The democratically elected Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, gave a career-defining speech yesterday at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
In this speech she highlighted the forces in Thailand that oppose democracy and the brutal and bloody lengths they will go to in order to secure their illegitimate and continued dominance over the Thai people. We have posted PM Yingluck’s speech below and suggest all read it in its entirety.
Already the former and unelected Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has condemned PM Yingluck’s call for greater democracy in Thailand. This comes as no surprise – Abhisit’s main legacy is of a man committed to the destruction of accountability, the continuation of impunity and the subjugation of the Thai people. As Abhisit has done on several occasions in the past he reveals, once again, his complete lack of understanding of the most basic principles of democracy and rule of law. It is no great surprise he leads a broken party that remains unelectable and unable to carry out its basic democratic duties as the official party of opposition and, instead, is reduced to the worst kind of demagoguery.
Statement of Her Excellency Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand at the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 29 April 2013.
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Delegates to the Conference, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to begin by expressing my appreciation to His Excellency the President of Mongolia for inviting me to speak at this Conference of the Community of Democracies.
I accepted this invitation not only because I wanted to visit a country that has made many achievements regarding democracy, or to exchange ideas and views on democracy. But I am here also because democracy is so important to me, and more importantly, to the people of my beloved home, Thailand.
Democracy is not a new concept. Over the years, It has brought progress and hope to a lot of people. At the same time, many people have sacrificed their blood and lives in order to protect and build a democracy.
A government of the people, by the people and for the people does not come without a price. Rights, liberties and the belief that all men and women are created equal have to be fought, and sadly, died for.
Why? This is because there are people in this world who do not believe in democracy. They are ready to grab power and wealth through suppression of freedom. This means that they are willing to take advantage of other people without respecting human rights and liberties. They use force to gain submission and abuse the power. This happened in the past and still posed challenges for all of us in the present.
In many countries, democracy has taken a firm root. And it is definitely refreshing to see another wave of democracy in modern times, from Arab Spring to the successful transition in Myanmar through the efforts of President Thein Sein, and also the changes in my own country where the people power in Thailand has brought me here today.
At the regional level, the key principles in the ASEAN Charter are the commitment to rule of law, democracy and constitutional government. However, we must always beware that anti-democratic forces never subside. Let me share my story.
In 1997, Thailand had a new constitution that was created through the participation from the people. Because of this, we all thought a new era of democracy has finally arrived, an era without the cycle of coups d’état.
It was not to be. An elected government which won two elections with a majority was overthrown in 2006. Thailand lost track and the people spent almost a decade to regain their democratic freedom.
Many of you here know that the government I am talking about was the one with my brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, as the rightfully elected Prime Minister.
Many who don’t know me say that why complain? It is a normal process that governments come and go. And if I and my family were the only ones suffering, I might just let it be.
But it was not. Thailand suffered a setback and lost international credibility. Rule of law in the country was destroyed. Projects and programmes started by my brother’s government that came from the people’s wishes were removed. The people felt their rights and liberties were wrongly taken away.
Thai means free, and the people of Thailand fought back for their freedom. In May 2010, a crackdown on the protestors, the Red Shirts Movement, led to 91 deaths in the heart of the commercial district of Bangkok.
Many innocent people were shot dead by snipers, and the movement crushed with the leaders jailed or fled abroad. Even today, many political victims remain in jail.
However, the people pushed on, and finally the government then had to call for an election, which they thought could be manipulated. In the end, the will of people cannot be denied. I was elected with an absolute majority.
But the story is not over. It is clear that elements of anti-democratic regime still exist. The new constitution, drafted under the coup leaders led government, put in mechanisms to restrict democracy.
A good example of this is that half of the Thai Senate is elected, but the other half is appointed by a small group of people. In addition, the so called independent agencies have abused the power that should belong to the people, for the benefit of the few rather than to the Thai society at large.
This is the challenge of Thai democracy. I would like to see reconciliation and democracy gaining strength. This can only be achieved through strengthening of the rule of law and due process. Only then will every person from all walks of life can feel confident that they will be treated fairly. I announced this as part of the government policy at Parliament before I fully assumed my duties as Prime Minister.
Moreover, democracy will also promote political stability, providing an environment for investments, creating more jobs and income. And most importantly, I believe political freedom addresses long term social disparities by opening economic opportunities that would lead to reducing the income gap between the rich and the poor.
That is why it is so important to strengthen the grassroots. We can achieve this through education reforms. Education creates opportunities through knowledge, and democratic culture built into the ways of life of the people.
Only then will the people have the knowledge to be able to make informed choices and defend their beliefs from those wishing to suppress them. That is why Thailand supported Mongolia’s timely UNGA resolution on education for democracy.
