Two developments this week highlight, once again, a long-standing problem in our society -- the inability to enforce the rule of law.
Surprise, surprise. Red Bull heir Vorayudh "Boss" Yoovidhya did not turn up to meet prosecutors to answer charges in connection with the deadly hit-and-run incident back in 2012. Worse, he has been given one more month before he must appear before prosecutors because police need 15-20 days to issue a new summons so he has 10-15 days to prepare.
Meanwhile yesterday, after keeping the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) waiting -- twiddling their thumbs and wondering whether he would show up or not -- Phra Dhammajayo, the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, failed to turn up to face charges of alleged involvement in money laundering and receiving stolen assets in connection with the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) embezzlement case.
At first, Phra Dhammajayo's lawyers told the DSI that the abbot was going to meet DSI authorities at Khlong Luang Police Station in Pathum Thani. Surprise, surprise the abbot suddenly felt dizzy and fainted in a room inside the temple as he was about to leave. DSI officials said they would hold yet another meeting today to decide the next steps in arresting the embattled abbot. Another warrant may even be sought from the court to search the temple premises.
These two cases involving two different individuals share one common thread -- the suspects are able to hire lawyers and use their connections to keep prosecutors and law enforcers running around in circles. As this newspaper has said repeatedly, these high-profile cases, and others, illustrate the double standards which exist in Thai society.
Money, power and connections can influence the enforcement of the law in other countries too. But in Thailand, we have examples that are more glaring and blatant.
While we continue to condemn our inability to enforce the law in high-profile cases, the problem is more fundamental. The inability, or even reluctance, of police to enforce the law is evident in our daily lives. We see it day in, day out on our roads, for example.
For safety reasons, we have laws stating motorcyclists have to wear helmets. But drive down any main road or soi and you will see motorcyclists zigzagging past without any head protection gear. We also see children riding motorcycles to run errands. In the outer areas of Bangkok, and especially in the provinces surrounding Bangkok and upcountry, motorcyclists fly by on the wrong side of the road simply because its quicker than following the rules.
How many times have we witnessed cars speeding through red lights and clogging intersections or cars parked in no-parking zones or double parked in heavily congested lanes? The sad reality is that we accept these practices as par for the course. Many ordinary citizens think a few red notes will get them off the hook and they can get away with breaking the law.
While we despise and condemn the fact that the rich and wealthy can get away with murder, we must also accept that the general public here do not respect the rule of law. That respect can only be nurtured if enforcement is carried out not only in high-profile cases, but also when it comes to rules and regulations affecting our daily lives.
Unless we are able to do this, we will continue to be criticised and stigmatised as a society where this lack of respect is ingrained into our DNA.