Surapong's motives questionable

Surapong's motives questionable

Is Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul serious about letting the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe and judge the 2010 political violence in Bangkok? Or is this just part of an orchestrated plot by the Pheu Thai Party to discredit Democrat Party leader and former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ahead of the censure debate scheduled at the end of the month?

Whatever the real motive, Mr Surapong will not have an easy ride and his move faces a challenge from a group of senators led by Surachai Liangboonlertchai, the deputy speaker.

Last week Mr Surapong met with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensuda in Bangkok and discussed the possibility of the ICC deliberating the violent political incidents in 2010 in which more than 90 people were killed.  The foreign minister urged the Thai government to let the ICC have jurisdiction over the case.

The senators, however, think otherwise, arguing that Mr Surapong or the government cannot act alone in allowing the ICC to have jurisdiction over a legal case in Thailand without prior endorsement from the parliament because Thailand is yet to ratify the treaty that established the ICC. 

The senators also threatened to take the issue to the Constitution Court.  Mr Surapong may also face an inquiry by the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

The big question mark is why does Thailand need the ICC to investigate and deliberate the political violence in 2010 while the Thai judicial system is still functioning effectively? 

The ruling Pheu Thai Party, including Mr Surapong, may still harbour a deep mistrust of the judiciary in general because of their rulings against fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and its two previous  incarnations, Thai Rak Thai and Palang Prachachon, which were both dissolved by the Constitution Court for election fraud.  But that does not mean that the justice system is biased or has failed to function properly.

Allowing the ICC to interfere with the judicial system amounts to ceding our judicial sovereignty,  even if temporarily or on an ad hoc basis.  Moreover, the Thai court has not yet deliberated the case because it is still being investigated by the Department of Special Investigation and the police.  So why the rush to take it to the ICC?

And even if the ICC is finally allowed to step in, it is still questionable that the case will be accepted for consideration because the 2010 political violence does not qualify as a war crime, crime against humanity or genocide, which it must to justify the ICC’s deliberation.

Surrounded by top experts on international law, Foreign Minister Surapong should not have been oblivious to the aforementioned facts.  Maybe he merely wanted to appease the red-shirt followers.  But the red-shirts are no fools, as was made clear by Pol Maj Sa-ngaim Samranrat,  who is seeking an investigation of  red-shirt leaders Weng Tojirakan and his wife, Thida Thavornseth, who claimed that they had already petitioned the ICC to investigate the 2010 case.

Although we are unable to resolve our own political conflict, we are not yet a failed state, and our judicial system is still functioning properly and effectively.  There is no need whatsoever for the ICC to come in and interfere with our justice system.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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