Dictatorship on Trial
Coups and the Future of Justice in Thailand
Tyrell Haberkorn




Every decision under the NCPO—whether seemingly about joining a political protest, not answering a summons to report, or opposing the draft constitution—was also a decision about the legitimacy of the 22 May 2014 coup specifically and coups as a mode of rule generally. Over the series of thirteen “successful” coups, meaning that power was seized, beginning with the transformation from absolute to constitutional monarchy on 24 June 1932, the grave crime of the coup has become the primary mode of the relationship between the people and the state. The foreclosure of justice builds on a series of amnesty laws and court decisions, beginning with the end of absolute monarchy, which cast the illegal seizure of power as legal and made coups a normal mode of transition from one government to another. Dissidents are not the only ones with a history: those who rely on the preservation of injustice for their power also accumulate lessons over time. A history of dispossession—for those who seize power and those who are subject to it—forms over time through the structure, promulgation, and adjudication of the law. This history is lived in the polity as a series of lessons that are communicated through institutions, laws, and daily life. Understanding this history and its lessons—and how it at once binds the military, the monarchy, and the judiciary and erases the people—is the first step to undoing its power.


The first lesson of dispossession teaches the people that they have no standing in the law. The king—and those close to him—hold power. Although judges are commoners, they preside under gilt-framed portraits of both the king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, and his father, Bhumipol Adulyadej.1 They receive their commissions directly from the king and write their judgments under the banner of the phrase “In the Name of His Majesty” and the royal symbol of the garuda.2 The judges sit in plush chairs on a raised dais while the people crowd together on long wooden benches below the judges and the portraits of the kings in the courtroom.

The spatial layout of the courtroom reflects the hierarchy and apportionment of power within the law and its adjudication. Left largely unchanged by the transformation from absolute to constitutional monarchy, the Thai judiciary has long privileged the state over the people and the king over the constitution. In a March 2020 lecture honoring Puey Ungpakorn, an economics professor and university rector who fled for his life after the 6 October 1976 massacre and coup, Thongchai Winichakul laid bare the fiction of the existence of justice and the rule of law in Thailand and called for a new legal history.3 He argued that two primary ideas constitute jurisprudence in Thailand: the legal privileged state (nitirat aphisit) and royalist rule of law (rachanititham). The legal privileged state is “a legal system that affords privilege to the state to violate private property and the rights and freedom of the people for public interest in law both applicable to ordinary times and states of exception. The most important Thai public good is national security, and therefore the military is the entity that overwhelmingly enjoys and exercises this privilege.” The royalist rule of law is the principle “that holds that the king is above law and justice (not the constitution or parliament that are held to be universal norms).” Together, these are ingrained practice and uncontested history.4

To launch a coup—the violent upending of the existing regime—without being held to account, “is a privilege of bandits and murderers that is endorsed by the judiciary, it is the collusion to commit the gravest crime that can arise in a given state.”5 The legal privilege extended to the state reaches its apogee in the amnesty laws passed and judicial approval for coups, including that of the NCPO. This legality, and the ability of the military, monarchy, and other allied actors to overturn the existing regime when they choose to do so, is produced and guaranteed in the first instance by the series of amnesty laws that have followed after each coup.

Impunity has been secured in eight coups by stand-alone laws, in two coups by articles in postcoup constitutions, in one coup by both a constitutional article and a stand-alone law, and in only one case with no special legal measure promulgated. They protected the coupmakers from possible prosecution or other sanction and retroactively legalized the coup in question. Each amnesty has turned the illegal act of rebellion into a legal, administrative action. The Supreme Court then crafted the practice of judicial legitimation of coups beginning in 1949 through a series of four decisions about the 8 November 1947 coup. Together, the decisions and amnesty laws cemented what Somchai Preechasinlapakun calls “the rule of coups,” in which the repeated failure to hold coup leaders to account functions as encouragement for future would-be juntas to upend the constitutional order.6

One way to encapsulate Thai history since 1932 is through the chronology of the repeated coups, what Thanapol Eawsakul and others call the vicious cycle of Thai politics: coup → new constitution → election.7 Over time, this vicious cycle has come to seem inevitable or natural. Placing the evasion of accountability for coups at the center of the chronology demystifies this cycle by revealing how much effort has gone into creating it and the incremental expansion of the legal privilege of the state.


The second lesson of dispossession, which is contained within amnesty laws, is that the history of law in the Thai polity is one of ever-increasing protection for juntas and their supporters. The amnesty laws are short: four total articles, with the third article the essential one. Since 1932, there has been a steady expansion of time, personnel, and actions covered in these brief laws and the court decisions that expand upon them. This is the essential context to understand the conditions of possibility for the NCPO’s coup on 22 May 2014 and the urgency of developing a new jurisprudence.

The very beginning of the constitutional polity was inauspiciously sealed with an amnesty law. On the early morning of 24 June 1932, after years of planning, the civilian-military coalition of the People’s Party seized and neutralized key figures of the absolutist regime.8 Their manifesto deposing the king proclaimed: “The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people.”9 They allowed the king to remain on the throne as long as he was willing to be placed under a constitution. He quickly assented, and no blood was shed. Pridi Banomyong, the civilian leader of the People’s Party, explained that there was no word for revolution in the Thai language at that time, so they used the phrase “a change from the system of government in which the king is above the law to the system of government in which the king is under the law” to describe their actions.10 But in an unfortunate turn, the People’s Party placed the king under the law but themselves above it. Article 3 in the amnesty that they passed for themselves stipulated that “the entirety of the actions, regardless of whom within the People’s Party [carried them out], are not to be considered a violation of any law, at all.”11 This provision made all of their actions not illegal. The amnesty that the People’s Party passed to absolve themselves of the action of deposing the king became the point of departure for coup amnesty laws, including the royalist coup which deposed them less than a year later. The transformational impulse for the rule of law contained within the events of 24 June 1932 soon began to undergo a process of repression and erasure, and instead, the will to redefine illegal actions as legal become foundational through the series of subsequent amnesty laws.

