Appeal Court president Sirichai Wattanayothin holds a briefing at his office on July 12 after the Courts of Justice voted not to endorse him as president of the Supreme Court on July 3. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

The Appeal Court president who failed to be endorsed as head of the Supreme Court will resign while a probe will be launched against him involving a controversial case transfer.

The Courts of Justice voted unanimously on July 3 not to endorse Sirichai Wattanayothin, the incumbent Appeal Court president, as chief of the Supreme Court, breaking the decades-long tradition of adhering to seniority when appointing top officials.

They also voted to set up a panel to probe into an allegedly controversial handling of a case by Mr Sirichai.

The Appeal Court president on Monday told reporters he would hold a briefing to announce his resignation as judicial official on Tuesday afternoon. A source said his resignation would not change anything since three judges had already been named to look into the facts involving the scandal.

The probe, which normally takes 30 days, will involve testimony by witnesses and Mr Sirichai, as well as cross examination. The facts gathered from the proceeding would be used to determine the alleged wrongdoing.

If he is found to have committed a wrongdoing, another panel would be set up to determine whether it is a disciplinary offence, which will affect his pensions and benefits.

According to Isra News Agency, the scandal involves a drug case before Mr Sirichai became the president of the Appeal Court.

The first court handed down a life imprisonment ruling on the defendant. During the consideration of the appeal and before the appeal ruling was read, a three-judge panel decided to uphold the first court’s ruling. However, two senior judges who later reviewed the case believed it should be dismissed.

Due to the conflicting views, Mr Sirichai’s predecessor transferred the case to another panel of judges, who decided the case should be dismissed.

At this stage, the president had to decide what to do with the case. But since Mr Sirichai’s predecessor had left office, the case became his responsibility.

Mr Sirichai, viewing that the defendant could be convicted and the case transfer was a minor mistake, ordered the revocation of the case transfer approved by his predecessor, effectively restoring the original guilty decision by the first panel of judges.

As a result, on the ruling date, the Appeal Court upheld the first court’s decision and the defendant was jailed for life. Since drug cases end at the Appeal Court, the defendant could no longer appeal.

Mr Sirichai insisted he had done nothing wrong in this case.


Courtesy of Bangkok Post