More on Suwicha and Da Torpedo

26 01 2010

The stories of Suwicha Thakor and Darunee Charnchoensilpakul or Da Torpedo are emblematic of the way that lese majeste is used in Thailand. Their current situations are lamentable and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government should condemned for the situation of these two political prisoners. The two stories at Prachatai that we highlight below are worth reading in full.

Suwicha: At Prachatai (24 January 2010), Pravit Rojanaphruk writes of letters in Thai from Suwicha. PPT earlier posted on a shorter, English-language letter from Suwicha.

Pravit points out that these may be the last letters from Suwicha “since an Interior Ministry official who has been appointed to look after the case have allegedly told Klong Prem Prison to ‘censor’ future correspondents from Suwicha. This is a double blow … in term[s] of censorship and self-censorship under lese majeste law.” PPT imagines that this treatment reflects the “new measures that Abhisit keeps emphasizing as “solving” the lese majeste problem. Increased censorship sits oddly with Abhisit’s other mantra about the rule of law.

Apparently also reflective of Abhisit’s new approach, it seems that Suwicha’s pardon request has somehow mysteriously disappeared from his official file.

After one year in jail, Suwicha thinks that he is seen as a “a criminal who must be suppressed” and laments the lack of information about his case and the failure “to see the root cause of the problem… I feel very troubled that these people do not understand me at all.”

Suwicha claims that his “wife has been pressured by some officials into becoming silent” and have warned her that “if I got out from jail there would not guarantee my safety. If [she] doesn’t want to see me suffer harshly she must stay silent.” Again, are Abhisit’s new measures just harsher versions of the old measures?

Pravit notes that Suwicha “may be in a physical prison but many Thais who think about the monarchy institution in a critical way also found themselves in an invisible jail as they go freely about their daily life but without the right to freely express their critical view about the institution publicly. It is as if they too are in jail, albeit an invisible jail against their conscience. Many chose to dwell in this invisible jail instead of the physical jail…”.

Suwicha’s family is now in a desperate situation.

Darunee: Prachatai’s other story (25 January 2010 ) is about Da Torpedo’s case. Last week, her brother Kittichai, “together with some 30 activists, red shirts and monks, presented a petition to the Corrections Department, requesting the agency to provide medical treatment for Daranee.” Kittichai wanted his sister to receive treatment outside the prison, which lacks the appropriate medical equipment. In fact, his claim is supported by “a medical statement from a doctor at the prison confirming her illness,” and stating that she suffers “molar joint disorder and suggesting that a CT scan was needed to plan treatment.” Yet a court had “denied her request for temporary release to receive treatment, and the prison had not sent her to an outside hospital.” The Corrections Department did send Da for a medical examination at the Police Hospital and now she awaits their decision on treatment. This could mean a wait of another year.

Kittichai also asked about “mistreatment Daranee had to endure in prison, such as being forced to sit alone, being prohibited from talking to other inmates for 3 hours in the late afternoon, and being transferred to a more crowded cell.” The officials responded – in line with Abhisit’s new measures, perhaps? – that this “was an internal management issue…”.

It is now several months since Da first told of her health problem that prevents her from eating properly and to suffer considerable pain.

The courts have twice refused temporary release for medical treatment, saying that “the convict had repeatedly committed very serious offences against the monarchy and national security, so it was likely that she would flee or re-commit similar offences, and the claimed illness did not appear life-threatening or affect her everyday life.”

Da’s lawyer also explained that the Constitutional Court had dismissed he complaint against the closed trial she was forced to undergo when she was convicted on lese majeste charges. Da had appealed that “the Criminal Court’s order to close her trials to the public and its refusal to forward her appeal against the order to the Constitutional Court … were unconstitutional…”.

The Criminal Court had claimed that a trial in a closed court “did not violate the rights of the defendant, as the defendant was able to have her lawyer present and to submit witnesses and evidence in the trials.”

On 21 October 2009, the Constitutional Court dismissed the appeal, saying “that the defendant was still able to exercise her rights through the Appeals and Supreme Courts, and could exercise her rights through other means before reaching the Constitutional Court, since Section 212 of the 2007 Constitution says that the appellant must already have exhausted all other means.”

In another case, the Criminal Court dismissed Da’s lawsuit against the judge in her lese majeste case. The court ruled that his order to close the court and his refusal to transmit her appeal against the order to the Constitutional Court, were “according to law.”

The message these cases provide is that a conviction on lese majeste charges results in years of harassment in prison.



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