22 May 2024

When Vorayuth Yoovidhya crashed his supercar into a motorcycle, killing a police officer, Yingluck Shinawatra was Thailand’s prime minister and few people heard of Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. At the time, the majority of the world’s population only knew Donald Trump as “Mr Miss Universe”. Leicester City, who pulled off one of the greatest sporting miracles in 2016, were not even in the Premier League. The youngest member of the popular all-girl BNK48 generation was seven years old.

 

What looked then like a solid fatal hit-and-run incident that took place under alleged influences of alcohol and/or drugs remains unsettled as of today, with everyone blaming everyone for the fact that the case has been dragging on so unbelievably and pathetically long. Over the past two weeks, four committees have been set up that the public know of, and how many sub-committees those committees have formed is a question that would only make the case sound more ridiculous.

 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, still reeling from the “VIP scandal” related to COVID-19, is understandably bearing the brunt of the outrage triggered by prosecutors’ decision to drop the Vorayuth case. Many things related to the case happened under his watch, but pointing fingers at him or any political system may inadvertently serve to promote the ills that led to the Vorayuth fiasco in the first place.

 

The case was dropped while Prayut was in charge. The crash, related investigation and curious liaison between the police and prosecutors occurred when Yingluck was prime minister. While Prayut oversaw a system that set Vorayuth free, at least for now, she supervised a system that weakened evidence against him and allowed him to keep postponing essential legal procedures. Both systems are at fault, for outrageously helping Vorayuth if he is guilty, and for failing to clear his name in case he is not.

 

In 2013, one year after the incident, police reportedly ignored prosecutors’ request for Yorayuth’s arrest, despite the former sending a report on the case to the latter. Also, charges related to violation of a speed limit and careless driving leading to property damage and human harm were inexplicably allowed to expire.

Between April 2016 and March 2017, under Prayut’s reign, Vorayuth managed to postpone 7 schedules to meet the prosecutors. In September of 2017, another charge, related to failure to immediately help the victim and inform the authorities, was allowed to expire.

The entire case was dropped this year, with the police and public prosecutors in complete agreement.

 

It’s common for rich Thai suspects to flee legal action and re-emerge after a while to live a comfortable life as if nothing has happened. Business firms never consider wrongdoings of their executives a big commercial setback. In Thailand, a major TV entrepreneur ran away from the law without causing any business harm to his company. Insider trading charges could do nothing commercially to another big firm. When children from rich or powerful families were responsible for fatal accidents, they just lay low until social storms pass. Fears that the current legal storms battling Vorayuth were just temporary are, therefore, perfectly justified.

 

Politically, Thailand has been barking up the wrong tree. True “equality” has less to do with whether grass-root people can vote to select senators or not than fairness in the day-to-day justice process. Rich suspects have not only been exploiting weaknesses in the justice system of this country, but they can also bide their time, hoping that they can be helped more or less by political differences dividing Thailand.

 

So much has happened between 2012, when Thailand was having a Constitution not as maligned as this one, and this year, when the public are still unsure how fast Yorayuth was driving his Ferrari and whether there was drug or alcohol abuse involved. Instagram was only two years old back then and did not yet explode into a popular social media platform as it is today. Thailand has seen another coup and is facing another charter amendment push. The first of the Avengers films was shown in the same year as the car crash and the last one has already come out.

Just when many thought so much has changed, the Thai justice system has gone and dropped the Vorayuth case.

By Tulsathit Taptim