The People’s Party promulgated an interim charter authored by Pridi Banomyong, the civilian leader. The charter, which promoted people’s participation and limited the role of the king, was immediately attacked by royalists.12 On 20 June 1933, Phraya Phahon, the military leader of the People’s Party, staged the country’s second coup against the civilian government following the presentation to parliament of the Outline Economic Plan, drafted by Pridi and arguing for democratization of ownership and the economy. The Outline Economic Plan was cast as dangerously communist, and Pridi went into exile temporarily.13 The amnesty law for the coup began by noting that, because the coup transpired smoothly and without violence, it was appropriate for those involved to receive royal grace; just as decisions are rendered in the name of the king, laws are as well. The text of Article 3 specified: “The entirety of the actions, no matter who within the army, navy and civilian factions [carried them out], if they were illegal, are not to at all be considered a violation of the law.”14 The amnesty delimited the specific categories of members of the junta as those covered by the amnesty. With the addition of the point that actions that might be illegal were not to be interpreted as such, the law implicitly acknowledged the illegality of the coup.

Fourteen years passed before the next coup. After serving as regent while King Ananda Mahidol (Rama 8) was outside the country during World War II, Pridi became prime minister on 24 March 1946. But then on 9 June 1946, the king died under mysterious circumstances, which remain unresolved today. Following accusations that he was involved in the death, Pridi resigned, and this time his flight into exile became permanent. Pridi’s exile was both the removal of a jurist and politician who would have likely opposed the rule of coups and an attempt to drive out the idea of democracy. The formation of the rule of coups began in earnest after the third coup, on 8 November 1947, when a junta calling itself the Khana Thahan, or Military Group, seized power and began the turn away from democracy, the increase of the role of the military in governance, and the return of the political role of the monarchy. Article 3 in the amnesty prescribed: “The entirety of actions carried out . . . as a result of the coup . . . if they were illegal, the perpetrators who carried them out shall be absolved from guilt and all responsibility. Anything carried out under the various announcements and orders issued during the aforementioned coup are to be considered legal.”15 This amnesty went beyond delimiting illegal actions as not being illegal to making them legal and to protecting perpetrators from prosecution. Further, by making actions that follow from orders and announcements issued by the junta legal, the very meaning of law was transformed to include that which is issued from the barrel of a gun.

The Khana Thahan carried out two more coups. The only coup without an accompanying amnesty took place a year later during the 6 April 1948 coup, when the Khana Thahan replaced their civilian prime minister, Khuang Aphaiwong, with Field Marshal Phibun Songkhram. Three years later, the Khana Thahan carried out an autocoup against themselves to increase their power. Article 3 in the amnesty for the 29 November 1951 coup used identical language to that of the amnesty for the 1947 coup.16 The use of if in various amnesties to delimit the actions covered by them functions as the opposite of the usual purpose of the conditional to signal the hypothetical or possible: the actions were illegal and that is the very reason the amnesty laws were passed by legislative assemblies appointed by the respective juntas.

A significant shift in the content of the amnesty law arrived when Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat launched his first coup on 16 September 1957 at the beginning of the intensification of the Cold War. Article 3 of the amnesty law stipulated:

The entirety of actions carried out . . . whether by an instigator, supporter, a person acting for another, or a person who was used, in the course of seizing the administrative power of the country on 16 September 1957, and other related actions, no matter how they were done and no matter if they were carried out on the aforementioned day or before or after the aforementioned day, if those actions were illegal, the perpetrators who carried them out shall be absolved from guilt and all responsibility. Anything carried out under the various announcements and orders issued, in whatever form, that are related to the aforementioned actions, whether directly or implicitly, are to be considered legal and in force.17

A wide range of actors was specified—many, not only the high-ranking officers in the junta, are covered by “instigator, supporter, a person acting for another, or a person who was used.” It is difficult to imagine who would not fit into these categories. The time covered was also expanded: on, before, or after the date of the actual coup.

A year later, on 20 October 1958, Field Marshal Sarit launched an autocoup to consolidate his power. Article 3 prescribed that

the entirety of actions carried out . . . that resulted from the coup on 20 October 1958 and other related affairs, all of the actions of the head of the junta or people delegated by the head of the junta carried out for the order and happiness of the people, including punishment and other administrative actions, no matter how they were done and whether they were carried out by an instigator, supporter, a person acting for another or a person who was used, and no matter if they were carried out on the aforementioned day or before or after the aforementioned day, if those actions were illegal, the perpetrators who carried them out shall be absolved from guilt and all responsibility. All of the announcements and orders of the head of the junta, in whatever form, and whether they have administrative or legislative effect are to be considered legal and in force.18

The expansion of the terms that surfaced following Field Marshal Sarit’s first coup remained in the amnesty for his second coup. The announcements and orders of the head of the junta were given the status of law, even though they passed no review, even by a body appointed by the junta. The vague, broad category of “punishment and other administrative actions” was also added, as long as they were carried out for the “order and happiness of the people.” This is the first time that the concept of a coup as a generator of happiness surfaced. Similarly paradoxical, the fourth coup announcement stated that the junta would respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).19 But Sarit’s dictatorship instead foreclosed happiness and human rights, particularly through Article 17 of the 1959 Interim Constitution, which gave him authority to take any action he deemed necessary and was used for summary detention and execution. The idea of a coup in the service of the happiness of the people has surfaced several times since then, most recently when General Prayuth Chan-ocha claimed that he and the NCPO would return happiness to the people.

Reference to the monarchy enters for the first time in the amnesty for the coup that Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, who took over the dictatorship after Field Marshal Sarit’s death in 1963, launched against himself to consolidate his power on 17 November 1971. Although the monarchy had receded from public life in the immediate years following the end of absolutism, its role in politics steadily grew and particularly intensified during Field Marshal Sarit’s dictatorship, when the military and monarchy joined hands to fight communism. Article 3 of this amnesty noted:

The entirety of actions before the law enters into force, that were carried out in relation to the coup on 17 November 1971 or related affairs, the entirety of actions of the head of the junta or people delegated by the head of the junta or people ordered by the person delegated by the head of the junta that were carried out for the security of the nation and the crown, and for the order and happiness of the people, including punishment and other administrative actions, no matter how they were done and whether they were carried out by an instigator, supporter, a person acting for another or a person who was used, and no matter if they were carried out on the aforementioned day or before or after the aforementioned day, if those actions were illegal, the perpetrators who carried them out shall be absolved from guilt and all responsibility.20