Also important is closing gaps between rich and poor. Everyone should be given opportunities and no one should be left behind. This will allow the people to become an active stakeholder in building the country’s economy and democracy.
That is why my Government initiated policies to provide the people with the opportunities to make their own living and contribute to the development of our society. Some of these include creating the Women Development Fund, supporting local products and SMEs as well as help raising income for the farmers.
And I believe you need effective and innovative leadership. Effective in implementing rule of law fairly. Innovative in finding creative peaceful solutions to address the problems of the people.
You need leadership not only on the part of governments but also on the part of the opposition and all stakeholders. All must respect the rule of law and contribute to democracy.
Another important lesson we have learnt was that international friends matter. Pressure from countries who value democracy kept democratic forces in Thailand alive. Sanctions and non-recognition are essential mechanisms to stop anti-democratic regimes.
An international forum like Community of Democracies helps sustain democracy, seeking to promote and protect democracy through dialogue and cooperation. More importantly, if any country took the wrong turn against the principle of democracy, all of us here need to unite to pressure for change and return freedom o the people.
I will always support the Community of Democracies and the work of the Governing Council. I also welcome the President’s Asian Partnership Initiative for Democracy and will explore how to extend our cooperation with it.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to end my statement by declaring that, I hope that the sufferings of my family, the families of the political victims, and the families of the 91people, who lost their lives in defending democracy during the bloodshed in May2010, will be the last.
Let us continue to support democracy so that the rights and liberties of all human beings will be protected for future generations to come!
Terdsak Phungkinchan was only 29 when the sniper’s bullet took his life. Three years ago today, on April 10th 2010, he fell, mortally wounded, onto the hard tarmac of a Bangkok street. The force used against Terdsak – despite it being very clear to the person pulling the trigger that his victim was completely unarmed and posing no threat to anyone – was deadly and meant to be so. The only word that can be used to describe this act is murder and my law firm are still doing all we can to bring the people responsible for this to justice.
There can also be no equivocation regarding an analysis of the force used against the Red Shirts at Kok Wua that dreadful night in April 2010 – it was designed, purely, to kill. And kill it did, with 21 Red Shirts falling in a hail of bullets fired from the guns former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had ordered onto Bangkok’s streets. In addition five Thai Army soldiers died, their lives ending in what can only be described as mysterious circumstances, whilst an investigation into the death of the Japanese cameraman, Hiro Muromoto, is still ongoing. All these acts left behind even more grief-stricken widows and mothers.
Without justice for all victims the tragedy of April 2010 is still being played out. Thailand is not yet at peace with itself and, since that night, the families of the dead have been left with more questions than answers.
To get a sense of the depth of feeling the April 10th Kok Wua Massacre arouses you need look no further than the remarkable Thai language book published by the Democracy Martyr Foundation whose title loosely translates as “The Dead Have a Face and Those Who Were Killed Had a Life.” This book gives voice to the victims of April 2010, a cry that must be heard if Thailand wishes to move towards true reconciliation.
Take Terdsak’s mother, Suwimon, who told the authors of this exceptional book that
Deep down, I still want to fight for my son because he was innocent – he didn’t deserve to die, he shouldn’t have been treated like that. I feel as if I couldn’t do much as we are just ordinary people… I will never forget this.
It is Suwimon’s words that we should meditate on as we commemorate the fallen of April 2010 – “I still want to fight for my son.” The mothers of the fallen Red Shirts, unlike the commentators, politicians and, dare I say it, lawyers, can’t just “forget” when it comes to the destruction wrought against their offspring. We can only continue to offer the likes of Suwimon support and solidarity in her struggle for justice.
Another victim of the Kok Wua Massacre was tailor Wasan Puthong (39). His young sister, Numthip, is also quoted in “The Dead Have a Face and Those Who Were Killed Had a Life” saying
Nowadays, I am still missing him as we had been working together for such a long time – whenever I turned, I saw him there because we were together all day all night…. It is hard for me to accept this.
Numthip’s comment are an apt reflection on the death of a brother who was taken down in such abhorrent circumstance. The lack of definable justice will continue to make it hard for victims of Kok Wua to just “accept this”.
Today my office had the honour of speaking to Wasan’s brother-in-law, Klin, and it his words we end on here. These words must be our banner as we mark another year where loved ones were taken from us.
There is still not justice as the perpetrators have not yet been held to account. We will continue fighting for this justice.
Letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Concerning Abhisit’s Criminal Liability
Social media is abuzz with reactions to an interview that former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gave to the BBC. Looking flustered in answering the uncomfortable questions posed by interviewer Mishal Husain, Mr. Abhisit described the charges of pre-meditated murder recently filed against him as “far fetched.”
