By WICHIT CHAITRONG
Insights from a new book on the history of legal philosophy may prove helpful for people pondering potential solutions to the country’s prolonged political conflict and the highly sensitive lese majeste law.
“Prawatisart Kwamkid Nitipratchaya”, which can be translated as “The History of Legal Philosophy”, written by well-known legal academic Worachet Pakeerat, has come out at the right time.
The time is right because Thailand is in the process of transition from junta rule to an elected government, which is expected to be formed after general elections early next year.
Many people have blamed the Thai judicial system for facilitating the repeated military coups and it is equally a part of today’s deep political conflicts.
Many are intrigued why Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha continues to exercise the absolute power he enjoys under Article 44 of the interim constitution when there is a new Constitution already in place.
And many are also wondering whether Prayut could use his power under Article 44 even after the election, before a new government is sworn in.
Worachet’s book does not directly dwell on the current legal issues in Thailand, but readers might find answers in the book by applying its knowledge of legal philosophy to answer current or future issues.
And yes, during the book launch, the author did say that Prayut could continue to wield such broad powers.
More than that, readers will find themselves taken into the past, from the times of ancient Greece.
The book explains why Socrates, one of the greatest philosophers in ancient Greece, accepted the death penalty and turned down a chance to flee.
The dramatic event led to one of the key questions of legal philosophy regarding respecting the law and the principle of a court verdict.
The book also looks at the personal lives and ideas of many philosophers of law, including Gustav Radbruch, who was a well-known German legal philosopher in the 20th century and also Germany’s minister of justice during the early Weimar period.
German judges adopted the so-called Radbruch Formula to back their verdicts regarding unjust laws enforced during the Nazi era and unjust laws in the former East Germany before the unification of East and West Germany.
The Radbruch Formula in simple language states that laws may be unjust but they are legally binding, and that judges have to apply them. However, if those laws are “unbearably unjust”, then they are null and void and judges should not apply them.
German judges did not apply unjust laws enforced during the Adolf Hitler era to disputes that occurred during Nazi rule, but were brought to court after the end of World War II.
After German unification, the German court punished former eastern German soldiers who had shot dead those who tried to climb over the Berlin Wall to escape the communist state. The court dismissed the defence that their actions were in line with East German law so they were protected by those laws.
After reading about life and law theory, readers might wonder whether Thai judges one day will adopt such a theory and question some laws that have been a source of human rights abuses.
The lese majeste law is one, as many scholars argue that it has been used as a weapon to attack political opponents.
Worachet is a member of the Nitirat group, which previously campaigned for the amendment of Article 112 of the Penal Code, or lese majeste law, and has been the target of heavy criticism by conservatives for his stance on the issue.
His 500-page work may create a better understanding of the modern legal system and open wider debate on the merits and demerits of the Thai legal and judicial system.