Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thaksin Shinawatra's American Doctoral Thesis

In May 1979, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra completed his Ph.D thesis. The title is "An Analysis of the Relationship Between the Criminal Justice Educational Process and the Attitude of the Student Toward the Rule of Law". Thaksin completed his Ph.D from the Faculty of the Institute of Contemporary Correctionsand the Behavioral Sciences at Sam Houston State University.

A few months ago back, BP obtained a photocopy of the Ph.D thesis from a reliable reader. The reader, who BP is known for more than 8 years, explained the background to how they obtained the dissertation and BP has little doubt it is real. There are a few different copies floating around Bangkok. Since obtaining a hard copy BP has read it and scanned it - it took longer than expected after the first attempt at scanning it was a miserable failure (BP learnt about British A4 and American letter size paper are different and shrinking to A4 size cut off an inch of text...).

A copy of the complete thesis is available from here (PDF - 22MB). BP makes no guarantee on how well it will print and it was hand-scanned so quality does vary throughout, but it is certainly legible.

It is certainly not the best piece of academic scholarship, but it does provide some insight into the person who wrote it. Pasuk Phongpaichit of Chulalongkorn University wrote in 2004 (PDF):

Thaksin studied jurisprudence, and his PhD thesis is about the rule of law (Thaksin 1979). But in the election campaign which brought him to power, he argued that law was often an obstacle which prevented political leaders from solving problems.

Pasuk and Baker in Thaksin (2009) at page 40:

Thaksin's doctoral thesis begins from the fascinating question of why "criminal justice practitioners" tend to break the law. The opening page reproduces press reports of police, judges and jailers beating and otherwise abusing people. His research examines whether education may help. He tests whether studying criminal justice at Sam Houston State University improves the students' attitude to the rule of law. The answr, based on 860 questionnaires, is that it does, but only a a very little bit (Thaksin 1979).

Then in the footnote at page 376:

Perhaps, the most intriguing finding of the research is that among students enrolling at Sam Houston State, those electing to study criminal justice hae the least respect for the rule of law when they arrive. Most of thesis consists of tables generated by SPSS. The test (excluding appendices) is fifteen thousand words. There is no reference to Thailand and the text talks of "our legal system" meaning the US.

Below are some excerpts from Thaksin's Ph.D thesis that BP wishes to highlight. The highlighted passages are not a summary of the thesis. The passages are on the beginning as that is where it is easiest to read between the lines and deduce Thaksin's thoughts or were interesting in light of the war on drugs. All emphasis has been added by BP:

Pages 3-4:

This study concerned two basic philosophic models of the criminal justice process (crime control vs. due process) pointed out by Packer (1968). The Crime Control Model is based on the proposition that the repression of criminal conduct is by far the most important function to be performed by the criminal process. The failure of law enforcement to bring criminal conduct under tight control is viewed as leading to the breakdown of public order and thence to the disappearance of an important condition of human freedom. The Due Process Model is based on the doctrine of legal guilt, i.e., a person is not to be held guilty of crime merely on a showing that in all probability, based upon reliable evidence, he did factually what he is said to have done. These two models comprise a continuum, with the models at the poles

At page 8:

Such a position applies equally well to practitioners in criminal justice; it is imperative that they too apply the rule of law with great humility. No person in authority is infallible, nor does he have the right to misuse or abuse that authority invested in him by practices primarily motivated by personal bias or the expectation of personal gain

At page 10, after reviewing definitions of the rule of law:

Thus, the concept of rule of law is a broad generic one. It can be stated in many terms, but one's acceptance of a set definition will depend upon his own personal biases and prejudices. Ultimately, then, it may be better to let rule of law itself be operative rather than leave its interpretation to each separate practitioner.

At page 11:

Kadish and Kadish (1973) write, "Punishment exists to prevent and condemn violations, not to offer citizens the option of committing them at the cost of imprisonment" [p. 95]. Thus, the restraining punishment must be clear to the offender before a crime is committed; he must know, too, that he cannot get off with a lesser sentence than someone else influential might receive. This should leave little chance for the citizen to bargain. Kadish and Kadish (1973) reemphasize this in the following statement: "According to the law and order model, the citizen's obli-gation consists of unqualified compliance with the mandatory rule of the state" [p. 96]. Although this idea of total compliance is expected, it must be realized that this is an ideal model, and that in practice there is somewhat less than full compliance to the rule of law, no matter how strictly the authority sticks to the rule of law.

At page 12:

This judge and jury role assumption'on their part was far above their right "to do so. The violation of the rule of law is paramount when it reaches this proportion. Skolnick (1975) concludes that the "standards for applying the rule of law' are developed by the courts in the setting of specific practices" [p". 17]. Neverthe-less, he also realistically concludes that "... appli-cations of the rule of law as well as conceptions of order will vary" [p. 17]

At page 13, has one of the clearest examples of Thaksin expressing a personal opinion, in relation to the issue of discretion excercised by criminal justice practitioners:

Before discussion begins, the author feels it imperative to point out that there are tenable arguments on both sides of the contrasting topic of application of rule of law'. The author does not presume to present a panacea to resolution but will attempt to identify areas of discretion which relate to the rule of law

Then, at pages 14-15 he quotes approvingly from Rawls:

Rawls (1971) points out why we cannot always enforce the rule of law :

Sometimes we may be forced- to allow certain breaches of its percepts if we are to mitigate - the loss of freedom from social evils that cannot be removed, and to aim for the least injustice that conditions allow [p. 243]

BP: Can anyone see a theme by Thaksin here?

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