How can the law be set aside? – Sunday, 13.12.2009

Posted on 15 December 2009. Filed under: *Editorial*, Week 642 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 642

The Mirror is, in principle, an instrument that tries to do what it’s name says: to mirror what is in the news – and a mirror sees everything. It is not selecting what to show and what not to show. This is a high goal for a press review – it cannot be realized in our publication in quantity; but in quality it has to try to reflect major trends, even if some of them contradict each other.

Since some weeks, and with increasing clarity, two different ways to refer to the former Thai prime minister, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, can be observed:

  • The ousted former Thai prime minister, ousted by a military coup – compared to Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar – his conviction for corruption is considered to be only a politically motivated move, he is considered as having created an economic model that assured him electoral victory, and therefore he is an appropriate adviser on economic affairs for the Cambodian political leadership and for Cambodia – and he is, after all, also an “eternal friend” of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
  • The fugitive former Thai prime minister was found guilty by the Thai Supreme Court and convicted to a two years prison sentence for corruption, helping his wife to buy an expensive piece of land in Bangkok, from public property into personal ownership, and way under the current market price. He had built up his telecommunications network to the strongest economic power outdoing other during his time in office. He therefore could afford to not only deposit a big fund for temporarily staying our of prison on bail, he could also afford to break his promise and lose this money – but he still is rich enough to travel around the world in a private jet aircraft, having achieved a (semi)permanent residence in exile in the financial center of Dubai.

He wielded power in 2003, during the anti-Thai riots which resulted in the ransacking of the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh and the destruction of other Thai property; later it was estimated that US$ 56 million went up in smoke during on night. But it was he who threatened the Cambodian Prime Minister to dispatch Thai paratroopers to Phnom Penh immediately, if the Cambodian government would not start to take action against the rioters within one hour. – Now again he wields power from exile, by successfully appealing to Prime Minister Hun Sen to pardon a Thai citizen accused to have been acting as a spy and convicted to 7 years in prison – most media describe that he did not appeal to the King who has the power to pardon, though the King finally granted the pardon. And this within three days – violating past practice that pardons for persons convicted to prison will only be granted after the prisoner has served at least two thirds of the time in prison – but in this case, only about 1% of the time had been served. No explanation has been given to the public why the Cambodian government is violating the history of it’s own practice.

The Thai government is, of course, obliged to try to implement verdicts of the Thai Constitutional Court, and therefore said it would request again for his extradition, but the Cambodian foreign ministry spokesperson Mr. Koy Kuong said such a demand would be “just a waste of time.” After all, Prime Minister Hun Sen had also said to consider the preset Thai government illegitimate, as it was formed on the basis of coalition agreements and not as a result of a direct popular vote. No wonder that the Thai government and other international observers ask how this can be reconciled with the traditional ASEAN practice of not interfering in the internal political structure of a member country.

A Cambodian Anti-Corruption Draft Law – still kept secret from the public, but already forwarded to the Assembly – has already passed the Cabinet in the morning of 11 December 2009. What will it’s provisions be? It was argued, since October 1993, when a draft first had reached the National Assembly, that an Anti-Corruption law cannot be operated without a new Penal Code. Now, there is a Penal Code.

One may try to imagine what the Cambodian governments reaction would be if another member state of ASEAN, like for example Malaysia, would entertain intensive communication with a major Cambodian opposition party in Cambodia, trying to change Cambodian court decisions

Nobody can hope for a solution by simply combining some arguments from both sides, like saying: “Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, the criminal convicted by the Thai high court for personal embezzlement, the adviser of the Cambodian government, is now commenting on what a new Anti-Corruption Law should contain. And which kind of violations of laws for personal gain, which kinds of misuse of high level power should be excluded from corruption investigation, when they have been committed by highly placed persons…”

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One Response to “How can the law be set aside? – Sunday, 13.12.2009”

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Mr. Klein, I don’t think you can use Western logic to Asian, let alone Cambodian and Thai, affairs, political or otherwise, regardless of whether there is a precedent or what past relations were like. I believe you make the same mistake as many other Westerners by imposing Western standards on a vastly different culture. I believe you know Mr. Scholl-Latour, at least by name. It was he who said the Western world can’t just impose our set of values and our way of thinking on other cultures. At the time he referred to the Arab world, but his words equally apply to Asia, or Africa as well.


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