Out of Court
14 January 2011
The uploading on to YouTube of the 17th set of videos from the ‘ohmygod3009’ source has followed the pattern set by previous clips over the past 4 months which purport to show corruption or improper behaviour inside the Constitutional Court.
As soon as the Ministry of Internet Censorship and Thought-police (MICT) was alerted to the existence of the videos (after a Phuea Thai Party press conference which played the material to a roomful of journalists at Parliament House), it immediately blocked the offending pages while officials were sent to seek a court order authorizing the Ministry to do this. By this time, the clips had gone viral and within hours updated CD compilations of all constitutional court videos were on sale at roadside vendors throughout Bangkok.
The Constitutional Court issued a statement condemning the illegal dissemination of confidential information concerning court business, while at the same time declaring that the content of the videos was doctored, fabricated and nothing like the truth. Speaking through a spokesperson who declined to identify herself but who was thought to be the daughter of a Constitutional Court judge, the Court vowed to search out the persons responsible for leaking the recordings of secret Court meetings, which never happened, and to prosecute them for contempt of court.
The government meanwhile repeated its claim that the dissemination of the video clips was the work of a widespread conspiracy to make the public mistakenly think that the Constitutional Court was open to outside interference, reached verdicts for improper reasons and was corrupt in its internal affairs. The ultimate aim, said a government source, was to undermine public confidence in the judiciary, government, military and other right-thinking agencies of the state. It blamed a network of unscrupulous anti-monarchist terrorists and ordered the police to find the malefactors immediately and punish them to the full extent of the law.
Observers continue to be baffled at the public indifference to the revelations contained in the video clips. While it must be accepted that the material may well not be authentic, the sheer weight of evidence, its internal consistency and the confirmation provided by other sources make a strong prima facie case, they say. However both the Court and the government have brushed aside calls for any sort of inquiry and continue to focus their attention on the alleged crimes of the whistleblowers.
This lack of public outrage is in fact referred to by the judges captured on the latest clips. They talk of ‘pushing the envelope’ in ‘getting away with stuff’. The idea which the meeting seemed to agree on was to make future judgements not so much in line with the written constitution, but with the ‘unwritten’ or ‘hidden’ constitution.
This concept is used to refer to the tacit ‘rules of the game’ that operate among the elite in the Thai power structure. Written constitutions, after all, come and go, and it has been argued that the primary organs of state rely on a more stable, though completely non-transparent, set of principles.
One of the discussants notes that threats of contempt of court seem to work extremely well in stifling debate, opening the way for the Court to decide cases more or less as they like, even if verdicts appear to contravene the written constitution. Any protest could quickly be suppressed.
It is feared that if these ideas are put into effect, the judiciary could develop a culture of impunity, somewhat similar to the security forces, such that court officials need have no fears of being held accountable for any wrong-doing
Further YouTube postings from a seemingly inexhaustible supply are expected in a couple of weeks.