The people are positioned third here, after the nation and the crown. The institution of the monarchy has since remained a frequent feature of amnesty laws and an ever-increasing, and murky, presence in political and legal life.21

The dictatorship of Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn ended on 14 October 1973 after hundreds of thousands of students and citizens took to the streets and demanded a constitution. During the subsequent three years, the most vibrant democracy since 24 June 1932 emerged in Thailand, and a wide range of citizens participated in politics, including farmers, workers, teachers, artists, and many others.22 But transitions to communism in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos in 1975 and the rising right wing in Thailand led to a backlash in the claimed service of protecting the monarchy as well as the nation and the Buddhist religion. This culminated in a massacre of university students at Thammasat University on the morning of 6 October 1976 and a coup that returned the country to dictatorship on the same afternoon.23 In the amnesty soon promulgated, perpetrators of a wide range of violent actions in addition to the coup itself were absolved of their guilt. Article 3 of the amnesty passed for the 6 October 1976 coup carried out by the National Administrative Reform Council (NARC) stipulated:

The entirety of actions taken along with the seizure of the administrative power of the country on 6 October 1976 and the actions of individuals connected with those aforementioned actions were undertaken with the intention of fostering the security of the kingdom, the crown and public peace. The entirety of actions of the NARC or the head of the NARC or those who were appointed by the NARC or the head of the NARC, or those who were ordered by someone appointed by the NARC or the head of the NARC that were carried out for the reasons noted above including punishment and the bureaucratic administration of the country, all of the aforementioned actions, irrespective of their legislative, administrative, or judicial validity, irrespective of whether they were carried out by someone in the position of a principal figure, a supporter, a person acting for another, or a person who was used, and irrespective of whether or not they were carried out on the aforementioned day or before or after that day, if the actions were unlawful, the person is absolved from wrongdoing and all responsibility.24

During the drafting process and the debate in the appointed legislative assembly, the importance of tweaking the grammar designating actors in order to prevent prosecution of grave crimes for all involved, including soldiers at the rank of private and ordinary citizens, not only the officers in the junta, was highlighted.25

However, the far-right regime of Thanon Kraivichien put in place by the NARC did not last long, and a little over a year later, on 20 October 1977, General Kriangsak Chomanand launched another coup. Article 3 of this amnesty was identical to the amnesty for the prior coup, with only the date of the coup and the name of the junta changed.26 Even though there was no need to apply the broad coverage used for the amnesty for the 6 October 1976 massacre and coup to this one, which resembled a more typical coup in which the existing government was illegally ousted, the drafters left it in place.

During the waning years of the Cold War, Thailand entered a period without coups, and almost fourteen years passed until the next one. On 21 February 1991, General Suchinda Krapayoon and a junta calling itself the National Peace Keeping Council (NPKC) ousted the elected government of Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan, which they claimed was corrupt. Article 3 of the amnesty passed for the coup was again identical to that of the 6 October 1976 and 20 October 1977 coups, with only the date and the name of the junta changed.27

The 1991 coup was the last for which a stand-alone amnesty law was passed. Dictatorships flourished in the 1970s and 1980s and finally began to ease following another uprising for democracy in 1992.28 In 1997, Thailand’s seventeenth constitution, known as the People’s Constitution given the relatively participatory process behind its drafting, was promulgated, and coups seemed to be a phenomenon of the past.29 But precisely in this context, military and monarchical elites grew anxious about the wide-ranging support for the populist prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, elected in the 2001 election, the first under the new constitution.30 The 19 September 2006 coup by the Council for Democratic Reform under Monarchy (CDRM) that ousted his government was addressed by a constitutional article. Article 37 of the 2006 Interim Constitution stipulated:

All acts done by the Chairman of the CDRM which were related to the seizure and control of the state administrative power on 19 September 2006 as well as any act done by persons involved in such seizure or of persons being assigned by the CDRM or of persons being commanded by the Chairman of the CDRM which done for such above act. All these acts, whether done for the enforcement in legislative, executive or judicial force as well as the punishment and other acts on administration of the State affairs whether done as principals, supporters, instigators or persons being commanded to do so and whether done on such date or prior to such date or after such date which if such acts may be unlawful, the actors shall be absolutely exempted from any wrongdoing, responsibility and liabilities.31

This constitutional provision dialed back impunity slightly and interrupted the trajectory of increasing protection for perpetrators in terms of both time and individuals covered.

But in a reversal of the minor limits placed on impunity after the 2006 coup, the two amnesty provisions in the 2014 Interim Constitution called on every expansion of impunity built into amnesty laws over the preceding ninety years. Resonant with Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat’s second amnesty, Article 47 made all orders and announcements of the NCPO or the head of the NCPO legal, constitutional, and final.32 Then, Article 48 stipulated:

In regard to all acts which are performed on account of the seizure and control of state governing power on 22 May 2014 by the Head of the NCPO, including all acts of persons incidental to such performance or of persons entrusted by the Head of the NCPO or persons ordered by persons entrusted by the Head of the NCPO, which have been done for the benefit of the abovementioned performances, irrespective of whether such acts were performed to have constitutional, legislative, executive, or judicial force, including punishments and other official administrative acts, and irrespective of whether the persons performed such acts as a principal, an accomplice, an instigator or an agent and whether those acts have been done on, before or after the aforesaid date, if those acts constitute offences under the laws, the persons who commit those acts shall be entirely discharged from such offences and liabilities.

The NCPO’s two amnesty provisions signaled the kind of regime it planned to be: repressive and mired in law.


