In the US, after Donald Trump’s corrupt former campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to just 47 months in jail, the lead prosecutor noted:
“If the failed war on drugs and the era of mass incarceration have taught us anything, it is that there are two tracks of justice: one for those who can afford expensive defence counsel and who can move heaven and earth to receive mercy, and one for everyone else.”
Thailand, too, has two tracks of justice, even under junta reform. For example, this month the Kanchanaburi provincial court sentenced an ethnic Karen to seven years and two months in jail for shooting a bearcat in Si Yok National Park last October: from crime to jail in just six months.
Compare that with the case of Premchai Karnasuta, president of the giant Italian-Thai Development Plc, caught red-handed next to a pot with a black leopard inside and guns nearby in Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. The crime took place a year ago – but, unlike with the humble Karen, there’s no urgency in bringing the guilty to justice. There’s still no verdict in sight, let alone jail for such a well-placed person.
As another example, when Deputy PM Prawit flashed 21 ultra-expensive watches allegedly worth Bt36 million, good governance procedures required that the accused be moved to an inactive post, to prevent interference with the investigation. This was conspicuously not done. Also, the National Anti-Corruption Commission chief, appointed by the accused, should have recused himself from the probe, for the same reason. Again, this was conspicuously not done. No wonder that many believe that Prawit’s case was whitewashed.
Both Thaksin and his bitter opponents, the Phalang Pracharat Party, allegedly reformists, follow double standards: Thaksin didn’t contest that he’d illegally hid billions in assets under the names of his maid, driver, etc, while Pracharat didn’t credibly investigate its own leaders. We voters should hold them accountable at this month’s polls – otherwise, we have only ourselves to blame.