**Based on new information, we have re-titled, re-edited and are re-posting this**
The first report of a hunger strike by lese majeste victims incarcerated for their political views was in The Nation. It reported that lese majeste victim Surachai Danwattananusorn has “vowed to begin a hunger strike next Wednesday” if he is “moved to the new detention centre for political prisoners in Bangkok’s Lak Si district…”.
Now that Surachai is known to be part of a group of lese majeste victims threatening a hunger strike (see below), we feel that a new stage in the struggle against lese majeste repression may be upon us.
Surachai has been detained since 22 February 2011 on charges that relate to a speech made on 15 December 2008. Hence, it is now more than 3 years since his alleged offense and he has been in jail for 11 months, without bail, while his trial drags on. This despite the fact that Surachai has stated that he is prepared to plead guilty in order to end the torment.
Red Siam leader Surachai, who is 69 and in poor health, was said to be “disheartened by the fact that he and another red shirt lese majeste detainee, Somyos Prueksakasem-suk, were not regarded as political prisoners.”
Surachai reportedly stated: “If political cases do not include that of Surachai and Somyos, then what else is there to be said?”
In a later report in the Bangkok Post it is reported that several lese majeste detainees have made the same demand and threatened a hunger strike. In the words of the Post, the hunger strike “threat was conveyed to the Corrections Department by Surachai Daneattananusorn, Daranee “Da Torpedo” Chanrncherngsilapakul, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, and Ampon Tangnoppakul, among others…”.
The authorities are now seeking advice from the Truth for Reconciliation Commission chair Kanit na Nakhon. However Kanit says he won’t reply “since the department had full authority to make a decision.” That seems a bit weak-kneed.
While the idea of a special jail for political prisoners is difficult for many to comprehend, it is clear that red shirts and lese majeste victims like Surachai demand to be viewed as being imprisoned for their political beliefs.
The state recently moved 47 red shirts to the new detention center but no lese majeste victims.
As a footnote, we should note that both reports refer to 10 lese majeste prisoners. That seems low to us, but the Post report adds that this is at the remand prison alone. That would seem more likely to us.