The third and final lesson of dispossession is that when it comes to coups, the courts are not on the side of the people. The junta-appointed legislative assemblies provide the first layer of impunity for coups. Then, the civilian criminal courts, particularly the Supreme Court, the third and final level of the three-tier system, contribute to the rule of coups by choosing to affirm their legality and legitimacy. In a canonical article surveying postcolonial common-law cases about coups, beginning with the 1958 coup in Pakistan, Tayyab Mahmud argues that courts not dissolved as part of a coup must decide which stance they will take regarding the legitimacy of the new regime. Judges have four possible options, each of which entails deciding the extent to which the line between politics, meaning governance, and law, meaning the rules of the polity and the court as their arbiter, should be blurred. First, they may validate and legitimate the coup. Second, they may interpret the coup as contravening the constitution and therefore neither valid nor legitimate. Third, they may resign their position and refuse the question. Or fourth, the only option that Mahmud views as just, the courts, “being an agent and instrument of the state and the legal order,” may conclude the matter of the coup to be outside their jurisdiction.33

Thailand has a civil-law system. The courts have never been dissolved as part of a coup and have always chosen the first option—validate and legitimate—when faced with the question. In doing so, the courts reveal the lack of separation between law and politics and themselves become part of the conflict present in the polity.34 Further, although binding precedent is not a feature of Thailand’s legal system, the rule of coups was cemented through an additive process in which a series of four key Supreme Court decisions built on one another between 1949 and 1954. The logic offered in each decision demonstrates the flexibility of the law and the Supreme Court’s willingness to further extend the parameters of the amnesties rather than restrain them.

All four decisions deal with the 8 November 1947 coup by the Khana Thahan, the first coup in which the military began to tighten their grip but before the harsh Cold War dictatorships. The process began with fulsome confirmation of the validity of the amnesty law passed in the immediate aftermath of the coup. The strength of this law was put to the test in a case of subordination by two soldiers, Master Sergeant Pruay Nawarat and Sergeant Prathuang Intram. They refused to follow the orders of their commanding officer after the coup and demanded to know his position on it. Once they ascertained that their commanding officer supported the coup, as they did, the pair returned to following orders. They were prosecuted and punished in the military court system and appealed. In 1949, the Supreme Court interpreted their actions to be in support of the coup and therefore covered by the amnesty. Master Sergeant Pruay and Sergeant Prathuang were absolved. Without the amnesty, the Supreme Court noted, they would have been punished.35 As long as it was in the service of the coup, even subordination was permissible.

Three years later, in a 1952 decision about an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1948, the Supreme Court outlined how and when the illegal action of a coup transforms into the foundation of a legal government. The defendants argued that their actions were not criminal because they acted against the regime that came to power in the 1947 coup, which they claimed was illegal.36 The Supreme Court did not accept that claim and argued that, although the Khana Thahan’s “toppling of the prior government and establishing a new government by force may not have been legal at first until the people accept and respect it . . . the government that the defendants were going to topple is a government that is correct according to reality, which means that the people accept and respect it.”37 The Supreme Court did not define what constituted either acceptance or respect but clearly did not recognize the various protests of the 1947 coup as significant.38 The lack of clarity reflects legal thinking that was at once sloppy and precise. Similar to the expansive coverage for coup-related actions in the amnesty laws, by leaving acceptance and respect explicitly undefined, coupmakers and their courts may interpret them as they wish.39

In the following year, the Supreme Court rendered a third decision pertaining to the 1947 coup that consolidated the prototype for subsequent decisions about coups. Thongyen Leelamien, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Commerce at the time of the coup and a close ally of Pridi Banomyong, was fired by the new minister of commerce appointed after the coup. Thongyen brought a case claiming that he was fired unjustly. The minister of commerce who fired him was appointed under the 1947 Interim Constitution, which was illegitimate because it was promulgated by the Khana Thahan, which had illegally abrogated the 1946 Constitution. Thongyen further alleged that the new minister of commerce had defamed him by announcing his dismissal on the radio, publishing information in the newspaper that he was an opium dealer, and instructing the police to hold him for seven days. The new minister of commerce responded by asserting that Thongyen’s claim that the 1947 Interim Constitution was invalid was incorrect because the coup had been successful.40 He claimed that he had neither given any information to the newspaper or radio nor instructed the police to arrest him.41 The Court of First Instance and the Appeal Court found that the defendant was not involved in the newspaper, radio, or police matters and dismissed the case.42 Thongyen then appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also dismissed the case and ordered Thongyen to pay the defendants’ legal fees.43

Beyond ruling on the specific matters of Thongyen’s claims of the damages he sustained, the Supreme Court commented on the legality and validity of the coup. The Supreme Court judges wrote: “The facts are that in 1947, the junta successfully seized the governing power of Thailand. The administration of the country in this manner means that the junta has the power to change, amend, abolish and promulgate laws according to the revolutionary system, in order to continue to govern the country. Otherwise, the country would be unable to establish peaceful order. Therefore, the 1947 Interim Constitution was completely legal,” and the defendant was the legitimate minister of commerce.44 The judges recognized the illegality of the coup but chose to privilege the maintenance of order above the law. Similar to the lack of a definition of what constituted acceptance and respect in the earlier decision, success in this decision was not defined. What it appears to mean is that as long as the junta that carries out a coup is able to take control of the state apparatus, even if this involves acts that are criminal, then the coup and the subsequent constitution are legal.45

The fourth relevant Supreme Court decision was handed down the following year in a case about another attempted coup against the Khana Thahan; it added a quality of timelessness to the acceptance and respect allegedly secured by the junta. Similar to the earlier case, the defendants argued that the government they attempted to topple was illegal because it was created by an illegitimate constitution.46 The Supreme Court dismissed this argument and explained that even though the 1947 Interim Constitution was promulgated by a government that came from a coup, “the newly established government took control and governed the country successfully and absolutely, and it maintained the peace and order of the country-nation and has always been accepted and respected in general as a complete government for a long time until now.”47 The judges firmly noted that there was “no reason not to hold it to be a legal government according to the reality that clearly appears.”48 In this decision, the Supreme Court extended its assessment to existing reality and concluded that support for the governments put in place by the Khana Thahan had always existed. The Court offered no evidence for this timeless acceptance. With the decision, David Streckfuss argues, the court equated silencing the coup’s critics with success, noting, “The more it established its authority and silenced its critics, the more legitimate it was. Who, exactly, had come to ‘accept and respect’ these governments? How was such acceptance or respect measured? The Supreme Court did not answer these troubling questions.”49 These questions remain unanswered in the present.

They remain unanswered because the truth would lay bare the fiction of the alleged total, seamless acceptance and respect for coup governments. Recognition of that fiction is the first step to undoing the rule of coups. Placing the protection of the people at the center of jurisprudence, rather than privileging the state, is the second step. This, in turn, requires approaching the analysis of law from a perspective as relentless in its commitment to the possibility of justice as that with which activists dissented and lawyers defended them under the NCPO. These are the conditions in which scholars and activists should, and must, dare to step into the shoes of judges.


