Should the handicapped be allowed to become judges?

Should the handicapped be allowed to become judges? - May 12, 2002
"'Imagine when a judge sits on the bench and the involved parties laugh at him, how can the judge get his work done?' said Sriamporn Salikhup (Court of Appeals Judge Region 3)." An activist notes (apparently with amazement), "in Germany or Britain there are many judges who are handicapped."

[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

DISABLED LAWYERS: Backlash grows against ruling

Published on May 12, 2002

Human-rights commissioner says barring handicapped from bench 'discriminatory'

The backlash against the Judicial Commission's decision last week to bar two disabled lawyers from the bench gathered steam yesterday with a human-rights commissioner joining the chorus condemning the "discriminatory" ruling.

"Thailand is a signatory to the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. The Constitution also prohibits discrimination on the basis of physical disability," said human-rights commissioner Dr Pradit Charoenthaitawee.

Disabled persons who have been discriminated against should take their grievance to court via the Human Rights Commission, Pradit said.

His comments follow Tuesday's decision by the Judicial Commission to reject for the second time two handicapped lawyers' applications to become associate judges. The commission voted 13-2 that Sirimit Boonmoon and Boonjuti Klabprasit were too weak to cope with the workload.

The law preventing the disabled from becoming judges is obsolete, said the chairman of the Foundation for the Handicapped.

It was written more than 50 years ago by those who believed the disabled were capable of nothing, Narong Patibatsorakit said.

"The world has come so far. In Germany or Britain there are many judges who are handicapped," he added.

"Instead of saying that it's impossible for a handicapped person to reach the bench, we should ask: Have we built a ramp for them to get there?" Narong said.

The president of the Association for the Handicapped of Thailand said barring the disabled from qualification examinations was discriminatory and unconstitutional in theory, but in practice things are different.

"I filed a petition with the Constitution Court for amendment of more than 40 laws, but it was turned down," said Maj-Colonel Sirichai Sapsiri.

"This year is supposed to be the year to promote the handicapped in the workplace. The government has been telling the private sector to admit the disabled, but the government itself is discriminating against them," Sirichai said.

"If they want to continue the hypocrisy, there's no use promoting the year of handicapped," he said.

The disabled and concerned NGOs will soon gather to fight for justice, Sirichai said.

"We will have a workshop with the prime minister by July," he said.

Meanwhile, a judge in Court of Appeals Region 3 judge spoke out in favour of the decision to keep the bench disabled-free.

"Imagine when a judge sits on the bench and the involved parties laugh at him, how can the judge get his work done?" Sriamporn Salikhup said.

"Judges must meet the highest standards of society. They must earn respect and trust," Sriamporn said.

"I want to say that the judicial circle has no bias against the disabled. It just depends on whether society is ready to accept them as judges."

Napanisa Kaewmorakot and Opas Boonlom

Earlier: Lawyers cannot become judges because they limp.
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