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Constitution: Axe courts & watchdog orgs?

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Close Thaksin associate floats idea of eliminating Constitution Court & Administrative Court set up by 1997 People's Constitution. 

administrative cour

Photo above of Rayong villagers and NGOs at the groundbreaking Administrative Court case that suspended polluting industrial projects at the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate (Photo by Apichit Jinakul, 27-08-2010).

Click button to listen to Constitution Court Abolishment to download

Thaksin ally in push to axe courts

Call to scrap watchdogs draws Democrats' ire
29/02/2012
Nattaya Chetchotiros & Pakawat Sunpituksaree

An MP's proposal to abolish the Constitution Court and the Administrative Court as part of the government's charter rewrite drive is drawing resistance from the opposition Democrat Party and academics.

Pheu Thai Party list MP Watthana Muangsuk said in an interview with Matichon newspaper yesterday that the number of independent organisations should be kept to the minimum necessary.

He said the two courts were no longer required and the Supreme Court could replace them with divisions to be set up to handle cases.

Mr Watthana, known to be a close associate of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, floated the idea while discussing the government's constitutional amendment drive, now getting under way in parliament.

Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the proposed abolition of the two courts would go against the principle of having a system of checks and balances

If the proposal was tabled to parliament, the party would be obliged to debate and scrutinise its details to ensure that the independence of the judicial organisations remain intact, which is crucial in preventing politicians from abusing their authority, he said.

"It is not right to see these judicial organisations as a scourge just because they limit your power," said Mr Abhisit.

He stressed that the two courts and other independent organisations such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission must continue to function.

Mr Watthana's proposal also received a lukewarm response from Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar. Both said the idea was only Mr Watthana's personal opinion as Pheu Thai had not yet discussed the issue

Mr Chalerm said it was too early to talk about it as the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) had not yet been set up and interference in independent bodies was unwarranted. 

"I wouldn't dare to comment because it is too early and I don't know who would be in the constitution drafting assembly," he said.

Thammasat University rector and former charter drafter Somkit Lertpaithoon said Thailand has adopted a civil law system that provides for the establishment of the Constitution Court and the Administrative Court - like in Germany, France and other European countries - as opposed to the common law system that has no such courts.

The courts were established in Thailand by virtue of the 1997 constitution and have since been alive and well.

"The fact that someone may be unhappy with the role of the courts is irrelevant to the essence of the courts, said Mr Somkit. "The courts are still essential in Thai society," he added.

In particular, the public are given an opportunity to file lawsuits against executives of state agencies with the Administrative Court, which is empowered to ascertain the facts and evidence under the inquisitorial system of the civil law system.

Mr Somkit said the Administrative Court is essential given that private individuals are not comparable to state agencies in terms of the ability to gather evidence and prepare for litigation.

"It is like a flyweight boxer [private individuals] versus a heavyweight boxer [state agencies]," he said.

This is different from the accusatorial system that applies to the courts of justice, which adjudicate disputes between two private parties who are deemed equal in their ability to prepare for litigation.

Mr Somkit said it comes as no surprise that politicians would seek to scrap the Constitution Court, whose rulings have immense ramifications on their political careers.

He said a solution would be to streamline and improve the court instead of abolishing it.

National Institute of Development Administration rector Sombat Thamrongthanyawong said the two courts operate in line with international standards. Getting rid of them would only meet with strong resistance, he said.

"The role of the two courts has progressed too far for anyone to abolish them," said Mr Sombat, adding that the planned CDA must also take into consideration public opinion, not only the views of politicians.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Thaksin ally in push to axe courts, Call to scrap watchdogs draws Democrats' ire, 29/02/2012, Nattaya Chetchotiros & Pakawat Sunpituksaree, link

