This is an edited transcript adapted the full text of the conversation in Thai , available on the “Hi Thaksin” website, which has been blocked to users in Thailand. The Bangkok Pundit webblog contains a longer edited version in Thai and English together with the original recording. Although the authenticity of the recording had not been confirmed at time of going to print, it has not been denied. The conversation pertains to attempts by the courts and bureaucrats to force the members of the national Election Commission to resign prior to the holding of a new general election after the results of the 2 April 2006 vote were nullified. The speakers are Supreme Court Secretary Virat Chinvinijkul, Supreme Court Judge Pairote Navanuch and an unidentified top-echelon government bureaucrat referred to as “Phi Phed”. Ultimately the commissioners refused to resign and the court was forced to act on the complaints against them.
Unidentified senior government official: Hello, I’m calling for Mr Jiap [Supreme Court Judge Pairote Navanuch].
Supreme Court Secretary Virat Chinvinijkul: Hello.
Official: [Apparently recognising the voice] Hello sir, how are you? Well?
Virat: I’m well, thank you.
Official: Today I saw the TV news. Oh boy. It… what’s going to happen to our nation? I’m really puzzled. Please help to get me on the right wavelength.
Virat: We’re not yet at the stage of a ruling [on the Election Commission (EC)], but there’s a discussion among our three courts [the Supreme Court, Supreme Administrative Court and Constitutional Court]… [and] we are not happy for the EC to continue. If this EC membership stays on things will go full circle. It’ll all come up again. We’re worried about this. The president of the Supreme Court has asked me, [Secretary to the President of the Supreme
Court] Jaran [Phakdeethanakun] and Mr Jiap to see if there’s a way for the EC to resign and then we’ll choose [new commissioners] from the Supreme Court.
Official: Is it possible to do this?
Virat: We can do it as per section 138 subsection 3 [of the 1997 Constitution]. It can be done. Since we have the chance, it’s asked why the Supreme Court doesn’t do so. We shouldn’t go fighting with others. We’re a court, we’re not children. But now the country’s situation has changed. It’s forcing the Supreme Court to act.
Official: To follow the Royal Address(es) [to senior judges on 25 April 2006 on the role of the courts in solving national crises].
Virat: Yes… and at this time some of us wondered why His Majesty directly praised the Supreme Court all the time. It’s because he sees ahead that [this matter] must end up in the Supreme Court. In fact now there’s no other way for it to go other than for the Supreme Court to choose the EC. You understand? It’s a deadlock. There’s no way out. It’s up to the EC to sacrifice itself, otherwise the country can’t go on.
Official: It can’t be like that, because His Majesty has seen that however it’s done the country must be able to go forward.
Virat: Yes… therefore His Majesty looks on the Supreme Court even more highly than we do ourselves. On that initial day [of the king’s address to the judges] I left with the president [of the court] stupefied that he had thrown the Supreme Court a heavy burden. We couldn’t come up with any ideas about what we could do to solve the country’s problems. But today the answer is clear that he saw that only we could solve the country’s problems.
Official: So it’s the key to assist in doing something. Virat: Yes…
Official: Today Mr. Jaran was interviewed while leaving [the court]. It was as if he was worried or…
Virat: At our court it’s like this… We can’t give a ruling [yet]. We can’t hoist the flag beforehand [give away our position].
Official: Oh, yes.
Virat: If we didn’t do like that then we wouldn’t be a court. But the point that everyone raises is if so then what will be next? We cannot allow an election under the current EC. The people probably wouldn’t accept it.
Virat: We must speak the truth.
Official: Yes, yes. We are at the stage that we have to speak the truth; have to show the cards.
Virat: It’s the time to speak the truth. I myself cannot say what I know against whom, right? But we are discussing how to get the country’s situation up.
Official: Now we have to proceed according to the Royal Address of His Majesty because His Majesty is the one whom everyone depends upon.
Virat: Yes, but we ourselves when making announcements don’t dare to mention the Royal Address because it would be like we just followed what he instructed. The foreigners won’t accept it.
Official: Yes, yes, as per our constitution. But was there agreement in today’s meeting or not?
Virat: This morning Mr Jiap [Supreme Court Judge Pairote Navanuch] had an urgent appointment, made yesterday. You can ask him to give a clue about what.
Official: So I want to ask you supposing that, okay, here’s one option that’s troubling [me]: the court’s observation that’s not a ruling; in this case if the EC says that, “To be clear [of blame] I’ll invite representatives of the Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, Administrative Court and representatives of all the political parties to meet in order to work out the next election process,” can it be done?
Virat: Well now we need to look at the state of the EC, right? At this time it’s not that society just wants a short cut. It can’t be about timing now. We’re talking about doing something unprecedented.
Official: Have you talked about it yet?
Virat: We’ve talked… One way is for us to join with the EC. [But] from the start everyone saw that it isn’t doable. It can’t be done. The people wouldn’t accept it.
Virat: We’ve thought that way; it’s not that we haven’t thought of it.
Therefore the only thing to be done is that there must be a new EC.
Official: So… to sum up, it’s the view of the court, from discussions, that there must be a new EC?
Virat: Yes, yes.
