Lese majeste aired in Geneva

12 09 2013

There are two reports regarding Thailand’s lese majeste law and the meeting of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council that deserve attention.

The first is from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and details growing concerns raised at the HRC about Southeast Asian governments and:

… the use of national security, anti-terrorist and defamation laws to limit freedom of expression on the Internet, a coalition of international and local NGOs and activists from Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia urged governments to stop using vague legislation based on ill-defined concepts such as “national security”, “sovereignty” or “lèse-majesté” to intimidate, harass and imprison independent voices. Speaking at an event in Geneva, which coincides with the 24th session of the UN Human Rights Council, FIDH, IFEX, Article 19 and PEN International united to call for the urgent revision of these laws to bring them into line with international human rights standards.

Independent and dissenting voices, including bloggers and netizens, journalists, activists and human rights defenders, have increasingly been subjected to repression in Southeast Asia.Polit prisoners

On Thailand, the report states:

The Thai authorities have mostly been using the lèse-majesté law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which punishes any word or deed which “defames, insults or threatens the King […]”) and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act to lock up journalists and critics. The most notorious case is that of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for authorizing the publication, as editor, of two articles that were considered insulting to the royal family. Ironically, Somyot was arrested just a few days after launching an online petition calling for a review of Article 112. “In its commitment to cooperate with the UN, Thailand needs to go beyond words, immediately release Somyot and protect the right to freedom of expression of all citizens”, said Somyot’s wife, Sukanya.

The second is related and is from the Clean Clothes Campaign. This group has joined with the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign, and adds more pressure regarding Somyos, with his wife in Geneva and campaigning for bail for her husband. The report states:

Somyot is a prisoner of conscience…. The verdict [against him] undermines the right to freedom of expression and press freedom. It is a violation of international human rights law, in particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified. In August 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Somyot’s detention to be in violation of international human rights law. The EU and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have also issued strong statements against the verdict.

Despite the efforts both by his family and the ongoing international campaigns which call for Somyot’ release, Somyot’s 15th bail application has been denied.

Sukunya says:

“If Thailand is to be in compliance with its binding international legal obligations to respect and protect basic rights, this unjust verdict against Somyot should be promptly overturned on appeal. Additionally, while the appeal is being considered, his constitutional right to provisional release should be upheld so that he could reunite with me, his family. This will also better his medical conditions and at home he can adequately prepare for his defense. Every political prisoner is one too many.

The Clean Clothes Campaign called on Thailand to:

free Somyot and all other persons detained on politically-motivated charges and end all forms of harassment against them to ensure that no one would be criminalised for peacefully exercising their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.

Updated: Somyos convicted

23 01 2013

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has been convicted on lese majeste charges. The Bangkok Post reports that he has been “sentenced to five years on each of the two charges, and the court cancelled the suspension of a previous one-year sentence – for a total of 11 years in prison, a cumulative sentence.” It adds that the harshness of the sentence “caught both Somyot and his family – his wife and son – totally by surprise…”.

The sentence was 11 years because the court “said Somyot was given a one-year suspended jail term in 2009 but he had again committed the crime of defaming the royal institution and threatening and insulting the monarchy, so his previous prison term was added to the five-year sentence for each of the two fresh offences he committed by publishing the two articles. In total, he was sentenced to 11 years.”

He will appeal the conviction.

Some 200 supporters who packed the courtroom were “from the diplomatic community, civil society and the media, along with members of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)…”.

According to the report, the four-judge panel “rebutted the arguments and opinions given by seven defence witnesses but put weight on prosecution witnesses, including Tongthong Chandrangsu, the Prime Minister’s Office permanent secretary, security officers from the Internal Security Operating Command (Isoc), and librarians at the National Library of Thailand,” while ignoring defense claims that the author of the articles “revealed to the court as Jakrapob Penkair, was not a defendant in the case,” and so the editor of the magazine should not be convicted.

It is reported that the:

Clean Clothes Campaign, the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign also deplored Somyot’s conviction, saying he is a prisoner of conscience and was convicted solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to participate in public life….

They agreed the judgement is a serious blow to the rule of law in Thailand and would further contribute to self-censorship. The ruling was a violation of international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand had ratified.

Updated: Korean support as Somyos lese majeste trial resumes

19 04 2012

The Nation reports on the resumption of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk’s lese majeste trial, this time in Bangkok.

