailand to put a closure on the many Thaksin legal cases in Thailand, and to demonstrate that Thai political elites are not immune to Thailand’s rule of law.

  6. Richard Says:

    As soon as Thaksin fled he lost a lot of clout on the global stage. He is on the run and has jumped bail, and I can’t think of a country that would fail to recognize someone on the run. That is a far cry from being a Prime Minister and the clout that goes with that office. Thaksin will also have to prove his allegations and so far they only exist in his head. I think there is better than a 50% chance he will be sent back to Thailand.

  7. egalitarian Says:

    Good article, ironically enough Thaksin is instigating cases against the PAD for one his favourite charges – defamation of character, because they displayed the arrest warrants that the police issued. He obviously has some faith in the legal system if he’s bothering to bring charges! I wonder if Gary Glitter is going to be suing anyone for defamation of character over the recent incidents with him!?

  8. egalitarian Says:

    Also, he won’t get sent back to Thailand. He may have to leave England if things go against him, but he’d likely go to Hong Kong where he has a very expensive house. There is no extradition treaty between China and Thailand, plus Thaksin is of Chinese origin.

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