Official: Then please advise, how can I forewarn the government? (Laughing)
Virat: If you forewarn you must suggest to them to make sacrifices for the country. Then the court, we’ll send our people to be the EC, though I believe that the result of the next election won’t be different from the previous.
Official: Probably not.
Virat: Not different from the previous, but just so that everyone accepts it. I should say that whatever happens, to speak directly, [the] Thai Rak Thai [party of the then-prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra] won’t lose but maybe won’t get as much, that’s all.
Official: How much they get depends on their behaviour, on top of campaigning, [and other] activities.
Virat: But if they are stubborn I keep seeing that there will be bad consequences. We’ve closed the opening for the opposition and the people and… and…
Official: Hold fast to what we believe in or our ideas.
Virat: Yes, yes…
Official: I have to thank you a lot for helping me understand. Virat: Fine.Official: There’s one other matter… under the circumstances of the many particulars [of charges against the EC], the Administrative Court has accepted the case that has been lodged concerning the previous election; two, the [section] 157 charge [under the Penal Code] in the Criminal Court [for abuse of office]; three, then there’s the pending matter of… land inspectors. I’m not sure if there were any or not. Under the circumstances, I think that it’s another point for worry, [and] whether or not it is the EC itself or related persons [who are prosecuted]…
Virat: This thing… we discussed it too. I can say that the EC resigning would have a good effect on the cases being prosecuted. Certainly I can almost promise that it would have a good effect on what’s being dragged along. We have spoken and thought about it too.
Official: So they do something… give something…
Virat: Yeah… that’s it. They’ll be the sacrifice. Then everybody will have the feeling that, yeah, it’s finished. We Thais know that it’s like this. Official: Easily forgotten, easily forgiven. (Laughing)
Virat: Yes… what’s done is done. But if it’s dragged out, I have the feeling that, if so, you know the three courts, we’ll be united in the course of action. Therefore, there won’t be any way out. You understand what I’m saying?
Official: Yes, yes, I understand.
Virat: There’s no way to have the Criminal Court do anything else.
Official: We have to choose a legal way.
Virat: We can’t seek an audience [with the king]. We listen to what comes out. Whatever the court proceeds to do, it can’t be said that it’s following orders. We’re not doing so. [But] you know there’s a “link”, Mr Jiap.
Official: (Laughs) I know it’s Mr Jiap. He’s become the [movie/play] director.
Virat: Do you know? “He” knows everything, because the link from Mr Jiap goes to the Sisao house [of Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda]… because the Sisao house must report every morning at nine.
Official: Oh… every morning?
Virat: Yes. He has to go and come back every morning. In the morning before going into the meeting [of Supreme Court judges] “father” calls the president [of the court]. In short, His Majesty knows every step that we take. He has said that it should be faster than this. I feel like I can speak directly: I am worried. If they don’t resign, it’s worrying…. it’s worrying… We’ll have to follow what the Constitutional Court has decided…
Official: Constitutional law is intact because every institution follows it accordingly.
Virat: We have to follow it. What else can we do? But if they resign it’s over. It’ll all be over. You give it a try: take what I have said and see what you can do [to convince the EC to resign].
Official: I’ll forewarn the government that they should speak with the EC. I think that the government will be able to do it.
Virat: You have to speak. And I believe that the government will surely prevail. Believe me.
Official: And I see that no matter what, Thai Rak Thai is still popular. Virat: … Don’t be afraid. It’s better to go out in a dignified manner. Nobody
can go against a Royal Address. Official: No one opposes.
Virat: Talking, hanging around, people will look upon it badly. People see the government clearly. At some level inside people know [what is really going on], right?
Official: Let me speak to Mr Jiap a bit. Thank you very much. If there’s anything I can do to be of assistance, call me alright?
There’s information from an army spy, a spy of Big Jiew [General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh], who said that on May 6 the President of the Supreme Court had a Royal Audience in the late night. Is it true or not?
Supreme Court Judge Pairote Navanuch: No, it’s not. Official: If you say that then it must be so.
Pairote: It’s not true [information].
Official: The army spy who released that information… Pairote: It’s not true.
Official: It’s not true, huh?
Pairote: Now, the way out [of the problem with the EC] that I suggest, it’s the
same as what the court secretary suggests?
Official: It’s the most correct way.
Pairote: The most correct, huh?
Official: It’s like this: I must speak directly, I know [Pol. Gen.] Vassana [Puernlarp, the then-head of the EC]. I can go talk him into it.
Pairote: You must tell him. Otherwise it won’t be safe for him.
Official: Before discussing with you I talked with Vassana that if he quits all the damn annoying cases being prosecuted will be cleared up. [But if] guilt is determined [through a court verdict] then there is nothing he’ll be able to do.
Pairote: Yes, it’s better to advise like this. It’s guaranteed. You can be sure of it.
Official: No… If I speak I don’t know if he will listen or not to the words of a junior. He has a lot of experience.
Pairote: A lot of experience can land someone in jail.
Official: No, my meaning was that I’m a small person, going to speak to him.
Pairote: He’s not a man. He doesn’t know all the facts. Now who’s big? No one is big now. Only the Criminal Court is the highest.
Official: Okay. Thank you very much. Good luck. If there is anything, call. Pairote: Yes, goodbye.