About the law
With criticism of court decisions illegal, court cases costly, lengthy & victory unlikely, continuing inequality & injustice for the poor is the result.
Photo above of the blood-soaked ground where the corpse of Charoen Wat-aksorn lay after he was gunned down in 2004. He was a 37-year-old opponent of a power plant project in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Manote Hinkaew, accused of masterminding his murder was acquitted for lack of evidence. Both are mentioned in today's Bangkok Post editorial below.
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EDITORIAL: Judicial system under fire (16/12/2011)
In Prachuab Khiri Khan, Jintana Gaewkhao wanted to save her hometown from being polluted by the Bo Nok-Hin Krud coal-fired power plant. During the height of the environmental battles, her home was sprayed with gunshots. The police failed to arrest anyone. When she and other villagers went to the power plant area, which led to a heated quarrel, she was arrested for trespassing and got a three-month jail sentence.
She was lucky. Her fellow grassroots activist Charoen Wat-aksorn was gunned down. The mastermind of that murder remains free. In Si Sa Ket, grassroots activist and community leader Somkiat Jeuajarn wanted to stop the Rasi Salai Dam from destroying the environment and the villagers' way of life. He got a one-year jail term for trespassing on dam property.
Both made similar appeals to the court about their communal right to protect the local environment and way of life. But the court chose to stick to the letter of the trespass law and bypassed the villagers' community rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Thanks to the royal pardon on His Majesty the King's birthday, both are now free. But across the country many grassroots activists and human rights defenders are still wilting in the punishing court process which drains both energy and resources. The chance of a legal victory is slim when the court remains out of touch with the people's movement for new justice.
Early this week, MP Karun Hongsakul was handed a suspended jail term for having kicked and defamed a fellow MP. The reason for this lenience? Because of his work position, said the court.
Despite the fear of being cited for contempt of court, public criticism of court rulings and the judicial system is getting ever louder. This is not surprising. When society is opening up the old, patient submission to authority declines, giving rise to public confidence to voice their opinions and assert their rights. When the public and the courts differ in what they view as justice, the status quo can no longer ensure that the public will remain silent.
Apart from the lengthy and costly legal process that prevents the poor from accessing justice, a big complaint against the judicial system is court elitism and conservatism. Many judges still do not understand how many laws are rooted in inequity and structural injustice, and why their sticking to the letter of the law is actually perpetuating injustice itself. The draconic forestry law is a case in point. The forest authorities wrote the various forest-related bills to outlaw people who have lived in the forests for ages. The court faithfully follows these laws and continues to send poor people to jail.
Another heated legal issue is the controversial lese majeste law. The taboo of silence was broken after a 61-year-old grandfather received a 20-year jail term for sending four text messages deemed objectionable to the monarchy. Negative responses to this verdict from home and abroad have been fierce. So much so that many royalists now believe this draconic law hurts rather than helps the monarchy. Yet, a recent article by a court spokesman defending the court's decision reflects deep conservatism within the system.
Such defensiveness does not help when the country is undergoing a major political transition. Reform is necessary in order to maintain public trust in the legal system. Unfortunately, that remains an uphill task so long as the court continues to lose touch with the public pulse, maintain its conservative mindset and allow the legal system to perpetuate structural inequality, which only fans public anger against legal injustice.