Legal System Vocabulary
 
Constitution Court - "an independent Thai court originally established under the 1997 Constitution with jurisdiction over the constitutionality of parliamentary acts, royal decrees, draft legislation, as well as the appointment and removal of public officials and issues regarding political parties... The various versions of the Court have made several significant rulings. These included the 1999 ruling that Deputy Minister of Agriculture Newin Chidchop could retain his Cabinet seat after being sentenced to imprisonment for defamation, the 2001 acquittal of Thaksin Shinawatra for filing an incomplete statement, regarding his wealth, with the National Counter-Corruption Commission, the 2003 invalidation of Jaruvan Maintaka appointment as Auditor-General, and the 2007 dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai political party" ศาลรัฐธรรมนูญ (See Wikipedia)

Administrative Court - handles Administrative Law matters "The jurisdiction of the court includes unlawful act by an administrative agency or State official ..., neglecting or unreasonable delay in official duties, wrongful act or other liability of an administrative agency, administrative contracts, mandating a person to do something or an injunction"  (See Wikipedia and website and history)

Administrative Law - "the body of law that governs the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rulemaking, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. Administrative law is considered a branch of public law. As a body of law, administrative law deals with the decision-making of administrative units of government (for example, tribunals, boards or commissions) that are part of a national regulatory scheme in such areas as police law, international trade, manufacturing, the environment, taxation, broadcasting, immigration and transport" (See Wikipedia)

civil law system - the legal system found in European countries such as Germany and France as well as Thailand, legal decisions are based on judges interpreting laws (statues), often includes a Constitution Court and Administrative Court (See Wikipedia)

common
law system - the legal system found in the UK and its former colonies including the US, legal decisions based both on statues and previous legal decisions of courts (precedents), a jury of citizens hearing evidence presented and, under the direction of a judge, deciding whether the law has been broken (See Wikipedia)

constitution - a set of rules for a government, the system of laws for a country that states rights and duties for people, usually in written document  (See Wikipedia) รัฐธรรมนูญ
charter - Same as "constitution"

1997 constitution  - "widely hailed as a landmark in Thai democratic constitutional reform. ... was replaced by the 2006 Interim Constitution after a successful military coup.The 1997 Constitution was the first constitution to be drafted by popularly-elected Constitutional Drafting Assembly, hence was popularly called the "People's Constitution". The 1997 Constitution created a bicameral legislature. For the first time in Thai history, both houses were directly elected. Many human rights are explicitly acknowledged, and measures were established to increase the stability of elected governments" (See Wikipedia)

checks and balances - a system in a constitution that protects the independence of the three branches of government (executive, parliamentary, judicial), the judicial branch can  protect minority rights which is less likely to happen under the majority-elected parliamentary and executive branches (See Wikipedia)

drive - a planned effort to achieve something การผลักดัน,ความพยายาม
constitutional - correct or allowed according to the constitution ถูกต้องหรืออยู่ในขอบข่ายที่ระบุไว้ในรัฐธรรมนูญ
amend (verb) - change a law or rule
amendment (noun) - the act of changing a law or rule 
constitutional amendment drive - a planned effort to change the constitution

NGO - non-governmental organization, an organization formed to help people in society with some problem, that is neither a company nor a government agency (See Wikipedia)
groundbreaking - doing something new for the first time
suspend - stop temporarily, stop for a period of time

Map Ta Phut -
one of Thailand's largest industrial estates located in Rayong (See interactive map)
industrial estate - a special area especially for factories with special facilities (roads, transportation, water, electricity, waste disposal), also called an "industrial park" (See Wikipedia)

ally - someone who helps and supports someone else คนกลุ่มหรือประเทศที่อยู่ในกลุ่มเดียวกัน
Thaksin ally

axe
- to get rid of workers that you don't need ปลดคนงาน
axe courts

Thaksin ally in push to axe courts

watchdog - an organization that watches over powerful people and organizations to make sure they are following the rules and not breaking the law
scrap - to get rid of; to stop using or accepting เลิก, ทิ้ง
scrap watchdogs  - get rid of organizations watching over powerful people and organizations

ire
- anger ความกริ้วโกรธ, ความโมโห
draw ires - makes someone angry

Call to scrap watchdogs draws Democrats' ire

proposal - a plan or suggestion for a group to consider ข้อเสนอ
abolish - to officially get rid of a law, system, practice, etc. ยกเลิก

resistance - a refusal to accept something or allow it to happen การต่อต้าน, การขัดขืน
drawing resistance - starting to cause resistance
opposition
- of a political party that is not part of the government or a group which is against the government ฝ่ายค้าน ผู้ต่อต้าน
academics - professors and lecturers at universities and colleges

