Judgement day and a prayer for calm
There’s a potential powder keg in the thousands of people meeting outside the court for tomorrow’s Yingluck verdict
Tomorrow is eagerly and anxiously awaited by both supporters and critics of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Political Office Holders is scheduled to deliver its verdict in the much-publicised negligence case against her.
While observers and analysts divided as to what the outcome will be, everyone is agree on at least one aspect of the day – thousands of people are likely to gather outside the courthouse to give Yingluck their moral support. Estimates differ widely. Deputy Premier and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon reckons there’ll be more than 1,000 supporters out. The Metropolitan Police are braced for about 3,500. But red-shirt leaders expect as many as 10,000.
Government figures have offered repeated assurances that independent Yingluck supporters from the provinces will be allowed to gather freely in Bangkok for their planned mass assembly outside the courthouse. But they also warned that legal action would be taken against anyone who hires people to act as supporters or arranges free trips for them to travel in large numbers.
In the meantime, red-shirt leaders – particularly those from the umbrella United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship – have pointed to authorities’ attempts to prevent those same supporters from travelling to the capital. They also claim that security forces been closely monitoring the movements of key red-shirt leaders and advising them against urging citizens to go to the courthouse to back the ex-PM.
The gathering tomorrow will not be the first one for Yingluck supporters. They have assembled outside the court many times before during the months of the hearings, all of which she was obliged by court order to attend. In what became a familiar sight, every time Yingluck appeared for a hearing, hundreds of people described as her supporters were gathered there to greet her, earning headlines all the while. About 1,000 citizens assembled on August 1 when Yingluck gave her closing statement in court.
Observers have warned of possible violence or attempts to ignite public unrest as soon as the judges hand down their verdict in the case. We just hope they’re wrong about that.
Whatever the court verdict is, we hope that both supporters and detractors of Yingluck will accept it with calm. Any disagreement or dissatisfaction with the judgement should be aired in a lawful manner – such as through an appeal or public debate.
Any violent reaction or attempt to spark unrest would be unacceptable, and legal action would have to be taken against anyone irresponsible enough to be involved.
Obviously, in any court case, the verdict cannot be expected to satisfy both plaintiff and defendant. But there are people who praise the judicial system only when they win a case, while branding the judges as unjust should they lose. In the past, such sore losers organised street protests after court rulings they regarded as unfair to them. In the end there was unrest and riots that led to loss of life and damage to property.
The lesson to be learned in all this is an expensive one. Such occurrences should not be allowed to happen again. To endorse such tactics is to accept violence and mob rule and valid means of swaying public opinion, and can only harm society.