Photo: Phuket News.

Photo: Phuket News.

Military junta could learn much from royal’s research on criminal fairness and justice in Thailand.

As I was driving along my usual Bangkok bus route on 16 August, I was stopped for hours by nearly 73,000 blue-shirt wearing cyclists.

My passengers started getting a bit irritated, but then we learned it was for Queen Sirikit so it was no problem.

As the sea of cyclists approached, I saw a beautiful woman at the front take a selfie. That’s “Princess Bajrakitiyabha!” a passenger exclaimed. As I am single, I quickly stalked her on Google as the blue tide whooshed past.

I soon discovered that Princess Bajrakitiyabha, or Princess Pa, has been a consistent advocate of women’s welfare – especially the welfare of pregnant inmates and children born to female inmates. She even started a prison yoga program.

Princess Pa is the patron of a great many charities, perhaps too many to list here. Before becoming Ambassador to Austria (a position she now no longer occupies) she was the First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in New York from 2005-2006. Aung San Suu Kyi was only ever an Assistant Secretary!

Princess Pa has a law degree from Thammasat University, and a real doctorate from Cornell (among several other honorary degrees). I was immediately curious about her Cornell doctorate, given I am a bus driver who once attended the university (but dropped out).

So I searched and found her thesis on ProQuest. The abstract to her 2005 Doctor of Judicial Science (SJD) dissertation begins:

This dissertation addresses the issues of fundamental fairness in the criminal justice process in Thailand. Its basic inquiry is whether criminal suspects and defendants in criminal cases, most of whom are poor and less educated, have adequate protection against powerful state law enforcement mechanisms, both in terms of a defendant’s basic rights and the implementation of those rights in actual practice.

Since I have been beaten up by both Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts at different rallies, and thrown in prison briefly, I found this abstract very intriguing. I still have many legal costs. So I tried to buy the thesis for around 1,500 baht on the ProQuest site.


That is my entire wage for a fortnight, but I thought it might help my case since if I could adopt Princess Pa’s position on fairness, the courts might be more lenient on me next time. The transaction went through smoothly, but then it would not download?

So I called ProQuest via Skype and the nice American lady said she was not sure why I could not download it but that I could have a full refund. The refund would take another two weeks. This would mean I would have to borrow from my brother to eat Pad Thai, again.

Also hungry for answers, I wondered why I could not download the thesis. Had Princess Pa embargoed it because what she argues is sensitive given the post-2006 coup political environment? What would reading her thesis with post-2006 coup glasses illuminate? If Princess Pa was to talk about her thesis openly would it anger the military?

Ajarn Pavin Chachavalpongpun once highlighted Princess Chulabhorn’s potentially partisan politics. And of course we must remember Princess Pa is the daughter of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, apparently in lock-step with a certain former prime minister who must not be named lest we be damned by our caw thi spirits.

But I am sure Princess Pa is smart enough to avoid playing into such partisanship while being able to tell us what she really thinks.

As I sat in traffic I wondered what Princess Pa was thinking right then.

The burden of being part of Thailand’s first family with a doctorate in law about ‘fairness’ must weigh heavily in these trying times. But perhaps it would be a good time to talk about her research.

Maybe the Junta could learn something from Princess Pa. I certainly hope they will.

I can’t afford to keep paying trainee lawyers from Assumption University to help me avoid going to prison because of my big mouth.

Ricardo Mathews is a pseudonym. The writer is a scholar of Southeast Asia and may or may not be a bus driver.