Justice reform can't wait

Justice reform can't wait

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted many activities, but it shouldn't disturb the justice process.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is in the middle of dealing with a new wave of coronavirus infections amid a shortage of vaccines. Nevertheless, he shouldn't forget to follow up on his instructions regarding the Red Bull scion's hit-and-run case, which has shaken the country's legal and judicial systems.

Gen Prayut was praised after he ordered an inquiry into the prosecution's decision to drop the last charge of reckless driving against Vorayuth Yoovidhya, following public outrage in July last year.

The premier formed a committee led by Vicha Mahakun, a former commissioner of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, to investigate the decision.

In August, the panel produced a historic report which found evidence of intervention by officials, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses. Among them were three prosecutors and several high-ranking police officers.

Gen Prayut then allowed agencies whose officers were implicated -- such as the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) -- to launch their own probes. Six months have passed but the investigations have not progressed.

On Friday, Athapol Yaisawang, chairman of the Public Prosecutor Commission, admitted the delay, citing regulatory obstacles.

According to him, the probe panel agreed to firstly investigate Nate Naksuk, the deputy attorney-general who decided to drop the reckless driving charge against Mr Vorayuth.

Mr Athapol said according to the OAG's regulations, a probe into serious disciplinary offences requires a preliminary fact-finding mission first.

In addition, he said, the OAG has no rule in place which mandates the agency to launch an investigation into officials whose positions are lower than an attorney-general.

As a result, the agency needs to issue a regulation to justify the probe against the deputy attorney-general first, and the regulation must be published in the Royal Gazette before the probe can proceed.

Another reason behind the delay is that the panel currently lacks a head, Mr Athapol said.

The first appointed head, Pairach Vorapani, a specialist prosecutor in the Public Prosecutor Commission, resigned from the task, and the second one, Prasarn Hattakam, also a specialist prosecutor, has finished his term as a member of the commission.

The OAG's excuses are ridiculous, raising speculations about its real motives.

The agency is telling the public that it needs to restart a preliminary probe against the three implicated prosecutors, despite the fact the PM-appointed panel had already conducted an in-depth investigation of more than 6,000 pages.

The agency is saying it cannot probe the implicated staff since it has no authority.

It came as no surprise that Mr Pairach should have resigned from the panel, reasoning he could not proceed with the investigation based on his principles.

The situation at the RTP seems to be no different. The RTP's panel has reportedly recommended the police chief drop the investigation against implicated officials after six months of probing.

These problems suggest Gen Prayut should authorise an independent panel to take over the investigation, in order to restore shattered public faith in the justice system.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : ploenpotea@bangkokpost.co.th

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