After the Constitutional Court ruled that Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has not violated the constitution by living in army housing, a protest expressed frustration with the decision.
A shrine (a play on the Thai word for 'court'. The placard reads 'No justice toward the people'.
People started gathering at 15.30 with a mock court seat on the stage and many props satirizing the Constitutional Court.
One protester in a blue shirt taking to the streets for the first time since the Covid-19 lockdown said that the court decision was made and we have to accept it. However, it is very important for Thais to come out and protest. There are many issues in this country that have to be reformed and Gen Prayut is not the solution to the problems.
He wanted the PM to listen to the people's voices.
The court's verdict cited a 2005 Royal Thai Army regulation which allows the army to provide housing, along with utilities, to commanding officers with the rank of general or former army commanders who still contribute to the army or the country.
Because of his position as the head of the cabinet and the government, the security of the PM and his family is important and the state should provide them the proper safety and privacy for them to perform their duties. The existing official residence of the PM, Ban Phitsanulok, is also not ready to be used.
So even though Prayut retired from the army in 2014, his accommodation is not special treatment from a government body, as he is qualified to stay in army housing, and does not create a conflict of interest under the Constitution or the Code of Ethics for Political Office Holders.
Disappointment and questions over the ruling
Athapol ‘Kru Yai’ Buapat, an activist from Khon Kaen, said the court’s ruling was as disappointing as it was expected. He also offered 9 bananas as a tribute and smashed to pieces a shrine, a play on the word for ‘court’ (san in Thai).
Athapol smashing the shrine.
Parit Chiwarak, a student activist, said the ruling has proved that Thailand has no judicial standards. He questioned how the ruling can cite Royal Thai Army regulations to legitimize Prayut’s housing when the regulations can be written in violation of constitutional principles.
Parit burning a photograph of the Constitutional Court judges.
He went on to say that the Constitutional Court has obstructed Thai democratization by nullifying 2 elections in 2006 and 2014, dissolving 4 political parties, and dismissing an elected PM, Samak Sundaravej, for cooking on a TV show, but has allowed Prayut to stay in army housing because he is a good person.
Parit read the names of the 9 Constitutional Court judges and burned a book written by one of them, Nakarin Mektrairat.
Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and prominent figure who has addressed monarchy reform, said he was not surprised by the ruling. It has set a standard where bureaucrats who made a contribution to the country can enjoy state assets with impunity, which by common sense is a conflict of interest.
Anon urged the judicial institutions, both the Constitutional Court and Court of Justice, to uphold principles. The head of the Supreme Court should not prostrate herself to King Vajiralongkorn when she is involved in lèse majesté cases.
He also said the Constitutional Court’s immunity from criticism under Sections 136 and 138 of the Criminal Code are, in essence, similar to the inviolable status of the monarchy stated in Section 6 of the Constitution. People should be allowed to honestly praise or criticize a ruling. If it is allowed only to praise ruling, then the praise would be flattery.
Anon said the monarch’s inviolable status will not be problematic if the King does not express a political opinion or violate the principle that ‘the King can do no wrong’ by endorsing a coup (in previous reigns), creating his own personal organizations, or appropriating soldiers or public assets to himself.
The King has also stated his personal opinion by saying to a person waiting to welcome him ‘Very brave. Very good. Thank you.’ and ‘We must bring out the truth’, while those who criticize him have to face charges.
Anon also said that if the monarchy is not neutral, its respected status would not be possible. In order to be neutral politically, the King must also be neutral financially. For example, in developed countries, the monarch would not be allowed to receive donations of money from CP as it would lead to questions of transparency and favour towards capitalists.
He cited Section 8 of the Japanese constitution that stipulated that donations to the Japanese monarchy have to be approved by parliament, unlike in Thailand where donations can freely be made.
At 19.30, Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul read the names of the lèse majesté suspects that had fled the country and played video footage of the military crackdown against the red shirts on 10 April 2010 while royally-composed music was played.
She demanded that the government and the monarchy address their involvement in the killing and abduction of exiles.