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Anon Nampa, a lawyer and critic of the monarchy, has requested the Judicial Commission and the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court to investigate Attakarn Foocharoen, Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, whom he accuses of meddling in his court case without having any authority to do so.

A file photo of Anon Nampa.

The issue involves charges against Anon for royal defamation and violating the Computer Crimes Act by posting a letter to King Vajiralongkorn on Facebook during a protest on 8 November 2020 in regard to monarchy reform.

Protesters at the Democracy Monument march to petition the king

He and other 4 activists who also wrote letters to the King were charged. The Court held witness and evidence hearings on 18 July 2023.

However, after the hearings and with a trial scheduled, Anon received a letter on 4 August, calling an additional hearing, and stating that the witnesses examined in the previous hearing were not related to the event at issue.

The letter was signed by Attakarn and dated 21 July.

Anon views Attakarn’s order as unlawful as he was not a member of the committee considering the case. By law, it is the responsibility of the judge who oversees the case to plan the trial process and approve what witnesses shall be heard. As a defendant, he feared that Attakarn’s intervention would infringe the judge’s independence.

“It may be that Mr Attakarn Foocharoen, a judicial official in the position of Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, which is an administrative position, interfered with the consideration of the case by other judicial officers, or constituted an action that causes the judgement of other judicial officers to lack independence or justice according the Act on Judicial Service of the Courts of Justice B.E. 2543 Section 66,” stated Anon’s petition.

As Attakarn holds a high-level position in the Court, Anon asked the President of the Supreme Court to transfer him to other courts unrelated to the investigation for the sake of fairness and transparency in the investigation.

At 13.30 of 31 August, Anon went to the Criminal Court to submit the petition to the President of the Supreme Court who heads the Judicial Commission, to the Judicial Commission, and to the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court.

In an interview with Prachatai, Anon said the submission went well, but could not tell when exactly the consideration will take place.

He insisted that the trial must be free from interference by Court administrators. His case was not the only one involving Attakarn; there were many other political cases where Attakarn used his executive power to reschedule appointments, affecting the lives of the defendants.

The Court's impartiality regarding political cases is in question when more than 1,440 Emergency Decree violations, plus 228 royal defamation cases have been filed against protesters since the massive surge of calls for political and monarchy reform in 2020.

On 2 August, Ratchadapisek Criminal Court handed down a 1-year jail sentence to 7 people who were arrested by crowd control police on 11 August 2021 at a protest staged by the Thalufah group at Bangkok’s Victory Monument, claiming that the protest caused public disorder. Despite the justification for the Emergency Decree being to control the spread of Covid-19, this aspect has been removed from the Court consideration.

Before the ruling, it appeared that the judge arrived at the courtroom over an hour late. A defence lawyer confirmed that the judge was consulting with the Deputy Chief Justice of the Criminal Court, a step which in her experience happens only in political cases.

Regarding the possibility of interference in political trials, Anon said there were many times when judges consulted with the Court administrators, despite having the authority to make decisions. Without making any specific allegations, he questioned if this measure is significant to the point where it affects judges’ independence. 

“This has to be left for the Judicial Commission to consider,” said Anon.

Another prominent case of intervention from the higher-up was in October 2019 when Khanakorn Pianchana, 49, a judge in Yala Provincial Court, shot himself in the chest in his courtroom on Friday 4  October after he dismissed a case against 5 people charged with murder.

Khanakorn posted on his Facebook page before the verdict that he may face being fired without a pension because he exposed the meddling by the Regional Chief Justice in the decision-making of the Court. 

In the verdict, Khanakorn wrote that he had experienced this kind of meddling before when he worked in the Pattani Court. At that time, 3 military officers were accused of murder. The Regional Chief Justice threatened to use his power to transfer him out of the region unless Khanakorn got into a car sent by the Regional Chief Justice and met him right away. Khanakorn agreed to go by himself and not in the car.

In front of the Regional Chief Justice, he was harshly criticized over the format and writing style of his verdict - a tactic to weaken his confidence. The Regional Chief Justice asked him to “correct” the verdict according to the guidelines, in which the verdict would change the murder to an act of necessity. Khanakorn compromised on the format and writing style, but not the content.

What explains the judge’s attempted suicide?

After his first suicide attempt, the Judicial Commission initiated investigated him for violations of judicial officials' discipline. He was subsequently transferred to the Court of Appeal Region 5 in Chiang Mai, at which time he was further investigated for committing criminal offences under the Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, Fireworks and Imitation Firearms Act.

On 7 March 2020, an initial investigation found that there had been no improper interference. However, on 7 March 2020, Khanakorn shot himself at his house in Chiang Mai and later died at the hospital. In his prepared letter, he stated that the whole investigations were "unbearable" and "sorrowful". 

Khanakorn insisted in the letter that what he had done was made with honesty, with the will to return the people justice.

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