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Foreigners get TRC case all wrong

Constitutional Court judge Nakarin Mektrairat: Exercising freedom 'must not undermine the basis and value of the Constitution'. (File photo)

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It comes as little surprise that most foreign media and human rights advocacy organisations, Amnesty International in particular, oppose the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) Party, and regard the Constitutional Court's order to disband the party as yet another bid by the military junta to exploit an allegedly biased judicial system to bully their political opponents and suppress freedom of expression.

Their swift negative reactions to the dissolution verdict and open sympathy for the TRC appear to have been made after they heard the key words "guilty" and "dissolution" from the court, which seem to have triggered their pre-determined response.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

Amnesty International's Thailand branch was interestingly quick -- one or two hours after the court finished its verdict reading -- in issuing a statement which reads as follows: "This decision highlights the Thai authorities' abuse of political powers to restrict the peaceful association and expression of the political opposition. This far-reaching measure raises strong concerns about the human rights to freedom of association and expression in the period leading to the elections."

Had Amnesty International's Thailand campaigner been a little more discreet and waited a little longer for a Thai staff member with a legal background to provide a briefing about the gist of the court's verdict, particularly the part which mentions the role of the monarchy in society dating back to 1932 and its status of being above politics and being the symbolic soul of the nation, the organisation should have come up with a more informed and reasonable statement.

A written statement from one of the nine Constitutional Court judges Nakarin Mektrairat should provide an enlightened explanation about how the court viewed the TRC's nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its prime ministerial candidate and the possible repercussions towards the monarchy if this "highly inappropriate" act was not nipped in the bud.

"In exercising freedom, one must bear in mind that his/her act in exercising the right and freedom must not undermine the basis and value of the constitution," wrote Mr Nakarin as he explained that the status of the royal family as "above politics" was mandated in the first constitution of Thailand and enshrined in following charters.

The case is unprecedented and unique. Never before, in the long and shaky history of Thailand's foray with democracy now spanning more than 80 years, has a member of the royal family been nominated by a political party to be its candidate or party member. For a person with common sense, the idea of "dragging" a member of the royal family into politics is simply unimaginable.

It is not like the electoral fraud case which led to the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai Party, or similar cases of fraud which have resulted in the dissolution of other parties, or indeed cases pending with the Election Commission.

So why did the TRC do it in the first place? And what's the real motive? It appears that the only person who has the answer is the real boss of the party who conceived the wicked idea and had it implemented by the party's executive committee which he evidently regarded as expendable.

The Constitutional Court's verdict in the TRC case has set a precedent on the status of the monarchy vis-à-vis Thai politics -- that the institution is politically impartial and above politics. So, blaming the court for the party's downfall is really hitting the wrong agent.

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