An MP's proposal to abolish the Constitution Court and the Administrative Court as part of the government's charter rewrite drive is drawing resistance from the opposition Democrat Party and academics.

interview - to ask someone questions in a meeting for a newspaper article, television show, etc. The noun form is also interview สัมภาษณ์, การสัมภาษณ์
independent - free from outside influence; separate and not connected, not influenced or affected by others; working by yourself with your own resources; not taking help or money from other people พึ่งตนเอง เป็นอิสระ
independent organizations - organizations that cannot be influenced by politicians for personal gain 

minimum - the smallest amount possible
minimum necessary -
the smallest amount that is necessary
kept to the minimum necessary -
keep the amount to the smallest amount necessary
should be kept to the minimum necessary

replace - to get rid of someone or something, and to put a new person or thing in its place เลิกให้และนำสิ่งใหม่มาใช้แทน

Pheu Thai Party list MP Watthana Muangsuk said in an interview with Matichon newspaper yesterday that the number of independent organisations should be kept to the minimum necessary. He said the two courts were no longer required and the Supreme Court could replace them with divisions to be set up to handle cases.

associate - someone you work with, especially in a business ที่ร่วมมือกัน ผู้ที่มีความสัมพันธ์กัน (เช่น เพื่อน, ผู้ร่วมงาน, หุ้นส่วน)
close associate - someone who works closely with another person
floated the idea -
shared an idea with other people to see what they thought

Mr Watthana, known to be a close associate of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, floated the idea while discussing the government's constitutional amendment drive, now getting under way in parliament.

proposed - suggested (but not yet chosen or decided upon)
abolition - getting rid of something, eliminating something
proposed abolition
principle
- a basic belief, theory, or rule that has a major influence on the way in which something is done หลักการ

Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the proposed abolition of the two courts would go against the principle of having a system of checks and balances

party - one of the people or groups of people involved in an official argument, arrangement or similar situation คู่กรณี
obliged - required to do something ต้องทำ ต้องทำตามคำร้อง
debate - a discussion or formal argument on an issue between people with different views (See Wikipedia)
ensure - to make certain that something happens or is done รับรอง ให้ความมั่นใจ ให้การยืนยัน
independence - not being influenced by or dependent on other people เป็นหน่วยงานอิสระ
intact - not harmed, damaged, or lacking any parts as a results of something that has happened สมบูรณ์ ไม่บุบสลาย
crucial - very important because it effects the result of something สำคัญยิ่ง
authority - power; the power to make decisions or tell people what to do อำนาจ, อำนาจในการสั่งการ
scourge - something that causes a lot of trouble or harm โรคระบาด การลงโทษ
limit - a highest or lowest amount
power - energy in the form of electricity produced in large quantities and used to operate lights, machines, and heating
stressed - saying that something in important, emphasized
function - to work or operate in a normal way เป็นปกติ ใช้การได้ปกติ

If the proposal was tabled to parliament, the party would be obliged to debate and scrutinise its details to ensure that the independence of the judicial organisations remain intact, which is crucial in preventing politicians from abusing their authority, he said. "It is not right to see these judicial organisations as a scourge just because they limit your power," said Mr Abhisit. He stressed that the two courts and other independent organisations such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission must continue to function.

issue - a subject that people discuss or argue about ประเด็น
interference - the process of deliberately becoming involved in a situation and trying to influence the way that it develops การเข้าแทรกแซง
comment - to express an opinion; remark, telling what you think or what your opinion is about an issue หมายเหตุ แสดงความคิดเห็น
drafting - writing

