Somyos and his jailing

14 05 2013

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), and Media Defence – Southeast Asia (MD-SEA) have filed a legal brief in support of the appeal by Somyos Phruksakasemsuk.

They note the courts’ continuing refusal to grant bail pending his trial and appeal.

PPT reproduces the announcement below:

On 23 January 2013, Somyot was convicted by the trial court to ten years’ imprisonment for two violations of Thailand’s lese-majeste law (Article 112 of the Criminal Code), which prohibits defamation of and insult to the monarchy. As editor of the Voice of Taksin (“Voice of the Oppressed”) magazine, Somyot is accused of allowing publication of two articles that were deemed to be “insulting” to the monarchy. In April, Somyot filed an appeal against the decision of the first instance court and also filed his 14th request for bail. The appeals court rejected Somyot’s bail request due to the “severity of his crime”, which had “affected the morality and feelings of the people”.

This submission by FIDH, MLDI, and MD-SEA suggests that the grounds on which the court refused bail to Somyot do not comply with Thailand’s obligations under international law. It requires that, in light of our fundamental right to liberty, denial of provisional release can only be justified if the court is able to demonstrate meaningfully that it is necessary to prevent an actual threat to public security or the judicial process and that no alternatives to detention are possible. FIDH, MLDI, and MD-SEA additionally opine that Somyot’s freedom should be granted because his detention results from the exercise of the rights and freedoms of expression.

FIDH, MLDI, and MD-SEA urge the courts to take Thailand’s obligations under international law into consideration in their review of Somyot’s appeal and to grant Somyot bail.

The briefs can be accessed in Thai and English (clicking on either link downloads a PDF).





Somyos to appeal

27 03 2013

A post at Holger’s Blog states that Somyos Prueksakasemsuk is to appeal his lese majeste conviction. Written by his wife, the post states the Somyos had to lodge an appeal by the end of the month. The grounds for the appeal will revolve around the Printing Act and his role as editor of the Voice of Taksin rather than author of the allegedly offensive articles.





CrCF on Somyos and basic rights

28 01 2013

CrCF released statement on the conviction of Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

January 28, 2013

Press Statement

On the Conviction of Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

The Bangkok Criminal Court read a verdict on the Black Case no. O1952/2554 on 23 January 2013 between the public prosecutors v Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a defendant in an offence against the Penal Code’s Article 112 (lèse majesté). Mr. Somyot was accused of publishing, distributing and disseminating “Khom Kwam Kid” column authored by “Jitra Phonchan” and another article “‘Bloody Plan, Shooting over the Head of the Seniors” in the Voice of Taksin. Both were deemed by the Court as being defamatory, insulting, or threatening to the King. That the defendant published, distributed and disseminated the articles was tantamount to an act to defame, insult, or threaten the King, an offence as per Article 112 of the Penal Code. He was therefore convicted to imprisonments on two counts, each for five years, plus another one year in a libel suit, the Red Case no. O1078/2552, altogether 11 years.

The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) is concerned about the enforcement of the Penal Code’s Article 112 which directly impacts the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, a fundamental right guaranteed in any democracies. We therefore have the following demands to make;

1. While the case is pending in the Court, Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and other defendants or alleged offenders in lèse majesté cases should be granted temporary release immediately as they are considered prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. In addition, it is essentially held in criminal justice that a defendant be presumed innocent unless until the final verdict is reached. In order to uphold the principle, the defendants should be granted bail. That a person is subjected to being held in custody for a lengthy period of time is tantamount to having the person convicted prior to the trial. Such an act is in breach of the justice process provided for by the Constitution.

2. The government should make an attempt to have the Penal Code’s Article 112 amended making it become more appropriate and proportionate to a democratic system and in compliance with Thailand’s international obligation regarding Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In particular, the penalties should be adjusted to make them reflect genuine severity of the offence. The preservation of the monarchy cannot be made possible by the enforcement of draconian and undemocratic law. Also, the power to report a lèse majesté case should not lie with any individual as currently prescribed for since it paves the way for the misuse of Article 112 as a tool to silence any political dissent.

3. The Court is urged to adjudicate in compliance with the rule of law and impartiality. The enforcement of law based on respect of constitutional rights to freedom shall help to minimize impact of any unjust laws. On the contrary, if the enforcement of law is made without any principle, even though the law is fair enough, it shall not enable justice in society.

In order to help solve conflicts in society, it is therefore vitally important that the judges perform their duties in compliance with the rule of law and based on impartiality. In so doing, they shall be able to help the nation wade through any crises and become a sustainable democracy in future.

For more information, please contact Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, phone +66 2 6934939

___________________________________________________

องค์กรสิทธิเรียกร้องให้มีการปล่อยตัวชั่วคราว นายสมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข และจำเลยในคดีอาญาอื่น ระหว่างการพิจารณาคดี

