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Fighting for VirtueJustice and Politics in Thailand$
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Duncan McCargo

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449994

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449994.001.0001

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Legalism and Revival of Treason

Legalism and Revival of Treason

(p.1) Introduction Legalism and Revival of Treason
Fighting for Virtue

Duncan McCargo

Cornell University Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the political trials that were a marked feature of public life in Thailand in the decade after 2006. The Thai legal system is primarily dedicated to the preservation of peace and order, rather than to more liberal goals such as promoting rights-based justice, or even to the conservative, technocratic objective of promoting the rule of law. However, the conduct of political trials in the final decade of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's reign led perversely to a decline in peace and order, as the justice system itself became a focus for discontent. Banning pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties twice in just over eighteen months, while acquitting the Democrat Party on similar charges, provoked accusations of “double standards.” Jailing various pro-Thaksin figures for long spells on the basis of dubious lèse-majesté or cybercrime charges that were framed as acts of treason beggared belief in a twenty-first century democracy. Conflicts between two major political factions were acted out in courtrooms that became proxy sites for much larger, more unmanageable, and unwinnable contests. This book then focuses on a particular period of Thailand's judicial politics: from the contentious April 2006 general election, until the passing away of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October 2016. This was the era of tulakanphiwat, most commonly translated as “judicialization”: an era when the courts were apparently given a special—if rather unclear—royal mission to solve the country's intractable political problems.

Keywords:   political trials, Thai legal system, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, justice system, Thaksin Shinawatra, lèse-majesté, treason, judicial politics, judicialization, Thai courts

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