Mr Watthana's proposal also received a lukewarm response from Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar. Both said the idea was only Mr Watthana's personal opinion as Pheu Thai had not yet discussed the issue  Mr Chalerm said it was too early to talk about it as the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) had not yet been set up and interference in independent bodies was unwarranted.  "I wouldn't dare to comment because it is too early and I don't know who would be in the constitution drafting assembly," he said.

rector - the person in charge in some universities, schools, colleges and universities อธิการบดี อธิการบดีของมหาวิทยาลัยหรือวิทยาลัย
drafter - a person or group who write a document for consideration, but which not yet in its final form ผู้บร่าง

Thammasat University rector and former charter drafter Somkit Lertpaithoon said Thailand has adopted a civil law system that provides for the establishment of the Constitution Court and the Administrative Court - like in Germany, France and other European countries - as opposed to the common law system that has no such courts.

established - created
by virtue of - because of, based on (See Wiktionary)
role - the function, purpose or influence of someone or something in a particular situation บทบาท
irrelevant - not important to what you are discussing or doing ที่ไม่เกี่ยวข้องกัน ไม่สัมพันธ์กัน
essence - the most important part of something, usually the part that gives it its general character แก่น
essential - necessary and important ที่จำเป็น ที่สำคัญ

The courts were established in Thailand by virtue of the 1997 constitution and have since been alive and well. "The fact that someone may be unhappy with the role of the courts is irrelevant to the essence of the courts, said Mr Somkit. "The courts are still essential in Thai society," he added.

opportunity - a situation when it is possible to do something that you want to do (See glossary)
file - to take official action like making a complaint ยื่นคำร้อง
lawsuits - a case in a court of law to end a dispute between two people
executives - a high level managers in an organization (making plans and ensuring they executed successfully) ผู้บริหาร
executives of state agencies
state - government รัฐ
empowered - given the legal power to do something
evidence - information that shows that something actually did happen or actually is true; information that is used in court to try to prove something หลักฐานประกอบการไต่สวนคดี หรือพิจารณาคดี
inquisitorial - asking a long series of difficult questions in a determined way to get at information

In particular, the public are given an opportunity to file lawsuits against executives of state agencies with the Administrative Court, which is empowered to ascertain the facts and evidence under the inquisitorial system of the civil law system.

private individuals - persons บุคคล
in terms of - as measured by
litigation - the use of the legal system to settle a disagreement การฟ้องร้อง ดำเนินคดี
flyweight boxer - a very light weight boxer

Mr Somkit said the Administrative Court is essential given that private individuals are not comparable to state agencies in terms of the ability to gather evidence and prepare for litigation. "It is like a flyweight boxer [private individuals] versus a heavyweight boxer [state agencies]," he said.

justice - fairness in the way people are dealt with ความยุติธรรม (See Wikipedia)
adjudicate - to make an official decision about a problem or disagreement วินิจฉัย serve as a judge and make a decision on a legal case (to resolve and end the case)
adjudicate disputes - make a legal decision to end a dispute
private parties - people or companies entering into a business arrangement or deal
deemed - considered เห็นว่า ถือว่า
immense - extremely large มหึมา มหาศาล
ramifications - the complicated and/or unexpected ways in which a decision, event or process has an effect on something
immense ramifications
streamline - to make more efficient by removing unnecessary parts
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
international - ระหว่างประเทศ between countries
standards - an acceptable level of quality or achievement มาตรฐาน
international standards
consideration - to go over details and give careful thought to something before making a decision
meet with strong resistance
progressed too far
take into consideration
take into consideration public opinion

This is different from the accusatorial system that applies to the courts of justice, which adjudicate disputes between two private parties who are deemed equal in their ability to prepare for litigation. Mr Somkit said it comes as no surprise that politicians would seek to scrap the Constitution Court, whose rulings have immense ramifications on their political careers. He said a solution would be to streamline and improve the court instead of abolishing it.  National Institute of Development Administration rector Sombat Thamrongthanyawong said the two courts operate in line with international standards. Getting rid of them would only meet with strong resistance, he said. "The role of the two courts has progressed too far for anyone to abolish them," said Mr Sombat, adding that the planned CDA must also take into consideration public opinion, not only the views of politicians.

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