(Source: Bangkok Post, EDITORIAL, Judicial system under fire, 16/12/2011, link)
Legal System Vocabulary
judicial system - the system of courts in a country that interprets and applies the laws of the country in the name of the state, provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes and for punishing "criminals" who break the law (See Wikipedia)
under fire - being criticized, the target of much criticism
judicial system under fire
Critical Legal Studies (CLS) - a way of studying the law as part of and influenced by the society it works in, one theme is that "the law tends to serve the interests of the wealthy and the powerful by protecting them against the demands of the poor and the subaltern (women, ethnic minorities, the working class, indigenous peoples, the disabled, homosexuals etc.) for greater justice," another theme is that "legal decisions are a form of political decision, but not that it is impossible to tell judicial and legislative acts apart." (See Wikipedia)
sprayed with gunshots - many bullets of a gun hit the person suddenly
gunned down - killed when gunman shot him
corpse - dead body
acquitted for lack of evidence - found not guilty of a crime because the police failed to collect enough evidence to prove he did it
mastermind - someone who plans a difficult or complicated operation, especially a crime คนวางแผน
murder - the crime of intentionally killing a person ฆาตกรรม
the mastermind of that murder remains free
inequality - social inequality, situations in which "individual groups in a society do not have equal social status, social class, and social circle. Areas of potential social inequality include voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, the extent of property rights and access to education, health care, quality housing, traveling, transportation, vacationing and other social goods and services" (See Wikipedia)
justice - when people are treated fairly and equally (See Wikipedia) ความยุติธรรม
injustice - when people are not treated fairly or equally, when something unfair happens to people; failure to treat someone fairly and to respect their rights ความไม่ยุติธรรม
authorities - government officials; the police or people in official organisations who have the legal power to make people obey laws or rules เจ้าหน้าที่ (ตำรวจ หรือผู้มีอำนาจ)
inequity - not fair, when some people are treated differently (not just, inequality)
many judges still do not understand how many laws are rooted in inequity and structural injustice,
slim chance - unlikely to happen, probably will not happen
movement - a group of people who share the same aim and work together to achieve it การเคลื่อนไหวเพื่อวัตถุประสงค์ทางการเมือง
the chance of a legal victory is slim when the court remains out of touch with the people's movement for new justice
lose touch with - not really know about something (what is happening, how it works) because you have lost direct contact with it
pulse - the regular pulsing of the blood through the body (can be felt and counted on the skin where certain blood vessels pass) (See Wikipedia)
the public pulse - what the people are thinking
lose touch with the public pulse - not really know what the public is thinking or experiencing anymore
perpetuate - continue (keep something going or existing)
structural inequality - when the very structure of society creates inequalities between people in society
perpetuate structural inequality - help make the inequalities continue
allow the legal system to perpetuate structural inequality
coal-fired power plant - a factory for generating electricity with coal that may pollute the surrounding area (See Wikipedia)
power - energy in the form of electricity produced in large quantities and used to operate lights, machines, and heating
plant - factory
power plant - a large factory for producing electricity
during the height of - at the height of, meaning: the time of greatest intensity of an activity; when the greatest level of activity was reached
the height of the battle - the most important time in a battle when the fighting is most intense
during the height of the environmental battles
quarrel - an argument or strong disagreement การทะเลาะเบาะแว้ง
heated quarrel - a very intense and angry argument
arrested for trespassing
sentence - a punishment given by a court of law การตัดสินลงโทษ ลงโทษ
three-month jail sentence.
fellow - used for talking about people who are similar to you or are in the same situation เพื่อนร่วมชะตากรรม
grassroots - involving the ordinary people rather than their leaders ในระดับรากหญ้า, ชาวบ้าน
activist - someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change, especially someone who is a member of an organisation นักกิจกรรม, ผู้ดำเนินการที่มีความกระตือรือร้น
grassroots activist - a person working directly with people (poor, exploited, rights violated) to bring about social change
fellow grassroots activist - a person who is also a grassroots activist (perhaps even acting together)
community - local people, all the people who live in a local area or place ชุมชน
environment - the natural world of land, sea, plants, and animals
destroying the environment
local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
trespass - to go onto someone's land or enter their building without permission บุกรุก,รุกล้ำ
stick to the letter of the law - follow the law exactly (even if it is unfair or too severe)
the court chose to stick to the letter of the trespass law
jail term - the time spent in jail as punishment by a person convicted of a crime (found guilty of a crime by a court, a convicted criminal)
he got a one-year jail term for trespassing on dam property
appeal - ask someone to do something
made similar appeals to the court
rights - what the law allows you to have and do; something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)
bypassed the villagers' community rights enshrined in the Constitution.
assert - claim something for yourself, say that you will have or do something
assert rights - claim a right as your own
public confidence to voice their opinions and assert their rights
pardon - an official decision to forgive someone for committing a crime and to free them from punishment การอภัยโทษ การนิรโทษกรรม
wilt - 1. when a plant without water grows weak and bends over and falls down; 2. becoming weak and tired and losing confidence เฉา, เหี่ยว, โรย
punishing - very difficult to continue doing, to endure; causing severe harm and damage
process - a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
the punishing court process - an activity that requires great energy and effort and makes you weak
resources - things used to help you achieve your goals; things needed for proper functioning, to get a job done ทรัพยากร ทรัพยากรที่มีอยู่
wilting in the punishing court process which drains both energy and resources.
suspended - stopped for a period of time (temporarily)
suspended jail term - suspended sentence, when the court says you don't have to go to jail if you behave correctly, "a legal term for a judge's delaying of a defendant's serving of a sentence after they have been found guilty, in order to allow the defendant to perform a period of probation. If the defendant does not break the law during that period, and fulfills the particular conditions of the probation, the judge usually throws out the sentence" (See Wikipedia)
MP Karun Hongsakul was handed a suspended jail term for having kicked and defamed a fellow MP.