The rulings by the Supreme Court in the four cases related to the 1947 coup are not wrong in the sense of reflecting an erroneous interpretation of the law. But that does not make them right in the sense of being just interpretations that fostered equality under the law and the protection of rights. Instead, the interpretations legitimized and fomented violence, in the sense described by Robert Cover: “Legal interpretive acts signal and occasion the imposition of violence upon others: A judge articulates her understanding of a text, and as a result, somebody loses his freedom, his property, his children, even his life. . . . When interpreters have finished their work, they frequently leave behind victims whose lives have been torn apart by these organized, social practices of violence. Neither legal interpretation nor the violence it occasions may be properly understood apart from one another.”50 In the case of the rule of coups, the immediate object of the violence that follows from legal interpretation is the polity itself. The government is abruptly ejected and the existing constitution torn up as heavily armed soldiers occupy government buildings, media outlets, and the streets. This violence links the rule of coups to what I term the jurisprudence of impunity. The jurisprudence of impunity emerges across the indictments and judgments rendered during the NCPO years, characterized by the denial of the people’s right to participate in the polity or at times even to think, a centering of the military and monarchy as unquestionable, and disproportionate punishment for dissent. In ruling against the people in the name of the law, judges under the NCPO both acted resonantly with judges under other authoritarian, rule-by-law regimes and built on existing legal practice in Thailand.51

But the jurisprudence of impunity is not the only possibility. As Noura Erakat writes in the context of Palestine: “The law is contingent and does not predetermine an outcome. It only promises the possibility of a contest over one.”52 The interpretation of the law that the Thai civilian and military courts offered under the NCPO was not the only possible one, just as the earlier decisions in support of the coups by the Supreme Court were not the only possibilities. If one begins instead by privileging the people and recognizing dissent as protected under both Thai domestic law and Thailand’s international human rights obligations, different narratives and divergent outcomes become possible. What I cast as a jurisprudence of accountability—one that values and centers, rather than erases, the participation of the people in the polity; holds state officials and institutions to account; and treats justice itself as an ideal to strive toward—can then be imagined and created. The jurisprudence of accountability calls on judges to interpret in the service of ending violence rather than furthering it.

In this book, I trace the formation of the jurisprudence of impunity and craft a jurisprudence of accountability through examining and then rewriting a series of decisions rendered by judges during the NCPO’s regime. All the selected cases are those that are final, meaning that no more appeals are pending, and those in which the decisions are already in the public domain. I chose not to take up some of the most devastating cases to emerge under the NCPO, including extensive torture and intimidation of defendants or victims and any others in which the parties have asked activists and journalists not to report on their cases. They may be able to be taken up and discussed openly in the future. The role of scholarship is not to expose those who have experienced injustice who would rather not be exposed. In reevaluating the cases and rewriting the judgments anew, I draw on the records kept by TLHR, iLaw, Prachatai, and other human rights and independent media organizations; court, police, and military documents; and my own court observation and interviews.

One way to understand the five decisions, four of which were decided in favor of the junta, is as part of the history of the NCPO’s repression. But they are also a record of how citizens held the line against dictatorship, despite the sacrifices this entailed. Sombat Boonngamanong, a longtime activist who is one of those whose case I take up, suggested: “All of these cases are a record of the system of the judicial process. I hope that one day they become small case studies, or the decisions are debated with respect to the politics of law in the future. I hope that’s how it will be. Let them be recorded in history. Because they have the troops, they have the guns. All we have are our voices.”53 Ordered chronologically, the first case rewritten is one people brought against the junta for launching the coup; three are cases in which people were prosecuted for noncompliance with the junta, including those prosecuted for peaceful protest, and for not reporting when summoned for detention and reeducation; and the final case is one brought against the junta in the Administrative Court with regard to the detention of civilians on military bases. Across all the cases, which were examined in courts around the country, the judges emphasize that the coup and all subsequent actions by the junta were legitimate and lawful.


The impossible story of justice—in which the overarching history of injustice both creates the urgency for and threatens to overwhelm attempts to imagine and create justice in Thailand—unfolds across five substantive chapters in this book. Proceeding chronologically across the NCPO’s regime, each chapter takes up a particular kind of case from the coup years. The chapters pair the genealogy of similar cases and rights violations under earlier coup regimes with analysis of the judicial process and judgment for those rewritten. The chapters trace both how the NCPO went beyond enforcing the law to use the law as a tool to dispossess citizens of their rights and the persistence of citizen opposition to dictatorship in Thailand.

The rewritten judgments rendered by the Court for the People then follow each chapter. Powerfully freed of the need to legitimate the coup, the new decisions by the Court for the People first interrogate the lawfulness of the coup within the history of pro-coup jurisprudence. The Court for the People operates as an additional layer of adjudication and incorporates critique of the existing decisions in each case in order to offer new ones. Second, the decisions carefully consider the meaning of sovereignty. Although the original decisions tend to identify the NCPO as the sovereign on the basis that the junta was able to capture state power, the Court for the People decisions reflect on how to make real, in the exercise and interpretation of the law, the promise in many of Thailand’s constitutions since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 that sovereignty belongs to the people. Third, the rewritten decisions demonstrate a range of ways that the judicial process and judgments themselves can aid in the protection of rights and freedom rather than facilitating their violation. Fourth, each chapter takes up the status, meaning and form of law as experienced under the NCPO and contributes to the contest over the law and its outcomes that Noura Erakat so eloquently foregrounds.

This book is designed to be read in multiple ways. Readers may choose to read the entire book or only the decisions, which are separated from the chapters. A synopsis of each chapter and the rewritten judgments follows to provide a sketch of the entire book for readers who may choose to selectively read.

