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Academics Call for Judicial Reform

An academic panel hosted by the progressive Nitirat law group last Sunday at Thammasat University debated the role of the courts in the pursuit of justice in Thailand. Special attention was paid to article 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse majéste law, which states that  “whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The panel, which consisted of academics and activists, argued for reform of the Thai judiciary in order to adapt it to a democratic state.

The panel members raised several concerns regarding the lack of legal basis for the actions of judges in lèse majesté cases. According to Thai law, in order for the court to find a defendant guilty of a crime, his/her guilt must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Ms Sawatree Suksri, a member of Nitirat and lecturer of law at Thammasat University, argued that Thai courts often betray this fundamental principle,

In Akong’s [Ampon Tangnoppakul] case, the courts were satisfied with a lack of evidence of his guilt, citing instead his presumed guilt. This is a clear violation of the “burden of proof” principle that underlies criminal law.

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Progressives submit Open Letter to Thai Judges

The following is an open letter to all judges in Thailand signed by the Red Shirt group the 24th of June for Democracy, the progressive academic group Nitirat, and other activist groups. The letter calls on judges to critically examine the role of the judiciary in Thailand’s political conflict and the future of Thai democracy.

An open letter to judges in Thailand

March 17th 2013

Dear Sirs,

            In the aftermath of the undemocratic and illegitimate usurpation of power operated through the 19 September 2006 coup d’état, the Thai judiciary—be it the Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice or the Administrative Court—has faced significant and growing questions from the general public over its interpretation and application of law in a number of cases. Specifically, there has been a growing chorus of scepticism over whether or not the decisions of these judicial branches have been made in full conformity with democratic principles and in support of fundamental rights and freedoms—themselves the very basis of the rule of law. (more…)

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Democracy Update

During the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, co-leaders discussed the ongoing push for amnesty, efforts to observe the upcoming gubernatorial elections, and plans to expand political education initiatives across the country.

The UDD continues to push for the Amnesty Decree to be passed by the cabinet as an emergency resolution for political prisoners on both sides of the conflicts. Other groups have proposed alternative pathways for amnesty, such as Nitirat’s plan to add an amnesty chapter to the Constitution. While the UDD welcomes amnesty for political prisoners by any means possible, the co-leaders argue that an Amnesty Decree would offer the quickest solution.

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Red Shirts Pressure Government to Grant Amnesty

An estimated 4,000 Red Shirts marched from the Royal Plaza to the Government House on Tuesday to demand amnesty for Thailand’s political prisoners.

Organized by the Red Shirt group called the Declaration of Street Justice, recently renamed the January 29 For the Release of Political Prisoners group, the protesters called on the government to recognize an amnesty proposal that was drafted by the Nitirat Law group of Thammasat University. The proposal would achieve amnesty through constitutional reform, which in itself continues to be a pressing issue for the government. The protesters demanded a response by 6pm, after which the government replied that it would consider all amnesty proposals carefully.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth expressed her gratitude to Tuesday’s protesters, she said,

We thank everybody who came out yesterday to show the government that Thailand needs amnesty for the people. Regardless of what method is proposed and ultimately implemented, we share the common goal of freeing political prisoners.

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UDD Submits Draft Amnesty Decree

On Tuesday, 500 Red Shirts and UDD leaders gathered outside Laksi Prison in Bangkok to announce a draft executive decree which, if signed by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, would grant amnesty to all political prisoners, excluding decision-makers.

The concise draft decree states that all persons, Red, Yellow, or other, charged or convicted of a criminal offense should be granted amnesty if said offense stemmed from Thailand’s post-coup political conflict (2007-2012). However, people in leadership and decision-making positions would not be let off the hook, the draft decree stipulated.

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Patience, Unity and Growth Main Messages at Sunday’s UDD Political School

Over 1,500 community leaders from the greater Bangkok area gathered yesterday at UDD headquarters for the launch of the organisation’s first political school event of the year. The free course, which lasted from 9am till 6pm, gave participants the opportunity to hear from prominent Red Shirt figures as well as exchange ideas and strategies among themselves. The topics covered included: the key principles and duties of the Red Shirt movement; its history and relationship with the Thai establishment; as well as Thailand’s path to truth, justice, and reconciliation.

The core message of the day was best expressed by Secretary General Nattawut Saikua, who said to the gathered participants,

We must be patient. Ours struggle is decades old, and our victory will be felt by the generations to come.

His call for patience echoes similar statements made by UDD leader Tida and others last week after violent provocations by Yellow Shirts outside the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) offices on Tuesday.

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