The following statement has been issued by the International Federation of Journalists, calling for the release of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, currently on trial on lese majeste charges. So far he has been held without bail since 30 April 2011.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today urged the authorities in Thailand to release Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor-in-chief of Voice of the Oppressed (Voice of Taksin), who is held under Thai Lèse Majesté Law. The journalist, who was detained on 30 April 2011, is accused of publishing articles which allegedly made negative references to the monarch.
“We are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of our colleague who has been held for almost a year, despite suffering ill health,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “Somyot is innocent until proven guilty and poses no risk to public order. There is simply no reasonable basis to deny him bail so that he can seek treatment.”
Somyot, who is also a leading labour activist in Thailand, was arrested on 30 April 2011 following publication in his magazine of two articles which the authorities claim offended the country’s ruling monarch. He has been accused of lèse majesté offence, a crime that carries up to 30 years of imprisonment, and has been repeatedly refused bail.
Reports say that his trial, which opened in November last year, has been taking place before criminal courts outside Bangkok in Sa Kaeo, Petchabun and Nakorn Sawan provinces. He has reportedly complained about his treatment while in detention, including being made to stand in a truck during the trips to various court hearings outside the capital, despite his gout and hypertension conditions.
The IFJ says the Soymot’s detention conditions have added to the outrage at the continuing use of the archaic lèse majesté law which lacks clarity and can be abused to suppress legitimate dissent in the country.
The Federation backs the UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, who called in October 2011 for reform of this law, noting that ” the threat of a long prison sentence and vagueness of what kinds of expression constitute defamation, insult, or threat to the monarchy, encourage self-censorship and stifle important debates on matters of public interest, thus putting in jeopardy the right to freedom of opinion and expression”.
“We believe the case for the reform of this law is now unanswerable for the survival of press freedom and democratic pluralism in Thailand,” added Boumelha. “Somyot’s detention has laid bare the blatant abuse of the legislation for political purposes and its repeal is overdue.”