In light of the coverage generated by the BBC interview, we are releasing to the public the content of a letter my firm submitted to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 31 October 2012. The letter focuses exclusively on Mr. Abhisit’s criminal liability, providing a comprehensive treatment of Mr. Abhisit’s involvement and individual responsibility for the commission of crimes against humanity in April and May 2010.
The Wall Street Journal Asia edition has published my letter to the editor responding to their coverage of the murder charges filed against former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The full text is below:
Your newspaper’s recent article gives ample space to the allegation that the charges of premeditated murder filed against Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsubhan are somehow “politically motivated” (“Former Thai Prime Minister May Face Murder Charges,” World News, December 7). The article, however, fails to point out that the charges are supported by a large body of evidence already in the public record.
My letter in response to Benjamin Zawacki’s misinformed dismissal of the ICC to investigate the massacres of more than 90 protesters in Bangkok in 2010 has been published by The Nation.
Commenting in The Nation last week, American lawyer Benjamin Zawacki opposes a Thai declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the killings and wounding of civilian demonstrators in 2010. Instead he argues that Thailand should ratify the ICC Statute. Unfortunately, Zawacki is ill-informed on the purpose, procedure, precedent and policy of accepting ICC jurisdiction.
On one point he is correct: Thailand should indeed join the other 121 nations that are now States Parties to the ICC. But ratifying the ICC Statute would grant the ICC jurisdiction only over future crimes. The only way to grant the ICC jurisdiction over past crimes is for Thailand to make a declaration of ad hoc acceptance of ICC jurisdiction, under Article 12.3 of the ICC Statute.
On September 17, 2012, the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT) published its “Final Report” on the events of that took place in Bangkok in April and May 2010,1 when over 90 people were killed in military crackdowns against “Red Shirt” protesters. As predicted in filings submitted by legal counsel for the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) dating back to October 2010,2 the TRCT’s long awaited report can only be described as an attempt to shield those who planned, approved, carried out, and oversaw the 2010 crackdowns from accountability. As detailed in these pages, the TRCT report does not uncover new evidence of any note, but offers a radical and highly selective re-interpretation of evidence already in the public record, absolving both the principals and the agents involved in the crackdowns of any responsibility for the death of protesters.
Far from living up to its mission of promoting reconciliation by uncovering the truth, the TRCT’s report underscores Thailand’s inability to end impunity, come to terms with the truth, and uphold its international responsibility to properly investigate incidents of state violence. The TRCT’s decision to blame the violence entirely on the protesters—and unidentified armed militants with asserted but never substantiated links with the UDD—is not just likely to further inflame Thailand’s deep social divisions, but effectively grants any future government a license to kill unarmed demonstrations. Some commentators who have been critical of the Red Shirts in the past reached the same conclusion, also calling the report “a license to kill” (bai anuyat hai kha).
Full paper below.
Thai media outlet Thai Rath has reported that the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, has said the following on the jurisdiction of the ICC:
“It is time for Thailand to accept the ad hoc jurisdiction of the ICC in order to allow the truth to come out.”
After months of uncertainty, Surapong’s statement demonstrates the Pheu Thai government’s commitment to bringing the perpetrators of April-May 2010 to justice. His announcement also reveals a lack of faith in the integrity of the Thai judicial system.
It is a long awaited response to the UDD’s application to the ICC to launch an investigation into the killings of civilians by the Thai military. Surapong, moreover, invited the Democrat Party to issue an application for the abuses of the 2004 “war on drugs”.
Although Thailand has signed the Rome Statute, it has not ratified it. However, according to Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute, Thailand may, via a declaration lodged with the ICC, accept the exercise of jurisdiction by the Court. Such a declaration would need to be ratified by the Thai government’s cabinet.
Suraprong’s statement followed a speech made by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra during his webcast at a Red Shirt rally that was held on Saturday 15th September to commemorate the anniversary of the 2006 military coup.
PM Thaksin said:
“The Thai government should recognise the jurisdiction of the ICC… as there is little hope for justice within Thailand.”
UDD lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who defied Thai army threats and spoke to the crowd on Saturday, had some strong words for former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the man that many consider responsible for the deaths in April-May 2010.
“[Mr Abhisit] says he is ready to face justice in Thailand, because he knows that he will never face justice in Thailand. I am telling Mr Abhisit.. he will face justice.”
In regards to the status of the ICC case, Amsterdam assured the crowd that:
“Our application to the ICC is being treated very seriously.”
Watch Amsterdam’s full speech here.
On Saturday, in torrential monsoon rains, thousands of Red Shirts gathered in Bangkok to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the 2006 military coup that illegally ousted Thailand’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra.
