Survey on Thailand

Somewhere out there, maybe an Economist correspondent is preparing a survey on Thailand. The last one that came out in Feb 2002, and it squarely places Thailand on a fork in the road. The introduction tells of the case that was talk of the town around that time, and expands on its implications to Thai society at large.    

Chalerm Yubamrung’s son, Duangchalerm (now called Duang – one has to wonder whether it’s the father or son wish not to share the same name anymore), had just killed a policeman ‘in fill view of dozens of revellers at Club Twenty’:

At first glance, the Duangchalerm case raises doubts about how far Thailand has travelled along the road to fair and transparent governance. Admirable as the new constitution is on paper (in this instance, a special aspen-wood parchment), it seems to make little difference in practice. Yet optimists see progress of a sort. Even five or ten years ago, they think, this kind of incident would have been hushed up; now embarrassed politicians have sworn to see justice done. According to Phongthep Thepkanjana, the minister of justice, the case will be a test of the reforms instigated by the new constitution. Naturally, he wants the system to acquit itself well.

I guess we all know how that turned out – aquittal not of the system but of the defendant. This last headline on the case from the Nation sums it up: DUANG CASE: WIFE, SON GIVE UP – Family’s fighting spirit spent as they drop appeal against not-guilty verdict.

I have a feeling that the Thaksin government took Thailand on a different fork of the road than I would have wanted, one away from the rule of law and equality under law for all. Where this road ends, I’m not so sure.

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