Updated: Somyos in court

3 05 2012

The lese majeste trial of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has entered its last days and has become more startling as Somyos has begun to give evidence.

As reported in several sources, including Prachatai, Somyos yesterday named Jakrapob Penkair as the author of the articles at the center of the case, published with a pseudonym. The articles in Thai and English translation can be found here.

Somyos testified that in 2009 he became executive editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine, receiving a salary of 25,000 baht per month. The magazine was owned by several people. The magazine was anti-coup and advocated rights and democracy.

He said that “Jitr Pollachan” was Jakrapob Penkair, who fled lese majeste charges in 2009. Jakrapob had contributed to the magazine for some time. Jakrapob’s lese majeste case has reportedly been dropped. Somyos also testified that Jakrapob was effectively the manager of the magazine.

Somyos said that he thought that the two offending articles referred to amart rather than the monarchy. He provided several reasons why the articles could not be seen to refer to the current king.

Somyos provided some longer term perspective on how the Abhisit Vejjajiva government had sought to close the magazine. He was arrested following the May 2010 crackdown on red shirts. After that crackdown,

Somyot and Chulalongkorn University Suthachai Yimprasert held a press conference calling on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to be held responsible. He and Suthachai were then arrested under the Emergency Decree and were detained at a military base for 21 and 7 days respectively before being released without charge. During that time, Voice of Taksin was banned….

It became Red Power and the government order its printing house to cease printing it. That’s when it moved to Cambodia. Somyos was arrested on lese majeste charges when he was on a trip to Cambodia.

Somyos considered his arrest resulted from “the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES)’s ‘diagram of plot to overthrow the monarchy’ which included his magazine among many conspirators.” That “plot” has since been shown to be a concoction by the Abhisit regime.

Somyot added that:

he had never criticized the monarchy, and had been loyal to the institution like other people, but he disagreed with Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law. He saw that the law had been used as a political tool to destroy opponents, its penalty of 3-15 years’ imprisonment was too severe, and it was against the principles of rights and freedoms according to the constitution.

He stated a “duty to speak the truth,” and declared that “if after speaking the truth they punish me, that’s OK. I consider that I have fulfilled the duty of my life, so be it…”.

The political trial continues.

Update: For a report on 2 May proceedings, see this report in Prachatai. Interestingly, while providing evidence, law lecturer Dr Piyabutr Saengkanokkul of Nitirat took the opportunity to attack Article 112 itself, including this comment:

… defamation of the King had nothing to do with national security, because it would only tarnish the King’s reputation, and Thailand was under democratic rule, not an absolute monarchy in which the King had supreme power.