On the first anniversary of the coup in May 2015, Resistant Citizen, a coalition of fifteen activists, lawyers, artists, and survivors of state violence filed charges of treason and rebellion against the NCPO. Chapter 1, “The Impossibility of the People,” places Resistant Citizen’s struggle in the seventy-year history of attempts to hold coupmakers to account. Despite amnesty laws passed with each coup to foreclose accountability, Resistant Citizen and others who have brought cases advance an idea of the people’s sovereignty that refuses its destruction by an illegal seizure of power by a handful of military generals. The protection of state officials from being impugned, never the protection or even recognition of the people as equal members of the polity, remains constant across the decisions. In this case, too, the Supreme Court adhered to historical precedent and dismissed Resistant Citizen’s charges against the NCPO. In contrast, a jurisprudence of accountability would center the people and accord weight to the damage sustained by individuals and the polity by coups. The new judgment by the Court for the People reverses precedent and writes toward a different future in which sovereignty is not reduced to brute force but is a shared project between the rulers and the ruled.

One day after the coup, on 23 May 2014, Apichat Pongsawat, a recent law graduate, joined a protest against the coup. Carrying an A4 sheet of paper with the phrase [I] Do Not Accept Illegitimate Power printed on it, he joined several hundred people peacefully massed in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. Upon seeing his sign, heavily armed officers swiftly arrested him and detained him incommunicado on a military base. Chapter 2, “Coups and Coupocracy,” traces his four-and-a-half-year fight against what began as six criminal charges across the Court of First Instance, Appeal Court, and Supreme Court. Apichat’s protest of the coup—and persistent refusal to cede that it was a crime—reflects the clarity of one citizen’s commitment to the constitution. The court’s steadfast judgment of Apichat as guilty, even when the junta order under which his protest was criminalized had been revoked, reflects the judiciary’s unwillingness to protect the constitution or the rights of a citizen willing to sacrifice his freedom to do so. The new decision by the Court for the People instead finds Apichat innocent, develops a logic for how his actions were protected by both domestic and international law, and clarifies the role of the judiciary in protecting the constitution.

Within a day of the coup, the NCPO began issuing orders summoning citizens to report themselves to the military. Under martial law, anyone could be detained for up to seven days without a formal accusation being brought or a judge consulted. Lists of names of those summoned interrupted television programming and scrolled down the screen at uneven intervals each day. Others were summoned by a telephone call or the appearance of soldiers at their door. Those summoned were told nothing about what would happen upon being reported or even where they would be detained. When criticized by domestic and international human rights groups for institutionalizing a policy of arbitrary detention, an NCPO spokesperson gave the practice the even more Orwellian name of attitude adjustment. Those who harbored a negative attitude toward the coup would be held until they changed their views. A total of at least 1,320 people were summoned, and at least 14 were prosecuted for refusing to report. Chapter 3, “Refusal to Report,” is about what happened to three who resisted attitude adjustment: Sombat Boonngamanong, a nongovernmental organization activist; Siraphop Kornarut, a poet and Red Shirt activist, and Worachet Pakeerut, a law professor at Thammasat University and leader of the Khana Nitirat, a central force for progressive legal reform before the coup. Across cases in the Supreme Court, Military Court, and Constitutional Court, the three defendants challenged the authority of the NCPO and the legitimacy of the orders it unilaterally issued. In response, the courts composed ideas of the polity in which the junta and the coup were automatically legitimate and lawful. Even the Constitutional Court, which found in 2020 that both the order for Worachet Pakeerut to report and the order criminalizing refusal were unconstitutional, left the argument for the necessity of the coup intact. The new Constitutional Court for the People decision instead offers a counterhistory of the coup that challenges the NCPO’s claim to having restored order and charts a counterlegitimacy of reasons to dissent grounded in the specificity of the lives of the three defendants.

As part of the coup, the NCPO abrogated the 2007 Constitution, Thailand’s nineteenth since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Two months after the coup, the NCPO promulgated an abbreviated, forty-eight-article interim constitution and immediately began drafting a new permanent constitution. General Prayuth knew that the days of the people’s acceptance of outright dictatorship were numbered and ensured that the draft charter preserved the power of the military by cloaking it in the disguise of a constitutional, if not quite democratic, regime. The new constitution had to be approved by securing a majority of votes in a public referendum on 7 August 2016, but the NCPO promulgated the Draft Referendum Act to severely restrict discussion about the draft ahead of the vote. Only the NCPO and those authorized by it were allowed to disseminate information about the draft: any seminars, publications, or organizing by civilians was criminal. Chapter 4, “A Constitution without the People,” takes up 2 of the 212 cases brought against the people under the Draft Referendum Act. Samart Kwanchai was an elderly man who made small flyers that read Down with Dictatorship, Long Live the People, 7 August Vote No and placed them under windshield wipers in a parking garage in the northern province of Chiang Mai. Samart was unexpectedly found innocent, but because of a fluke in the plaintiff testimony lacking requisite expertise, not because the court affirmed his right to dissent. Toto Piyarat Chongthep, who went into a booth on the day of the referendum, tore up his ballot, and yelled the same phrase printed on Samart’s flyer was found guilty. In both cases, the civilian courts weighed the right of the defendants to express their views peacefully, yet decided in favor of the maintenance of order. The new decision delivered by the Court for the People in Toto’s case instead argues for robust protection for rights and freedom of expression, which are particularly urgent in a time of transition from a dictatorship to a constitutional regime.

In September 2015, the NCPO-appointed minister of justice issued Ministry of Justice Order No. 314/2558 designating a section of the Eleventh Military Circle Base in Bangkok as a prison for defendants in national security cases. Less than two months later, there were two suspicious deaths of those held in custody in cases against the crown. Chapter 5, “Disavowing Responsibility,” takes up a case brought in the Administrative Court regarding the order by Pansak Srithep, one of the members of Resistant Citizen who brought the case against the NCPO in chapter 1, and a defendant in a sedition case for staging a solo peaceful walk against dictatorship. The Administrative Court was established in 2001 for the people to bring cases against state officials or agencies that have caused harm or otherwise not carried out their duties appropriately.54 Although Pansak had been granted bail in his sedition case, he worried that if bail were revoked, he could be detained at the prison. He argued in his Administrative Court case that the definition of “national security cases” in which defendants were subject to detention at the prison was vague, there were reports of torture, and the facilities were generally poor. The Administrative Court did not dispute the existence of problems at the temporary prison but ruled that they did not merit revoking the order or closing the prison. The new ruling by the Administrative Court for the People places the protection of civilians, rather than state officials or agencies, at the center of its action. Instead of dispensing with the reports of torture and the unresolved deaths in custody merely by stating that they were not caused by the order establishing the prison, the Administrative Court for the People proposes an investigation to discern which individuals or agencies were responsible. In other words, rather than looking for a legal loophole to protect the state from responsibility, the Administrative Court for the People takes the mandate of protecting the people and securing accountability for violence against them as paramount.

