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BURNING ISSUE: Cynicism abounds for a just and fair judicial process

The depth of feeling grows for calm and reason to prevail so that Thaksin Shinawatra can get a fair hearing in Thailand's judicial system.

A worthy sentiment indeed, but are we likely to see an end to the brooding political atmosphere?


It's unlikely because both sides to the conflict complain, in boxing parlance, of low blows from their opponents.

The demands for reason to prevail are being sounded at a superficial level, but those making the calls are being categorised as either outright naive or outright hypocritical.

Thammasat University historian Somsak Jiamtirasakul is one of the more high-profile people who refer to the fact that calls for a just climate do not factor in the interference in the judicial system since the September 2006 coup.

Somsak argues on website that a constitution tribunal was set up by the military junta and the Asset Examination Committee was also appointed by the generals. So all the 15 or so alleged corruption charges can hardly be regarded as truly free and fair, to say the least. It's also hard to imagine how the more passionate pro-Thaksin crowds will take it.

Conversely, the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) can easily respond by accusing Thaksin of having first interfered with the judicial system, such as the police, the Constitution Court and the Election Commission months before the September 19 coup took place.

So where would the argument end?

There is no easy answer that would appease both sides. And to make matters worse, this is not the only area where both sides appear to be punching below the belt.

What is being relentlessly pointed out is that the PAD supported, or at least did not oppose, the 2006 military coup and would appear to be setting the stage for yet another coup. Their call for the palace to help solve the political conflict also is seen as extra-constitutional.

The PAD leadership may not admit they support another coup, but ask the ordinary PAD rally-goer and chances are you will hear what the real expectation is. The fact that no PAD leader has said anything about opposing any future coup speaks for itself.

In the other camp, people who would be acknowledged as having a history of being in the pro-democratic camp are accused of turning into lackeys of Thaksin and the pro-Thaksin People Power Party led by Samak Sundaravej.

One such figure is former National Human Rights Commissioner turned pro-Thaksin Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) leader Jaran Ditapichai.

Jaran, who was impeached late last year by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for leading an anti-coup protest in front of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda's residence which turned violent, has no qualms about being criticised for his current stance.

Jaran said in order to realise political reform, working with "the devil" is acceptable. He stopped short of identifying who the devil is, but added the fact that the PAD resorts to inciting the military to meddle in politics gives them no moral high ground.

In a way, both sides in this conflict are more alike than they appear to be. It's hard for any party to claim the moral high ground and this includes some of the so-called "third way" people who benefited from either Thaksin or the military junta. Academics like law lecturer Jaet Tonawanik and Chulalongkorn University sociologist Surichai Wangaew last week joined the growing academic call for the third way, to put Thaksin through a fair trial with no interference. However, the two cooperated with and benefited from their working relationship with the military junta.

Well-known social thinker Prawase Wasi, who joined the growing chorus earlier this week, was once upon a time an active supporter of Thaksin and played a crucial role in getting support from civil society for Thaksin that propelled the tycoon politician into the top office.

While there may be no clear solution, one thing is becoming clear and that is after years of political feuding and low blows, the moral high ground is increasingly barren and devoid of respectable people.


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