January 20th, 2013
Opinion & Analysis by Burin Kantabutra
It’s refreshing to see justice served and I commend the Supreme Administrative Court for their adherence to the rule of law in deciding that the Royal Thai Police must compensate 24 villagers for using force to break up their peaceful protest against the Thai-Malaysian pipeline in 2002. The proverb, “They that make the laws must not break them” (John Ray) applies equally validly to those who enforce the laws, (if not more so)
The police said that the villagers were armed and blocked traffic, making the usage of force (which resulted in many injuries) necessary, but the court found that villagers had sharpened their flag poles to fight only after the police began using force to disperse them. Swords were found only on a few villagers, indicating that they were not systematically armed as claimed.
But what of the police commander who ordered the use of force?
Immediately after the incident, the police should have set up an investigative panel to find if their colleagues had used excessive force or not. If no such panel was established, then the police general responsible for that review should now be investigated for dereliction of duty. Also, with the Supreme Administrative Court’s verdict, it is clear that the police commander in charge should be held accountable for his actions under the law and removed from duty immediately.
Part of being held accountable is for paying for any court-ordered damages – in this case, 100,000 baht and lawyers’ fees, plus interest. This should not become a burden to law-abiding taxpayers, but charged personally against the commander ordering the illegal police action..
Will it be seen that under Prime Minister Yingluck’s administration that the police follow rule of law – including their commanders?