Reform of Police and Judiciary

"There is no peace without justice," the red-shirt catchphrase proclaims, but in Sunday's election no party has dared touch the real obstacles to justice.


For extra reading, read a related article on justice system reform by Magsaysay laureate Jon Ungphakorn (Read article).

The silhouette below is of the scales of justice (also truth and fairness), a common symbol used in western legal systems. According to western mythology, Lady Justice measures the strengths of a legal case's support and opposition on the scales before she makes her decision in a case.

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EDITORIAL: Reform police and judiciary (01-07-2011)


lawThere is no peace without justice. This is the catchphrase at red-shirt rallies. Indeed, who can argue with that? From the victims of southern violence, the relatives of those killed in last year's May bloodshed, to the landless villagers persecuted by unjust laws, they all insist justice is the prerequisite for peace. Yet in Sunday's general election which will decide Thailand's path, no political party has dared touch the obstacles to justice - unjust laws, police corruption and an out-of-touch judiciary.

Mention any case of social injustice in this country, and it almost always has to do with these giant glitches in the justice system which desperately need to be redressed.

Earlier this week, the US embassy condemned Thailand for failing to punish corrupt police and officials in human trafficking rackets, while highlighting the lack of a human rights approach among the judiciary as a compounding factor which prevents the victims of labour abuse from receiving justice.

It is the same story with the powerless Thais. Countless villagers have been jailed for forest and land encroachment, although they had lived on those plots of land long before the areas were earmarked as national forest, or before the commons were taken over by rich landlords with the help of corrupt officials.

The law is no help to ease the heated land rights conflicts that are raging across the country. Written by the forestry authorities, the draconian forestry law makes the Royal Forestry Department the sole owner of the forests and turns forest dwellers and small farmers into illegal encroachers. With the power of money, however, big-time miners or landlords with rubber and oil palm plantations in national forests remain intact.

The judiciary is of no help, either. In strictly going by the letter of the law without any knowledge of local realities and themselves the product of city prejudice against the rural poor, many judges feel it is perfectly all right to send the powerless victims of unjust forestry laws to jail. Meanwhile, the costly and extremely lengthy legal procedures are a social injustice in itself, because it prevents the poor from receiving justice while giving more legal access to the rich and the powerful.

To effect judicial reform, all unjust and discriminatory laws must be amended through the open participation of civic groups and the people directly affected by those laws. The extremely conservative Council of State, the government's legal arm, which often tampers with the drafts of liberal laws, must be prohibited from doing so. The education of judges and legal personnel must be revamped to undo gender and ethnic prejudices, and to instil in them the significance of human rights.

Police reform is a much more difficult task. Not that no one knows how to do it. Demilitarise the police force. Decentralise its operations. Make the police accountable to the communities. Improve their salaries and welfare to prevent corruption. All these solutions have been discussed, and are supported by junior police officers. But they have been fiercely vetoed by police big shots. Politicians dare not upset the police force because that would spell big trouble for many shady businesses under their patronage network. This is why all previous efforts have failed to open up the essentially feudal and authoritarian system that is deeply corrupt.

Despite the uphill tasks, Thailand can no longer postpone reform of the police and the judiciary. Without these crucial reforms, social injustice and double standards will be here to stay, threatening to push the country deeper into political disarray.

(Source: Bangkok Post, EDITORIAL: Reform police and judiciary, 01-07-2011, link)

Justice System Reform Vocabulary

reform - improvement, a change that is intended to correct a situation that is wrong or unfair การแก้ไข การปฏิรูป
judiciary - the part of a country's government which is responsible for its legal system and which consists of all the judges in the country's courts of law คณะตุลาการ, คณะผู้พิพากษา1/07/2011

justice - when people are treated fairly and equally (See Wikipedia) ความยุติธรรม
injustice - failure to treat someone fairly and to respect their rights ความไม่ยุติธรรม
social injustice - injustice to whole groups of people who are all treated unfairly
unjust - not fair or reasonable ไม่ยุติธรรม