The book closes with an epilogue on judgments that cannot be rewritten. There were 162 prosecutions for lèse-majesté under Article 112 during the regime of the NCPO, which included those prosecuted for performing plays, writing graffiti in bathrooms, and making posts on social media, with sentences reaching up to forty-three years imprisonment. Despite the prominence of these cases under the NCPO, I do not rewrite Article 112 cases in the book. The reason is that the law is one law that I, along with many Thai activists, think must be revoked. The law has no place in a future democracy, whether realist or aspirational. The epilogue concludes by reflecting on Article 112 cases as those that cannot be rewritten by returning to the comparative questions of both feminist judgment methodology and utopia that frame this book.


1. Bhumipol Adulyadej (Rama 9) ruled from 9 June 1946 until his death on 13 October 2016. His son, Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama 10), has ruled since then.

2. Duncan McCargo has written insightfully about the cultural political milieu of judges and how it affects their adjudication. See Duncan McCargo, Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2020), esp. 56–79.

3. Puey Ungpakorn, “Violence and the Military Coup in Thailand,” Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 9:3 (1977): 4–12.

4. Thongchai Winichakul, “The Legal Privileged State and Royalist Rule of Law: History of the Genealogy of Thai-Style Rule by Law,” 17th Puey Ungpakorn Special Lecture, 9 March 2020 (Bangkok: Way Magazine, 2563 [2020]), 79.

5. Ibid., 193.

6. Somchai Preechasinlapakun, “The Coup Rule of law,” in The 19 September Coup: Coup for Democracy with the King as Head of State, edited by Thanapol Eawsakul (Bangkok: Fa Diew Kan, 2550 [2007]), 192.

7. Thanapol Eawsakul, ed., The 19 September Coup: Coup for Democracy with the King as Head of State (Bangkok: Fa Diew Kan Press, 2550 [2007]).

8. Arjun Subrahmanyan, Amnesia: A History of Democratic Idealism in Modern Thailand (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2021).

9. Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit, A History of Thailand (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 118.

10. Pridi Banomyong, Pridi by Pridi: Selected Writings on Life, Politics, and Economy, trans. Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2000), 124–25.

11. “Royal Amnesty Act on the Occasion of the Transformation of the Country, B.E. 2475,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 26 June 2475 [1932], Book 49, 165.

12. Nattapoll Chaiching, Dream the Impossible Dream: Counter-revolutionary Movements in Siam (1932–1957) (Bangkok: Fa Diew Kan Press, 2556 [2013]).

13. See Pridi, Pridi by Pridi, 83–123, for the text of the Outline Economic Plan. A commission cleared Pridi’s name, and he returned to the country.

14. “Amnesty Act for Arranging the Resignation of the Cabinet to Open Parliament According to the B.E. 2476 Constitution,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 25 June 2476 [1933], Book 50, 391.

15. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Carried Out the Coup B.E. 2490,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 23 December 2490 [1947], Book 64, Part 62, 743–44.

16. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Reinstated the 2475 B.E. Constitution B.E. 2494,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 31 December 2494 [1951], Book 68, Part 80, 28.

17. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Seized the Administrative Power of the Country on 16 September B.E. 2500,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 26 September 2500 [1957], Book 74, Part 81, 1–3.

18. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Carried Out the Revolution on 20 October B.E. 2501 B.E. 2502,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 3 April 2502 [1959], Book 76, Part 41, 3.

19. The coup “will respect and protect human rights according to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights made by the assembly of the United Nations. [The coup] will not do anything out of step or to violate the Declaration, other than if there are situations in which it is truly necessary to do so in order to ensure the safety of the nation.” Ratchakitchanubeksa, Special Issue, Book 75, Part 81, 20 October 2501 [1958], 14.

20. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Carried Out the Revolution on 17 November B.E. 2514 B.E. 2515,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 26 December 2515 [1972], Book 79, Part 197, 235–36.

21. The most insightful analysis of the intersection of the monarchy and law is in Eugénie Mérieau, Constitutional Bricolage: Thailand’ Sacred Monarchy Vs. the Rule of Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2022).

22. David Morell and Chai-anan Samudavanija, Political Conflict in Thailand: Reform, Reaction, Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Oelgeschlager, Gunn and Hain, 1981).

23. Thongchai Winichakul, Moments of Silence: The Unforgetting of the October 6, 1976, Massacre in Bangkok (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020). Puey Ungpakorn notes that the NARC said that 41 were killed, several hundred injured, and 3,037 arrested: “Sources at the Chinese Benevolent Foundation, which transported and cremated the dead, it was revealed [sic] that they handled ‘over a hundred corpses’ that day”; Puey, “Violence and the Military Coup in Thailand,” 8.

24. “Amnesty Act for Those who Seized the Administrative Power of the Country on 6 October B.E. 2519 B.E. 2519,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 24 December 2519 [1976], Book 93, Part 156, 44–45.

25. The actions that needed to be amnestied extended beyond the administrative action of the coup that displaced the civilian government. This was an amnesty not only for the coup but also for the massacre of students at Thammasat University that preceded it, and the drafters were confident that that the temporal language in the amnesty made its coverage universal. Brutal and lethal violence against the people was made legal, if not legitimate in a broader sense, as part of the defense of the institution of the monarchy. This cannot be discerned from the text of the law itself, but it is clear in the file from the Office of the Juridical Council file about the drafting process and the minutes from the debate in the assembly. See Tyrell Haberkorn, “The Hidden Transcript of Amnesty: The 6 October 1976 Massacre and Coup in Thailand,” Critical Asian Studies 47.1 (2015): 44–68.

26. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Committed Offences against State Security Inside the Kingdom between 25 and 26 March B.E. 2520 B.E. 2520,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 3 December 2520 [1977], Book 94, Part 121, 7.

27. “Amnesty Act for Those Who Seized and Controlled the Administrative Power of the Country on 23 February B.E 2534 B.E. 2534,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, 3 May 2534 [1991], Book 118, Part 79, 2–3.