lenience - not strict or severe (as they were expected to be)
reason - an explanation of an event, why an event happened เหตุ ; เหตุผล ; สาเหตุ
The reason for this lenience?
contempt of court - a court order which during a legal case that "declares a person or organization to have disobeyed or been disrespectful of the court's authority... it is the judge's strongest power to impose sanctions for acts which disrupt the court's normal process," in Thailand criticism of legal decisions can be held as contempt of court sometimes (See Wikipedia)
contempt - a strong feeling of disliking and having no respect for someone or something การดูถูก, ความรู้สึกรังเกียจอย่างมาก
cited for - to name a person in a legal case for a reason
cited for contempt of court
criticism - การวิจารณ์, การประเมินผลงาน
court rulings - a court decision in a legal case
public criticism of court rulings and the judicial system is getting ever louder
patient - waiting peacefully and quietly; without worry or anxiety อดทน, อดกลั้น
submission - the act of formally accepting that someone has defeated you การยอมจำนน
authority - power อำนาจ
the old, patient submission to authority
confidence - the quality of being certain; feeling sure about something; believing in something ความมั่นใจ
voice - to express your feelings or opinions ออกความคิด
voice opinion - say what you really feel about something
status - the state of affairs at a particular time สถานะ
status quo - the way things are now, the current situation สถานภาพปัจจุบัน, สถานภาพที่เป็นอยู่, ฐานะที่เป็นอยู่, สภานการณ์ที่เป็นอยู่, สถานะเดิม, ฐานะดังที่เป็นอยู่เดิม
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
when the public and the courts differ in what they view as justice, the status quo can no longer ensure that the public will remain silent
the lengthy and costly legal process that prevents the poor from accessing justice,
complaint - saying you are not happy about something ข้อที่ไม่พอใจ, ความไม่พอใจ
a big complaint against the judicial system
conservative - cautious, doesn't want to experiment, not willing to try new ideas
mindset - the general way that people think about things, their attitude
conservative mindset - a general conservative way of thinking about things (resisting new things, innnovations, change)
conservatism (noun) - acting in a conservative way
elitism - acting as if you are better than others, deserve special treatment
court elitism and conservatism.
maintain - to keep รักษา
maintain its conservative mindset
complaint - when someone says that something is wrong or not satisfactory การร้องเรียน
The forest authorities wrote the various forest-related bills to outlaw people who have lived in the forests for ages. The court faithfully follows these laws and continues to send poor people to jail.
issue - an important subject that people are arguing about or discussing ประเด็น
heated legal issue
controversial - causing disagreement or disapproval ความขัดแย้ง ความไม่ลงรอยกัน ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดการโต้แย้ง
the controversial lese majeste law.
taboo - a social custom to avoid doing or talking about something (to avoid offending or embarassing people)
taboo of silence - a social custom to avoid talking about something
taboo of silence was broken after a 61-year-old grandfather received a 20-year jail term for sending four text messages
deemed - considered by someone to be something เห็นว่า ถือว่า
objectionable - disagrees with it ไม่เห็นด้วย คัดค้าน
deemed objectionable - considered by someone to be not good, not acceptable
monarchy - a type of government in which a country is ruled by a king or queen การปกครองที่มีพระมหากษัตริย์เป็นประมุข
deemed objectionable to the monarchy s
negative response - people saying they don't like it when something happens
verdict - the decision of a court in a legal case
fierce - very intense and very aggressive
negative responses to this verdict from home and abroad have been fierce
many royalists now believe this draconic law hurts rather than helps the monarchy
draconic law - same as "draconian law"
draconian - very severe (strict, harsh) laws or measures taken to solve some problem (example: the city used the draconian measure of feeding poisoned meat to stray dogs to get rid of them ... in Yangon, really)
defensiveness - trying hard to protect or defend themselves, when a person feels threatened or that they are being attacked
X undergoing Y - action or situation Y is happening to person or group X
transition - the process of changing from one situation, form or state to another ช่วงของการเปลี่ยนแปลง
a major political transition - a big change from one political situation or system to another
the country is undergoing a major political transition
trust - when people have confidence in each other (so they can work together effectively); believing in someone (believing that they will do as promised and not hurt you) ความเชื่อมั่น
reform is necessary in order to maintain public trust in the legal system
task - a piece of work that someone does หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
an uphill task - a difficult thing to do
remains - is still, has not changed
that remains an uphill task
fan anger - make people get more and more angry (like blowing air on a fire or hot coals which makes it get hotter)
fans public anger against legal injustice
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