persecuted - to treat a group of people bad (because of who they are, because of their religion, race, occupation or political beliefs)
victims - people who are killed injured or harmed in some way from an accident, natural disaster, crime, etc.
relatives - members of your family (especially outside of the group of people who live together in one home)

election - the process of choosing a person or a group of person for a position, especially by voting elect (v) electoral (adj) synonym: the polls การเลือกตั้ง
general election - a very large election that will select all or many MPs (members of parliament) and the Prime Minister
political party -  a group of politicians working together to get elected in an election to parliament (or other elected government positions)
 
human trafficking -
a criminal activity in which people are recruited, harboured, transported, bought, or kidnapped to serve an exploitative purpose, such as sexual slavery, forced labor, or child soldiery (See Wikipedia)
human traffickers -
the criminal gangs who engage in human trafficking as a criminal business
rackets - gangs

rights - something you are legally or morally allowed to do or have สิทธิ์ (See Wikipedia)
human rights - the rights that everyone should have (frreedom from arm, right to express an opinion, for example) (See Wikipedia)

condemned - criticised severely ประณาม
redress a problem - solve a problem
factor - a fact or situation which influences the result of something ปัจจัย
compounding factor - a factor that makes a problem even worse 

conflicts - angry disagreements between people or groups ความขัดแย้ง
violence - physical force with the deliberate intention of causing damage to property or injury or death to people ความรุนแรง
bloodshed -
a situation with people killed and injured (usually during fighting, for example during a war)
abuse - cruel, violent or unfair treatment โหดเหี้ยม ทารุณ ใช้ในทางที่ผิด
draconian - a law with a very harsh and severe punishment

sole
- only เดี่ยวๆ
sole owner of the forest - the one and only owner of the forest

dwellers
- people who live in a place
forest dwellers - people who live in the forest

illegal
- against the law ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
encroachers - people who use land that does not belong to them (as if they owned it)

rural - connected with the countryside outside big towns and cities ในชนบท, บ้านนอก
countless villagers -
very large numbers of villagers
land encroachment - moving into, occupying and using land that you do not own
plots of land - pieces of land

national forest- a forest area that belongs to the government  
the commons - areas of land that have no one owner, that are used by everyone (See Wikipedia)
landlords - the owners of land or real estate (here farmland)
plantations - large farms (in a tropical country with many workers working for usually low wages, plantations usually grow crops such as sugar, pineapples, coffee, or rubber)

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)
power -  the ability to control people and events อำนาจ  

letter of the law -
obeying the letter of the law, doing exactly what the law says you should do (which is not always the same as the "spirit of the law" which is why the law was made, the intended result of the law) (See Wikipedia)
strictly - completely, exactly, in a limiting way อย่างเข้มงวด
strictly going by the letter of the law - following the law exactly, doing exactly what the law says (without any additional consideration of equity or justice)

local - in or related to the area that you live, or to the particular area that you are talking about ท้องถิ่น
local realities - things that are true about a situation in a local area

in touch - know what is happening, know what the true situation is
out-of-touch - don't really know what is happening, don't know what the true situation is

prejudice - an unreasonable opinion or feeling, especially the feeling of not liking a particular groups of people ความมีอคติ, ความลำเอียง a dislike or hatred for a whole group of people for no good reason (for example: black people, people from Laos, hilltribe people)
discriminatory - treating a group unfairly (because of their race, age, occupation, etc)

double - to become twice as big, twice as much or twice as many เพิ่มเป็นสองเท่า
standards - an acceptable level of quality or achievement มาตรฐาน
double standards - when some groups get special treatment (and the others are treated badly)

access - the ability to get something สิทธิหรือโอกาสในการใช้
legal access - the ability to get access to the law (because you can afford lawyers and a lengthy legal case)

amended - changed  

civic group - a group of people living in a town or local area who join together to work for the benefit of their area
participation - being involved in an activity (rather than merely watching it happen)
open participation of civic groups

conservative -  politically conservative, a person not willing to accept much change, especially in the traditional values of a society (See Wikipedia)
liberal - politically liberal, believing in social or political change (towards increased justice and equality and enforcement of human rights, for example) (See Wikipedia)