Yesterday, his lawyers

tried to explain to the judges that the two articles, written by an anonymous person under the pen name of Jit Polachan – which led to the filing of charges against Somyos – were not directly defamatory of HM the King. Any such conclusion, they said, could only be made through interpretation of the text….

Indeed, this view was apparently supported in evidence by a prosecution witness: “Col Vijarn Jodtaeng, director of the legal division of the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc), [who] testified that there was no direct mention of the King…”. He then added that he interpreted that it was about the king.

Defense lawyer Karom Polpornklang insisted, however, that this was just an “interpretation” and others might interpret it differently.

The articles mentioned were published in February and March 2010 and refer to a “mastermind with the name ‘Luang Naruebarn’ who wanted to launch a bloody crackdown on protesters.” It is interesting that the articles were prior to the first of two Abhisit Vejjajiva government-ordered crackdowns in April and May 2010.

When defense lawyers asked Col. Vijarn “if he was aware that HM the King had once stated that the King was not above criticism. The colonel refused to answer but added that the law would take care of it.”

Two other prosecution witnesses apparently gave similar testimony agreeing that they interpreted the stories were about the king.

Meanwhile, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), which represents some 800,000 workers, has called for the unconditional and immediate release of lese majeste victim Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. Here’s the letter sent to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra:

HE Ms Yingluck Shinawatra

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand

Government House

Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District

Bangkok 10300, Thailand

Cc. Mr. Chaiyong SATJIPANON, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Royal Thai Embassy, Korea

653-7, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul 140-210

Your Excellency,

On behalf of 800,000 members of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, I am writing to you in connection with the upcoming trial and continued detention of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who faces charges under lèse‐majesté law. Somyot is known well in Korean labour movement for his tireless work in establishing democratic labour movement and strengthening solidarity among workers in Asia. We are deeply concerned about misuse of lèse‐majesté law to repress voices from labour and social movement.

We respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and calls on States to ensure that they can carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We believe the continuous abuse of the lèse‐majesté law is politically motivated and detrimental to the rebuilding of democracy in Thailand. Such laws have to be reviewed in accordance to international human rights standards.

In this regards, we are call on the authorities in Thailand to drop all charges against against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and release him immediately and unconditionally. We believe that this is a very basic step to restore and enhance freedom of expression and democracy in Thailand.

Yours Sincerely,

Kim Young-hoon

President, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

Update: The Clean Clothes Campaign has stated that it will send an observer to attend the Somyos trial during the last week of April. The observer has over 30 years experience working on Asia development and human rights issues and will join other observers sent by the International Committee for Jurists (ICJ) and the EU mission. The Global Union Federation ICEM (International Chemical, Engineering and Mining Workers) has also launched a public campaign demanding the of release of Somyos.

Somyos at the Human Rights Council

5 10 2011

Somyos Prueksakasemsuk,’s case will be heard at Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the U.N. Human Rights Council on 5 October 2011 in Geneva. For the complete details, go here.

The UPR will, for the first time, consider Thailand’s human rights record. This is an important meeting for those who support the anti-lese majeste campaign. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Thai Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) will be lobbying this meeting to review the law (more info here).

The case on the arrest and arbitrary detention of Somyos is here.

The Free Somyot Campaign partner, the Clean Clothes Campaign issued a statement on 4 October to the media in Geneva to support the Thai Human Rights Campaigner, Kwanravee Wangudom on 5 October 2011 who travels to Geneva to participate in the UPR. She represents dozens of human and labour rights activists assembled under the “Article 112: Awareness Campaign” fighting against abuse of the lese majeste law to silence activists and the media in Thailand.

Repression of Triumph protestors continues

8 09 2009

Readers will recall our earlier post on the use of Internal Security Act provisions against leaders of the laid-off workers from Triumph International.

The Clean Clothes Campaign now has an interesting and disturbing post on this issue (7 September 2009: “Leaders of Peaceful Protest Against Triumph Threatened with Arrest in Thailand”). Of note is this: “hundreds of Triumph workers assembled in front of the parliament to hand a petition to the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. However, [Abhisit] refused to meet with the union representatives, and instead the workers were confronted with police using a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). This controversial military weapon consists of a high concentration of sound waves that can cause temporarily deafness and blurred vision, as well as permanent hearing loss. According to human rights organisations, this non-lethal weapon can be classified as a technique of political control that poses a threat to civil liberties.”

The Campaign allows protests to be lodged here.

%d bloggers like this: