Judiciary owes us answers
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Judiciary owes us answers

Judge Khanakorn Pianchana, whose suicide attempt in a Yala courtroom last October shocked the country, was found dead yesterday after a second attempt on his life proved successful. His sudden tragic death leaves many questions.

The 50-year-old judge shot himself in the heart in his house in Doi Saket district of Chiang Mai yesterday morning when he was alone. His wife had taken their daughter to school and upon her return found her husband lying in a pool of blood.

She rushed him to hospital where doctors were unable to save his life. Sarawut Benjakul, secretary-general of the Office of the Judiciary, who confirmed the judge's passing. He said the office sent officers to provide assistance upon learning the judge had once again shot himself.

Before yesterday's tragedy, Khanakorn had posted an emotional two-page farewell letter dated March 6 on his Facebook page.

In his failed attempt on his own life last year, Khanakorn, who served as a senior judge at the Yala provincial court, alleged interference in judicial rulings involving the southern insurgency.

Nevertheless, the judge decided to acquit five suspects who were charged with shooting and killing five people in Yala's Bannang Sata district in June 2018 on the ground there was no solid evidence.

However, he said, senior judges had disagreed with his ruling. Before shooting himself right there in the courtroom, Khanakorn posted a 25-page statement on his Facebook page in which he expressed his despair with the system.

His statement, which included the messages "Return the ruling to the judges" and "Return justice to the people", sparked controversy about the state of the country's justice system.

Khanakorn made a recovery from those self-inflicted wounds and later was moved to Chiang Mai as the judiciary launched a probe into the case, pledging fairness and transparency.

The judiciary insisted Khanakorn's transfer to Chiang Mai was not a demotion even though his action was deemed to have exposed deep-rooted problems in the system including the conduct of other senior judges.

More importantly, his unsuccessful suicide attempt became even more complicated when the now-dissolved Future Forward Party tried to get involved. Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, then FFP secretary-general, claimed the distraught judge "had previously complained to the party of intervention in the case he was presiding over", and his 25-page statement accused senior judges of interference.

The statement was taken down from his page soon after the incident and the matter became deeply politicised.

The public has still not been informed of progress in the judiciary's investigation into the matter.

Khanakorn's farewell letter last week, posted prior to his pulling the trigger on himself a second time, showed he was devastated by the state of that probe and revealed he faced disciplinary action for the Yala incident and could be charged as a criminal. It's also obvious he was deeply frustrated with the system and that all his hope was gone.

In the letter, which mentioned the incident on Oct 4, he cited as the reason for a second attempt on his life the unbearable consequences of the first attempt -- the prospect of losing the job he loved and being convicted in a criminal case.

He insisted his act last year was motivated by a sincere desire to return justice to the people. "I do not regret it and I'm proud of being part of administering justice for Thais," read the letter.

The judge also mentioned what he viewed as a structural problem with the judicial system.

"In the past, we had the 1997 constitution written by the CDC. People and academics admit it was the most democratic charter the country has ever had," he wrote, referring to the constitution written by the 99-member Constitution Drafting Council set up in 1996 and comprising 76 indirectly elected members and 23 academics.

"You may wonder why, when the charter was in effect, reviewing a ruling at the first-court level was not allowed. Why is that? Could it be the drafters knew such a review could pave the way for interference in a ruling by regional court presidents?

"Let me ask my friends and fellow countrymen: Do you find an evil intention in what I had done, which led to disciplinary and criminal action against me? A reply in your heart is enough. As for me, I knew from the start. It's a pity you are not my judge."

The current system could not save a dedicated judge like Khanakorn. His death will not only sadden the public but also trigger further curiosity and doubt about exactly what is going wrong in our system. Only those in the judiciary can provide answers. Continued silence is no longer an option.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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