Council of State - the group of legal advisors that provides advice to the Prime Minister's cabinet on the legality of  actions they are planning to take
arm - a part of an organisation that deals with a particular subject or activity หน่วยงาน ส่วนหนึ่งของ
legal arm -  the part of an organisation that deals with laws and legal matters

police force -  the police department (and all the police officers in the it)
police officers - the most polite way to refer to individual police

militarised -
when an organisation works like the military and army
demilitarise -
make an organization stop working like the military and army does

decentralise - make a large organisation so that it is controlled locally (not from one central place like Bangkok)
accountable - having to explain what you did to others, cannot just act independently the way you want all the time (reward for success, punishment for failure, responsible for something that has happened)

welfare
- things given to employees (or to general public by government) in addition to salary or wages such as medical health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc  สวัสดิภาพ living in good conditions (with health, wealth, and happiness) ความสะดวกสบาย, ความมีสุขภาพดี,

big shots -
VIPs, very important people
fiercely - very strongly อย่างรุนแรง, อย่างดุเดือด
vetoed - stop; refuse to approve or allow something  

upset - 1. make a person angry; 2. to change the usual or expected state or order of something, especially in a way which stops it from happening or working ทำให้ไม่ปกติ

spell - to show that something is going to happen, usually something bad ส่อเค้า
would spell big trouble - if it happened, it would cause big problems

shady - dishonest or illegal
shady businesses - illegal businesses

corruption - (See Wikipedia on bribery, corporate corruption, and political corruption)
patronage - a system of help or protection given to people, often in return for their support ระบบอุปถัมภ์
network - a large system of connected parts, organisations, people, etc. เครือข่าย

postpone - to delay; to decide that something will be done at a later time เลื่อนออกไป
crucial - very important because it effects the result of something สำคัญยิ่ง
reforms - improvements in the way that government works

disarray - a situation in which things are not organised and people are confused (usually because some unexpected event happened that no one was ready to deal with)

General Vocabulary

catchphrase -
a short phrase that people often repeat, a popular saying

silhouette - the dark shape or shadow of something, especially something you cannot see clearly

insist
- to keep saying very firmly that something is true ยืนกราน ยืนยัน
X is a prerequisite for Y - X must happen or exist before Y can happen or exist

dared - were brave enough to do something (example: none of the soldiers dared to walk out onto the battlefield alone)

obstacles - things that makes it difficult to go somewhere or do something อุปสรรค

glitches - a small problem or fault that prevents something from being successful or working as well as it should ความบกพร่องเล็กน้อย
desperately - extremely or very much อย่างเต็มที่
desperately - having little hope and ready to do anything to solve a problem ทิ้งไพ่ตาย อย่างสุดชีวิต อย่างเอาเป็นเอาตาย

embassy - a group of officials who represent their government in a foreign country สถานทูต

highlighting - showing (something important)
lack - not having ขาดแคลน

approach - a particular way of doing something or thinking about something วิธีการทำให้ถึงจุดหมาย

earmark - keep something especially for some future use
ease - to make or become less severe, difficult, unpleasant, painful, etc ทำให้ง่าย, บรรเทา
remain intact - still exist there สมบูรณ์ ไม่บุบสลาย

tamper - to touch or change something that you should not change (because you will spoil it) (example: the police tampered with the evidence)
draft -
the first version of a document or a law (revised and changed making the final version)
prohibited - when the rules say that you cannot do some activity (example: smoking in this building is prohibited)

personnel - people who work for a company or organisation
gender - the fact of being either male or female เพศ the differences between men and women (including biological and social) (See Wikipedia)

task - a piece of work that someone does หน้าที่, ภารกิจ

Not that no one knows how to do it. - meaning: everyone knows how to do it, it is obvious and easy to see

efforts - the work done towards achieving some goal ความพยายาม
essentially - for the most part ที่สำคัญที่สุด

About the author

columnist
Writer: Jon Fernquest
Position: Online Writer