Opinion: Is Khanakorn a Selfless Judge, or a Fraud?

Court of Justice sec-gen Sarawut Benchakul visits Yala judge Khanakorn Pianchana in hospital on Oct. 6, 2019. Image: Court of Justice.

A single bullet fired by a judge in what looks like an attempted suicide has raise many unsettling questions.

Judge Khanakorn Pianchana shot himself in the stomach last Friday in the courtroom in Yala province moments after he acquitted five men of murder.

“Return verdicts to judges. Restore justice to the people. My words may be light as a feather but the heart of a judge is solid like a mountain..,” Khanakorn wrote at the end of his 25-page verdict before he shot himself.

Within minutes of the news coming out, many praised the judge as a selfless defender of justice. Some Thais have nearly forsaken a belief that there exists a higher ideology to die for.

Others who cast doubt on the true independence and fairness of the Thai justice system, a system which almost automatically recognized ‘successful’ coups as valid and coup leaders as legitimate to rule sees a glimmer of hope in Khanakorn’s desperate action.

The judge apparently shot himself in the courtroom in a protest against what he described as an attempt to pressure him to convict the five accused without sufficient evidence.

Court of Justice sec-gen Sarawut Benchakul visits Yala judge Khanakorn Pianchana in hospital on Oct. 6, 2019. Image: Court of Justice.

Many thought he wouldn’t survive but hours later, the judge made it, and he is currently in a stable condition.

Soon enough, some Thais have cast doubt as to the sincerity of the judge. They questioned whether it was a stunt in an attempt to discredit the judiciary.

A number of netizens asked why, if Khanakarn really want to sacrifice his life for a higher cause as claimed, he didn’t shoot himself in the head. This they argued, means in fact it was a mere stunt by a charlatan who is part of an anti-government and anti-establishment conspiracy.

As I type these words, the Judicial commission has since Monday set up a judicial subcommittee tasked with investigating the matter which includes the alleged interference by senior judges as alleged by Khanakorn with findings to be submitted within 15 days.

While we wait, it’s worth asking why some would hold such a dark views of reality as to think that the judge was just acting?

How much is it worth to accept a bribe for shooting oneself in the chest, thus almost certainly ruining his career as a judge?

The fact that defendants were Thai-Malay Muslims may also play a role as conservative Thais tend to perceive them with suspicion for wanting to break the Deep South away from the rest of Thailand.

Some on social media even went as far as to suggest that Khanakorn is just setting himself a stage to enter politics, joining parties like Future Forward which is rather sympathetic to the plights of Thai-Malay Muslims in the Deep South.

Whatever the truth, it’s abundantly clear that there are people who have lost the belief in selflessness. In their eyes, any selfless act, on the verge of taking one’s life for an ideology is simply not possible.

The death of a belief in selflessness and sacrifice among some Thais does not bode well.

These people not only think that there is such a thing as a higher goal in life and is suspicious of anyone exhibiting such trait.

When there is no longer a dream beyond making money, becoming famous, powerful and having a family, life is reduced to the mundane. And people simply succumb to their base temptations.

For those who have succumbed, they may not want to entertain the possibility that some may have refused to abandon a higher goal in life.