Red Shirt leaders, Robert Amsterdam, and PM Thaksin (via a webcast) delivered a resounding message that the military coup is still in effect.
Amsterdam asserted that:
“The Coup is not over. This government is not free, nor can it be democratic when institutions in this country have a veto over its ability to function.”
In her speech at the rally, UDD Chairwoman, Thida Thavornseth argued that since 1932 there have been 18 military coups – that’s one coup almost every four years.
She also maintained that despite democratic elections in 2011, Thailand is still living under the conditions of a coup, the difference being that:
“Instead of the military, the judiciary is now the instrument of choice”
UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan also spoke to the crowd:
“In Thailand, a coup can happen at any time. This is not a true democracy, when people suffer and must stop working to protest, and must pay the price with their lives.”
He also reaffirmed the UDD’s commitment to a democratic Constitution, saying that:
“We must amend the Constitution so that everybody in the country has equal rights.”
One thing is for sure, the Red Shirts are dedicated to the cause. An estimated number of 8,000 Thais attended the rally which lasted for eleven hours on Saturday.
French Senators cite the 2007 Constitution and the army as roadblocks to Thai democracy.
Comments by a French delegation to Thailand issued on September 6th by the online French media outlet lepetitjournal.com have been welcomed by the leadership of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). After meeting with Thai political leaders and UDD Chairwoman Thida Thavornseth, the delegation of Senators of all political stripes asserted that the Thai army and the 2007 Constitution are persistent roadblocks to true democracy in Thailand.
UDD Chairwoman Thida appreciates their analysis and, in response, reaffirms that “the UDD is committed to a new People’s Constitution that would allow for the expansion of democracy in the Thai political system.”
The delegation’s request for a meeting with a representative of the Yellow Shirts was ignored.
In the interview by lepetitjournal.com, Socialist Party Senator Gerard Miquel said that
[The Thai] Parliament does not have considerable power. It is rather the army that holds power due to the  Constitution, which was passed at the behest of the military junta and the judiciary, and doesn’t give much power to the Parliament.
His critique of the Constitution was reaffirmed by his UMP colleague, Senator Bernard Saugey, who said that
Thailand is a country which, democratically speaking, is gridlocked. This is definitely due to the Constitution.
The 2007 Constitution reversed its 1997 predecessor’s requirement of a fully elected Senate. Today, the Senate consists of 76 elected and 74 appointed members. Furthermore, the 2007 Constitution granted amnesty to the 2006 coup leaders, a form of retroactive validation which could be used to justify similar extra-parliamentary action in the future.
Centre Party Senator Hervé Maurey expressed this concern by stating that
One realizes that the situation is complicated by the persistent threat of a military coup if the parliament goes too far.
He also compared French- and Thai-style democracies.
At first glance, one could think that there are democratic similarities [between France and Thailand] since there is a National Assembly which is elected in a seemingly democratic manner. But after our meetings [in Thailand], we realized that the Parliament and the Government itself only has a part of the power. There is also the army, which has a significant portion of the power, as well as the judges which are mostly connected with conservative forces and the military.
Nonetheless, the delegation acknowledged that there is still hope for progress. Senator Miquel said that
[The army] cannot contain the Thai people’s will indefinitely, developments are therefore certain to occur. The Red Shirts are very active. We met with Thida Thavornseth, a very committed woman. Eventually an opportunity must arise for things to progress.
The UDD, also known as the Red Shirts, is committed to the realisation of a genuine parliamentary democracy in Thailand. Together with Robert Amsterdam, they have worked tirelessly to hold Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government accountable for the massacres of pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010.
In recent years it has become apparent that the coup d’état is passé. If a group of elites or members of the military are seeking the overthrow of a democratically elected government, the prospect of putting tanks on the streets and unleashing horrific violence bears much too high a cost: the seizure of power such a manner is usually followed by international sanctions, a bankruptcy of legitimacy, a reputation of political risk, and many other disadvantages that come with being an international pariah.
Of course this does not mean that everyone has decided to follow the rules and respect the will of the people. If anything, there are many countries that face an even greater risk of disruptive “soft coups,” whereby unelected administrations are put in place and civilian leaders are neutralized and removed from power through refined and imitative “legal” processes. Whereas the presence of “paramilitary” forces was a force of considerable instability in the 1980s throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, the new threat of our current decade is something I’ve titled “The Parajudiciary” – the instrumentalization of a pliable legal system or constitutional court that is directly employed by minority groups to carry out a seizure of power, otherwise known as a “judicial coup.”
Over the next few weeks we are going to be publishing a series of articles examining how the Parajudiciary works, from Egypt to Paraguay and all stops in between, taking a look at recent examples and discussing the implications of this new phenomenon. In our first installment, we take a look at the latest events in Thailand.