Friday Forum: Tyrell Haberkorn

Drafting Justice:
Jurisprudence and the Struggle to End Dictatorship in Thailand



Tyrell Haberkorn

Professor of Southeast Asian Studies
Department of Asian Languages and Cultures

October 9, 2020
NOON – 1:30 P.M. (CST)

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Meeting ID: 919 9440 6042


On 22 May 2014, a military junta calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) launched a coup and ousted the elected government in Thailand. When the NCPO launched the coup, they promised to restore the rule of law after ten years of political conflict but their regime instead undermined its most fundamental principles. The NCPO employed the arbitrary, disproportionate and politicized use of law to violate the rights of civilians, facilitate extrajudicial violence, and guarantee impunity for the coup and subsequent crimes. Justice, long tenuous in Thailand, disappeared entirely for those deemed to be enemies of the junta.  On 16 July 2019, the NCPO formally ceased to exist when a new civilian cabinet was sworn in following a national election, yet a post-NCPO military-monarchy alliance still continued to exercise significant power and obstruct democracy. Within the past few months, sustained streets protests have called this anti-democratic alliance into question and the conditions of possibility for a transition to democracy are as strong as they have been in decades. This talk takes a transformative protest on 10 August 2020 and a possible transition as a point of departure from which to reflect on how the past six years of dictatorship might be redressed and justice forged. Inspired by feminist court decision rewriting projects, the paper revisits a series of cases in which the court adjudicated in favor of the coup and the abrogation of the people’s rights.  Plotting alternative logics, interpretation of evidence and conclusions  — a jurisprudence of accountability — is a way to at once imagine what justice might look like and assess the depth of legal, social, and political transformation necessary to make it real.