11 July 2024

The spokesman for the Thai judiciary says that the accusation of interference by a senior judge in a case handled by former Yala provincial court chief judge Kunakorn Pienchana was groundless and that the disciplinary probe into the conduct of Kunakorn is still in progress.

Kunakorn shot himself to death this morning at his residence in Chiang Mai province in the second suicide bid, after his failed attempt last October in a Yala provincial courtroom, in protest over alleged interference in a criminal case that he handled.

Mr. Saravudh Benjakul, secretary-general of the Office of Judicial Affairs, said today that the Judicial Commission set up a panel to investigate Kunakorn’s accusation of interference. A panel was also set up to probe Kunakorn for carrying and discharging a firearm in a courtroom.

 

While the two probes were underway, Kunakorn was transferred to Chiang Mai to assist at the Region 5 Appeals Court by screening case files, without adjudicating, in order to help ease his stress, said Mr. Saravudh. He added that the probe team found Kunakorn’s accusation to be baseless and that that the firearms charges against Kunakorn were the responsibility of the Yala provincial police.

Former and active opposition MPs, meanwhile, demanded judicial reform, describing Kunakorn’s suicide as a failure of the Thai judicial process.

 

Former Future Forward secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul said the suicide reflected the frustration of a judge, who could not speak openly about problems in the judiciary and the injustice he had witnessed. He said he was saddened by the judge’s death and urged all concerned to campaign for a change to the system of screening verdicts and the distribution of case files to judges.

Former chief strategist of the now defunct Thai Raksa Chart party, Chaturon Chaisaeng, said he hoped the death of Kunakorn would lead to reform of the justice system, so judges can be independent and free from influence.