No Trust in Justice

 | Fri 6 Sep 2013 14:20 ICT

I think we are all aware that justice is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At a certain point in time, call it the start of many great moments of clarity, we can see through the unruly rhetoric and ambidextrous constitutions, we notice the gnarly teeth hiding somewhere beyond super-disingenuous smiles. We know justice is not really what it says it is. Justice isn’t fair.

From Latin, iustitia, it means something like righteous, or equity.

As civilization has plodded along, sometimes taking a few steps back, things are more equitable and righteous in many countries in the world than they were in the past. We don’t drown witches anymore, and it’s likely in most first world countries you’ll be given a fair trial even if you’ve done something as heinous as buggering a small monkey. Nonetheless, there’s always the outside chance that if you have a brown complexion and vote for Moses that you might be extrajudicially tortured and or even killed for being a terrorist. Justice is full of barely visible sub-clauses. If you live on Skid Row for instance you can bet cops will point guns at you for drinking a beer in the street with your friends, and if you live in Beverly Hills then you can bet that cops will be checking everything is secure on the road as you and your mates smoke PCP and plan a night driving dangerously along the edge of the PCH.

We don’t live in a righteous and equitable world, the very foundation of society is unjust. Jails house poor people, and rich people if they require can hire expensive lawyers to keep them out of jail. Poor people are harassed by the law, and the rich are protected by it. Turning to crime for the poor is often a determined condition, yet for the rich it’s mostly just a hobby. If the foundation is all skewed, we can’t really call anything just. Best we can hope for is aberrations of the unjust.

We are not all given the same opportunities, if you believe that I beg you to send your kids to live in the ghetto/slum. Throw them to the wolves at the worst schools, or just dress them in rags, paint them black, pretend they don’t have qualifications and send them out into the competitive job market. The game is rigged, but I think we all know that by now.

The game is really rigged in Thailand, so rigged hardly anyone complains about it, or even understands the rules, whereas in western countries there’s some rage as to how the machine functions.

We might hope at least that in this unfair system that is weighted towards a good life for the wealthy and pain for the poor, that when the fortunate ones do transgress that they face the same trials as the meek and middle poor.

The story of the week was the no show in court of Vorayuth Yoovidhya, the young heir to the Red Bull Empire. After he killed a Thai policemen when running him down in his Ferrari in the wee hours on Sukhumvit Road he subsequently attempted to get off by politely asking one of his slaves, I mean servants, to own up to the crime. But such absurd temerity of a rich kid lending his sports car to his toilet cleaner even a paid-for judge or a wanton cop would surely not have the guts to buy into. The family turned to Plan B. He was arrested and paid (off) the dead cop’s family with the paltry sum of much less than the value of the car that dragged a mangled body down the sultry golden mile. He then, as is the MO of rich criminals in Thailand, left the country on bail. This week he didn’t show up to court because apparently he was ill. Fair enough, but isn’t it just really hard to imagine a street cleaner not turning up for court, after he’d say killed a pretty hi-so chick, because he had a runny nose? Because of his no show his speeding charge had to be dropped due to the statute of limitations, but there is still a warrant out for his arrest.

Reading Thai web forums you might conclude that Thai people in general don’t put too much trust in their justice system. You might also think that this kind of thing has happened before, or, actually just happens. It does of course, and I don’t have to make a list of incidents because they are more widespread than schools.

Just a couple of comments, that mirrored most other comments on the Pantip forum said:

“Thai cops can do anything, except beat the rich.”

“It’s all about the money, money, money…”

While the story, just like the one about the 16 year old girl from a ‘good’ family who caused a crash on a highway that killed 9 people and has not been punished, is one that has maddened many Thais, it’s also, I think, something people accept, a bit like they accept genital warts, rain, or tax on beer.

It’s what you might call a ‘learned helplessness’, a submission to a corrupt and seemingly immutable system. The kind of thing you must put up with, and perhaps hope one day you might get lucky and make friends with a VIP who carries a bunch of get-out-of-jail cards in his wallet. It’s a subplot in a badly functioning society.

This is not to say the justice system is not functioning. It’s functioning at a rare speed actually. Thailand has a hearty prison population, although the judges must be bored as no one fights their case even if they’re as innocent as the Guildford Four. Luckily for some there’s usually an under the table payment procedure the press never mention. Petty criminals do the time, especially those stubborn drug mules reaching for a fast buck, or those damned advocates of freedom vaguely deemed a threat to national security, but if you’re a proper criminal, say a geezer that users his political position to make billions of baht, or a murderous cop with clout, then the only chance of you being sent down is because someone bigger than you wants you out of the way.

And society has the iron nerve to call this a ‘justice system’. Let’s be honest, it’s an ‘Injustice System’.

The biggest threat to national security, and I take it that means the nation’s security, yours, mine, his, hers, is the fact an unjust society prevails. While there are courts and policemen to make us all feel good, much of this justice thing is a charade and we know it. I’m actually amazed the authorities keep the charade going. I guess it’s all part of the noble lie.

Only today did I write this highly amusing piece of brazen mendacity:

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said that the price hike was not profit orientated, but it was to reduce the number of drinkers in Thailand.”

I guess we are expected to believe almost anything.

We are born into injustice. How much money you have will most certainly be the barometer of how much justice you can acquire, the world over. In Thailand, unfortunately, this is accepted. No one would deny it, unless they were writing a press release. Nepotism and the patronage system are customary vices.

But perhaps there is hope in institutions such as the DSI (Department of Special Investigations), and perhaps the new generation won’t think that being a judge means you can get away with anything, even throwing your Khao Pad Gai at a bunch of bemused policemen. Maybe in the future when a politician’s son shoots and kills a man in a nightclub he might see the inside of jail cell.

I have nothing against this young Red Bull heir. I’m not harboring working class rage or snobbery. I don’t even think that his going to jail will help him, or help anyone else. He won’t be rehabilitated, no one is. Jail is a rotten concept, but it’s all we have right now. The idea of punishment is nasty in every sense. But his impunity sends a nastier stink across society. If he does get away with this it’s another smack in the face to the majority of Thai people, and I wonder how many slaps the masses can inure.


James Austin Farrell