'Thai courts can resolve crisis'

THAILAND - Supreme Administrative Court president Hassavut Vititviriyakul has dismissed the idea of dividing the country to end the on-going political crisis, saying the idea is "too far-fetched" and that the courts can help find solutions to bring about peace.

Administrative Court judges are hearing significant cases that have captured public interest, such as challenges against the transfer of former National Security Council chief Thawil Pliansri, the Bt350 billion (S$13.6 billion) water management scheme, and the all important rice-pledging scheme.

Hassavut rejected the idea of appointing anyone or any council to unlock the political impasse, saying this wasn't necessary.

However, he said in order for the courts to become an institution people can depend on at times of crisis like this, judges must ensure that they hear cases in a straightforward manner, without political bias.

While Administrative Court judges have political opinions, they should not voice their thoughts publicly, he said.

If judges can make people understand why they arrive at a decision, people should accept court verdicts and not resort to violence, or force, or seek to establish a new body to solve problems.

Appointing a new organisation to solve these problems would raise questions about the righteousness of selection processes and the make-up of an organisation, he said.

"But just when courts begin to hear cases, there was a shooting at the court premises. I don't understand why Thais lack the tolerance to accept different opinions,'' he said.

Hassavut said he had seen differences in opinions between the two political camps build up over a long period of time so he believed it was not possible to force them to accept each other's opinions overnight.

The court president was not optimistic that talks would bring solutions even though he wished the problems would end.

"One side is black and the other is white. If talks mean to compromise then it needs to get grey. "The question is whether it is right. One side is corrupt and the other is not corrupt. To compromise means to be corrupt at one level. We have to ask the people if that is acceptable. The thought that corruption is acceptable - if corrupt people share our interest -- has gradually undermined Thai society,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the political divide has generated the extreme idea of dividing the country as a solution, but Hassavut said the notion was too far-fetched. "Most Thais do not want the conflicts to deteriorate to the point of dividing the country. I am confident deep down everyone still holds a sense of being Thai,'' he said.

However, he admitted it was legally viable to hold a public referendum to see if a majority of people agree with amending the Constitution to divide the country into states and not a single state as it is. "The point is should we allow such a public referendum that adversely affects the country's sovereignty to be held?'' he said.

He dismissed claims that the country should be divided because divisions were too deep to fix. "I want to ask people from the two political camps: have they known each other personally? Is it true they cannot stand one another? They resort to violence because of a lack of conscience. I urge them to exercise the right judgement,'' he said.

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