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Monday, July 26, 2021

President of Supreme Court Discusses Income Inequality in Thai Justice System

He listened to comments from the public and his colleagues.

The President of the Supreme Court at Thammasat University.

When: November 5th, 2020

Where: Thammasat University

Perpetrators: none

Victims: none

What: Mr. Sai Ketwattanaphan, President of the Supreme Court, gave a special talk around a topic entitled, “Prisons for the Poor: the Reality.” He encouraged feedback from people from all walks of life from across the country when putting together his talk. This worked phenomenally. The response was overwhelming, with 60% of the comments received being from judiciary officials, and 40% sent in by citizens, which were said to reflect the feelings of ordinary Thai people. Mr. Ketwattanaphan said that these comments can help the court inform future policies and address problems that need to be solved.

The President laid out a few questions and ideas in his talk that he wanted people in audience to consider. The central of them being, are prisons really for the poor?

He said that some doubt sentencing because the court treats poor people unequally. Mr. Ketwattanaphan wasn’t sure if this was true or not. he said that research in Thailand and abroad shows that most prisoners are poor. However, there isn’t much clarification on what classifies what poor and rich mean in any given context.

The President also raised the question of the poor and rich doing different types of crimes. He said this is common sense. Rich people will have more opportunities in life: to work, study, have businesses. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’d be less prone to crime, it’s just that the nature of the crimes would be different. The poor would do crime out of desperation or need like burglary or robbery, whereas the rich would do more sophisticated white-collar crime, which is more complicated.

Mr. Ketwattanaphan later discussed some statistics out of Thailand. In addressing the question of how many poor and rich people are in prison, he brought up the numbers from 2018. Around 680,000 people were arrested in 2018, out of which 90,000 were imprisoned, accounting for 16.5%. The rest were either released on bail or simply paid fines or probation. He then asked what % of those 90,000 were rich and poor. He stated that the figure hasn’t been researched in Thailand or elsewhere.

His conclusion was that the definitions of rich and poor need to be clarified. Further, he said that since we don’t know how to define rich and poor, then necessarily the prison has poor people, but it’s impossible to determine the percentage at this current date. He said that he hopes more data is recorded around this to make policy decisions with more accuracy

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My take: I think the President’s comments about the justice system are fair and reasonable. First, I respect that he made a call out for comments from the public, and that 40% of the ones he received responded. That’s a good sign. And that he was willing to take their comments into consideration for policy is another good sign.

Although some might disagree with his conclusions. I’m not so sure myself about his claim that there aren’t statistics out there on wealth inequality, conviction, and incarceration rates. Perhaps he just doesn’t know about that data that exists. Now, he might be right in saying they don’t keep track of it in Thailand, but he assumed they don’t in other countries as well. It’s a myopic and hasty thing to say. I will watch to see if Mr. Ketwattanaphan gives any more talks and report when he does.

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Source: http://policenews.co.th/

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