First Things First

Court Should Have Taken a More Incremental Approach

Bangkok Post, August 7, 2001

Court's credibility questioned

Two former charter writers have questioned the credibility of the Constitutional Court over its decision to clear Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of assets concealment charges. Amorn Chantarasomboon and Thongbai Thongpao were addressing a seminar on the role of independent organisations under the constitution.

Mr Amorn said it was unclear why the judges, who had different views about mistakes in an assets statement filed by Mr Thaksin, then deputy premier, finally voted 8-7 acquit him. He doubted people could continue to trust these judges or rely on the criteria for selecting them. "Eight judges found Mr Thaksin not guilty. Four of them said Mr Thaksin had no intention to do that [conceal his assets], while the four others said Article 295 could not be applied. I want to know how these two reasons could be combined into eight votes," he said. Mr Amorn said the court should have voted on whether Article 295 was applicable before considering other points, to prevent any legal ambiguity.

Mr Thongbai, a lawyer and senator, said the fact the court made different rulings in two similar cases, one involving Mr Thaksin and the other former Thai Rak Thai list-MP Prayut Mahakijsiri, could damage its credibility. Why was Mr Prayut found guilty although he was not a political office-holder when he filed his assets statement which was found to be faulty, while Mr Thaksin was found not guilty even though he was a deputy prime minister when he declared his assets, he said. "I am confused. It was against tradition for the court to declare its ruling verbally before finishing its written version of the verdict. I think the Constitutional Court's procedures need to be revised," Mr Thongbai said.

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