28. Physicians for Human Rights and Asia Watch, “Bloody May”: Excessive Use of Lethal Force in Bangkok, the Events of May 17–20, 1992 (New York: Physicians for Human Rights, 1992).

29. Erik Martinez Kuhonta, “The Paradox of Thailand’s 1997 ‘People’s Constitution’: Be Careful What You Wish For,” Asian Survey 48.3 (2008): 373–92.

30. Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2004).

31. “Interim Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, B.E. 2549,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, Book 123, Part 102 Ko, 1 October 2549 [2006], 13–14.

32. Article 47 stipulated “All announcements and orders of the National Council for Peace and Order or orders of the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order which had been announced or made between 22nd May B.E. 2557 [C.E.] 2014 and until the date the Council of Ministers takes office under this Constitution, irrespective of their constitutional, legislative, executive or judicial force, including the performance in compliance therewith, irrespective of whether those acts have been performed before or after the date of entry into force of this Constitution, shall be considered lawful, constitutional and final. Those announcements and orders applicable on the date before the promulgation date of this Constitution shall continue to be in force until there are laws, rules, regulations, resolutions of the Council of Ministers, or orders, as the case may be, issued to amend or repeal them.” “Interim Constitution of Thailand, B.E. 2557,” Ratchakitchanubeksa, Book 131, Part 55 Ko, 22 July 2557 [2014], 16. The translation I use for this and other provisions of the 2014 Interim Constitution was provided by the Legal Opinion and Translation Section of the Foreign Law Bureau of the Office of the Juridical Council.

33. Tayyub Mahmud, “Jurisprudence of Successful Treason: Coup d’État and Common Law,” Cornell International Law Journal 27.1 (1994): 137.

34. Ibid., 53.

35. Supreme Court, Judgment No. 1874/2492, 1073; and Somchai Preechasinlapakun, “Some Problems of Law Related to Coups,” Master’s thesis, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University, 2539 [1991], 96–97.

36. It is tempting to identify this challenge to the 1947 coup as a challenge to the legitimacy of coups. However, because the defendants themselves attempted a coup, it is not.

37. Supreme Court, Judgment No. 1153-1154/2495, 841.

38. See Nattapoll Chaiching, The Military Chief, the Feudal Lord, and the Eagle (Bangkok: Fa Diew Kan, 2563 [2020]), esp. 59–65, for details about protests against the 1947 coup.

39. Somchai Preechasinlapakun argues that this decision is the first in which the court rules that if a junta is able to carry out a coup and keep opposition at bay, then it is considered to be successful and legal. Somchai, “Some Problems of Law Related to Coups,” 98.

40. Supreme Court, Judgment No. 45/2496, 57–58.

41. Ibid., 58.

42. Ibid., 59.

43. Ibid., 63.

44. Ibid., 58. This idea of success being equated with the ability to capture and hold state power is very close to Hans Kelsen’s idea of revolutionary legality, which was heavily drawn on in common-law cases about coups beginning with the 1958 coup in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan used and even cited Kelsen. The Thai Supreme Court never cites Kelsen or any other legal theorists. Sasipa Pruksadachan persuasively finds ideas resonant with both Hans Kelsen and John Austin with respect to sovereignty and coup success in Thai Supreme Court decisions but proposes that the ideas were already present in Thai legal thought rather than being imported. See Sasipa Pruksadachan, The Law May Be the Law (Bangkok: Illuminations Editions, 2564 [2021]), 219.

45. A note about courts and coups by Yut Saeng-uthai, an important Thai legal scholar whose ideas still form a major part of what is taught in Thai law schools, appended to the decision signals its importance and offers further elaboration of the logic behind the rule of coups. In his first sentence, he explained that this was an exemplary case in which to consider whether or not the courts “must affirm revolutions or coups which have been successful and those who did it become those with real, firm power in the state.” Supreme Court, Judgment, No. 45/2496, 64–65. He then turned to a German Supreme Court decision about the 1918 Revolution and explained that he saw similarities to the 1947 coup in Thailand. The laws issued by the German revolutionary government were “complete and legally binding because, even though the government which issued the law arose through a revolution which used force, it has still been able to substantiate its own position of power. Therefore, constitutionally, there must be an acceptance of the power of such a government.” Yut then cited the German Supreme Court, noting that once a revolutionary entity has been able to take power and is able to “eliminate groups of the people who are opposed to it through the application of means of the power of that government which is successful and absolute. Just this is enough for the power of the government to be true and to be sanctioned legally.” He then interpreted this in his own words to “show that a revolution or coup d’état is at first illegal but whenever the perpetrators have successfully and fully carried out the revolution or coup d’état, they are then able to legitimize their power as true, through the suppression and pacification of the former government or group of individuals who are opposed to it, and thus are able to have state authority and [exercise] the highest power in the state. Therefore, they are in a position that enables them to grant a new constitution, repeal the original laws, and enact new laws according to their wishes.” Yut amplified the key slippage between the people providing their assent and a junta government being able to suppress them that is present in this decision and remained a feature of decisions following the 22 May 2014 coup. Similar to the acquisition of state power, the means by which acceptance and respect are secured by a junta, and whether they are freely given or coerced, is not important. Ibid., 63–64.

46. Supreme Court, Judgment, No. 1512–1515/2497, 1328.

47. Ibid.

48. Ibid.

49. Streckfuss, Truth on Trial in Thailand, 121.

50. Robert Cover, “Violence and the Word,” Yale Law Journal 95 (1985): 1601.

51. Tom Ginsburg and Tamir Moustafa, Rule by Law: The Politics of Courts in Authoritarian Regimes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Jothie Rajah, Authoritarian Rule of Law: Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and Nick Cheesman, Opposing the Rule of Law: How Myanmar’s Courts Make Law and Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

52. Noura Erakat, Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019), 7.

53. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, “A Conversation with ‘Polka Dot Editor’ on a Day on Which He Has No Doubts about Why the Country Is Not a Democracy,” 30 July 2563 [2020],

54. Peter Leyland, “Genealogy of the Administrative Courts and Consolidation of Administrative Justice in Thailand,” in New Courts in Asia, ed. Andrew Harding and Penelope Nicholson (London: Routledge, 2010), 231–50.