International campaigns for detained journalist
Trials held in Thailand against journalists and internet companies accused of lèse majesté have led to several international campaigns to secure their release.
“Red Shirts” are being systematically treated as suspects and are being denied bail while waiting for their cases to come up. Among them is Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a man who has spent 20 years fighting for better working conditions. He was also the editor-in-chief of the now banned magazine “Voice of Taksin”.
One year ago, he was arrested because his magazine published two articles that were deemed to fall within the scope of the lèse majesté law. He has remained in jail ever since. On Friday, he received the reply to his ninth application for bail.
“Unfortunately, the court once again rejected the application,” his wife Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk told DN. “We’re very disappointed. Also, Somyot has had a lot of difficulty in contacting his lawyer recently.”
The lèse majesté law has been used many times since the military coup of 2006, particularly by the former government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Even mild criticism of the monarchy in Thailand was branded as lèse majesté, for political reasons, the newspaper The Nation writes. But the present government of Yingluck Shinawatra has not done much to help those brought to court on charges of slandering King Bhumibol.
In all twelve of the cases brought since 2009 against supporters of the UDD, better known as the “Red Shirts”, bail has been refused, the human rights organisation Human Rights Watch points out. This is in contrast to the leaders of the other side in politically divided Thailand, who were released on bail on the same day as they were charged with high treason.
The Thai lèse majesté law is being overused and abused, Human Rights Watch says. “The manifestly unfair handling of lèse majesté cases is made even worse by the fact that the accused are not granted bail and are kept imprisoned for as long as it takes for their cases to come to court,” the organisation writes.
The trial of former editor-in-chief Somyot Prueksakasemsuk continues until 3 May. Among those protesting against his treatment are the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and several international trade union organisations.