13 February 2012. The witness hearing in the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk in Songkhla Provincial Court was postponed when the witness failed to appear, citing the unnecessary difficulty of travelling from Bangkok.
Somyos had been transported from Bangkok to Songkhla because the witness to be heard was registered as resident in Songkhla Province. In fact he lives and studies in Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok, and asked to give testimony at the Criminal Court in Bangkok. This will now happen on 18 April.
At some danger to his health, Somyos had earlier been transported to courts in Sa Kaew, Phetchabun and Nakhon Sawan for earlier hearings of prosecution witnesses registered in those provinces.
15 March 2012. The trial of 10 leading civil society activists was today granted a lengthy postponement at the request of the prosecution. After producing 21 witnesses since the trial began in late February, the prosecution asked for the remaining witnesses to be heard between January and March next year.
Blaming defence lawyers for taking up too much time by asking too many questions, the prosecution claimed that a forthcoming personnel rotation would require the appointment of a new set of officials. This led to the request for a 9-month delay, which the court granted.
30 April 2012. The Criminal Court, two and half months after the last session to take evidence, postponed reading the verdict on the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, reportedly due to the large amount of material to be reviewed in the case.
The trial, for alleged offences committed in mid-2008, began in February 2011 and has seen changes in both judges and prosecutors. After numerous postponements and delays, the last set of hearings was held in February 2012.
The apparently last-minute decision to postpone the verdict for a month came in the face of intense international interest in Thailand’s protection of the right to freedom of expression. The prosecution of third-party intermediaries had been widely condemned by the UN, press associations and human rights groups.
31 June 2012. Scenes of chaos were seen at Nakhon Phanom Provincial Court when a Corrections Department truck mistakenly brought remand prisoners to hearings in the wrong court.
Following the new court policy of moving trials to the provinces of residence of witnesses, thousands of prisoners are being shunted about the country for hearings in different provinces. This has put a severe logistical strain on the resources available for such moves.
In this case, a group of prisoners from Bangkok were due for hearings in neighbouring Nakhon Pathom province. Unfortunately, the driver of the prison van misread his instructions and instead transported the unlucky prisoners to the far border with Lao in the northeast.
‘We started banging on the back of the cab when we went past Don Muang and realized he was on the wrong road,’ said one shackled prisoner. ‘But they wouldn’t listen. When we had a piss stop in Khorat, we tried to explain his mistake, but he said he wasn’t going to listen to a bunch of ignorant convicts.’
A Corrections Department spokesperson regretted the incident, which he blamed on the long hours that the driver had recently had to work because of the new policy. He said the prisoners would be transported back to Nakhon Pathom just as soon as they notified the witnesses of the new trial dates. But this was proving difficult since all of them actually lived in other provinces.
He also said that in order to prevent similar errors in the future, all drivers were being put through a basic literacy course in the names of Thai provinces.
31 September 2012. All trials in Ang Thong, Ayuthaya, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Bangkok and Samut Prakan have been postponed for 2 months because judges fear that flooding may affect their homes and they need to protect their property.
‘Last year’s floods meant that a number of judges could not make it to court,’ said a Ministry of Justice official. ‘Although we do not know if this year’s floods will be anywhere near as severe, we prefer to err on the side of caution. We are particularly worried about the effect of floodwater on judge’s official cars, since this can cause unsightly rust spots.’
Asked if prisoners in jails in these provinces will also be moved, the official said this was unlikely. ‘We have determined that prisoners should be able to sleep standing up in thigh-deep water for about a week. If the floods go on for longer, their chains start to get excessively rusty, so they will be moved as a humanitarian gesture.’
31 November 2012. Following its re-opening after the ‘flood break’, when in fact there was no flooding, Bangkok Criminal Court failed to resume operations and all cases were indefinitely postponed when the elevator for judicial staff broke down.
‘We suspect that because it hasn’t been used for weeks, it just sort of jammed solid and stopped functioning,’ said a court official. ‘We get the same thing with judges’ brains sometimes.
‘Members of the judiciary can’t be expected to climb 9 storeys,’ she said. When it was pointed out that defendants, prosecutors, lawyers and the general public all managed to get to courtrooms using the public lifts, the spokesperson was momentarily taken aback.
‘You can’t expect judges to use the same facilities as ordinary people,’ she expostulated. ‘They’re supposed to live in a different world.’