15 Nov Thai criminal justice system worse than lesé majesty law
Thai society has been captivated for months in the developing protests against King Maha Vajiralongkorn, in defiance of the country’s strict lesé majesty laws forbidding anti-monarchism. A more sinister story has been playing out for years and has lately re-surfaced.
Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya, an heir to the Red Bull fortune, admits to hitting a policeman while driving a Ferrari in 2012. A criminal investigation opened into the death established that the body was dragged for 50 metres under the car; expert witnesses testified to impact speed exceeding 150 kph; cocaine was found in Mr Vorayuth’s blood at the time. Yet despite incriminating evidence, 8 years on the elite “Boss” remains a free man, and indeed has never once appeared in court because he was “travelling abroad”.
The case highlights deep-rooted challenges in Thailand concerning criminal justice, protection of elites and corruption. Gradually, deferential Thai society is asking why they should put up with it all. In 2019, Thai prosecutors ordered a new police investigation which, in recent weeks, has demonstrated new energy towards bringing a prosecution – coinciding with the ongoing lesé majesty demonstrations after years of inaction. Parliament, the public prosecutor, police and an independent Prime Ministerial panel are now all actively – if belatedly – probing the case.
Unlike King Vajiralongkorn, “Boss” Yoovidhya has no constitutional support and his current whereabouts are unknown; a warrant for his arrest was finally issued last month. If the groundswell of public dismay in Thailand doesn’t manage to wrest power from the King or even hold “Boss” to account, it might at least bring improvement to the country’s criminal justice system.