สำหรับเผยแพร่ทันที

24 มกราคม 2556

แถลงการณ์มูลนิธิผสานวัฒนธรรม

กรณีศาลตัดสินคดีนายสมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข

ตามที่ศาลอาญาได้มีคำพิพากษาในคดีหมายเลขดำ อ.1952/2554 ในวันที่ 23 มกราคม 2555 ระหว่าง พนักงานอัยการสำนักงานอัยการสูงสุด โจทก์ และ นายสมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข จำเลยในคดีมาตรา 112 ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา ด้วยการจัดพิมพ์ จัดจำหน่าย และเผยแพร่บทความคมความคิด ของผู้ใช้นามปากกา จิตร พลจันทร์ ในบทความเรื่องแผนนองเลือด และบทความเรื่องยิงข้ามรุ่น ในนิตยสารเสียงทักษิณ (Voice of Taksin) โดยศาลพิเคราะห์ว่า บทความดังกล่าวเป็นการดูหมิ่น หมิ่นประมาท แสดงความอาฆาตมาดร้าย ต่อพระมหากษัตริย์ ดังนั้นการที่จำเลยนำบทความไปจัดพิมพ์ จัดจำหน่าย และเผยแพร่ จึงมีเจตนาหมิ่นประมาท ดูหมิ่น และแสดงความอาฆาตมาดร้ายต่อพระมหากษัตริย์ เป็นความผิดตามประมวลกฎหมายอาญา มาตรา 112 พิพากษาลงโทษจำคุกสองกระทง กระทงละ 5 ปี เป็นจำนวน 10 ปี บวกโทษจำคุก 1 ปี ในคดีอาญาหมายเลขแดงที่ อ.1078/2552 ของศาลอาญา รวมเป็นจำคุก 11 ปี

มูลนิธิผสานวัฒนธรรมขอแสดงความห่วงกังวลถึงการบังคับใช้มาตรา 112 ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา ซึ่งเกี่ยวข้องโดยตรงกับเสรีภาพในการแสดงความคิดเห็น อันเป็นเสรีภาพขั้นพื้นฐานของประเทศเสรีประชาธิปไตย และขอเรียกร้องให้มีการดำเนินการดังต่อไปนี้

1. ขอเรียกร้องให้มีการปล่อยตัวชั่วคราว นายสมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข และผู้ต้องหาหรือจำเลยอื่นในคดีที่ถูกกล่าวหาเช่นดียวกันนี้ ในทันที เนื่องจากถือเป็นนักโทษทางความคิดและนักโทษทางการเมือง ทั้งหัวใจของกฎหมายอาญา คือ หลักการสันนิษฐานว่าจำเลยเป็นผู้บริสุทธิ์จนกว่าจะมีคำพิพากษาถึงที่สุด และเพื่อคุ้มครองหลักการดังกล่าวจำเลยจึงต้องได้สิทธิที่จะได้รับการปล่อยตัวชั่วคราว การควบคุมตัวบุคคลในระหว่างการพิจารณาที่ยาวนานจึงเปรียบเสมือนการพิพากษาจำคุกมาตั้งแต่ต้น อันเป็นการละเมิดสิทธิในกระบวนการยุติธรรมตามรัฐธรรมนูญ

2. ขอให้รัฐดำเนินการแก้ไขมาตรา 112 ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา ให้มีความเหมาะสมและสอดคล้องกับระบอบการปกครองในระบอบประชาธิปไตย และพันธกรณีระหว่างประเทศตามข้อบทที่ 19 แห่งกติการะหว่างประเทศว่าด้วยสิทธิพลเมืองและสทธิทางการเมือง โดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งการแก้ไขอัตราโทษที่มีสัดส่วนที่เหมาะสมกับการกระทำความผิด เนื่องจากการรักษาความมั่นคงของสถาบันกษัตริย์นั้นไม่อาจกระทำได้โดยการบังคับใช้กฎหมายที่รุนแรงและไม่สอดคล้องกับประชาธิปไตย และอำนาจในการร้องทุกข์กล่าวโทษ ที่ไม่ควรให้ใครก็ได้เป็นผู้ร้องทุกข์กล่าวโทษ ซึ่งเป็นการเปิดช่องทางให้มีผู้ใช้ข้อหาความผิดตามมาตรา 112 เป็นเครื่องมือในการกลั่นแกล้งศัตรูทางการเมือง

3. ขอให้ศาลยึดมั่นในหลักการกฎหมาย และพิจารณาคดีโดยปราศจากฐานของหลักอคติ เพราะการบังคับใช้กฎหมายบนพื้นฐานหลักการและเคารพสิทธิเสรีภาพของรัฐธรรมนูญย่อมมีส่วนลดความรุนแรงของกฎหมายที่ไม่เป็นธรรมได้ ในทางตรงกันข้ามการบังคับใช้กฎหมายที่ไม่อยู่บนพื้นฐานหลักการ แม้กฎหมายจะมีความเป็นธรรมสักเพียงใดก็ไม่อาจสร้างความเป็นธรรมให้เกิดในสังคมได้

ทั้งนี้เพื่อเป็นการเยียวยาแก้ไขปัญหาความขัดแย้งของสังคม การยึดมั่นในหลักนิติธรรมและบทบาทของผู้พิพากษาที่เป็นกลางปราศจากอคติในภาวะวิกฤติเท่านั้นที่จะนำพาประเทศชาติให้อย่างร่วมกันได้อย่างสันติประชาธิปไตยได้อย่างยั่งยืน

สอบถามเพิ่มเติมติดต่อ: นางสาวพรเพ็ญ คงขจรเกียรติ โทรศัพท์ +66 2 6934939





Updated: Protecting kings and courts

26 01 2013

The reaction to the lese majeste sentencing of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk has unleashed a torrent of negative international criticism and, while muted by various laws, domestic criticism has been heard as well.

Predictably, the ultra-royalists reaction has been one of  exultation, for the madder PAD types believe that the monarchy is under threat. Rather than recognizing that royalists are destroying it by their demented actions, they prefer to conjure Thaksin Shinawatra as the financier of republicans. Thus they defend the kangaroo courts and cheer when enemies are locked up for years. They attack each and every one of those who criticize lese majeste convictions with xenophobic zeal. They damn foreigners for failing to understand “Thai culture” and denigrate Thai critics as dangerously “un-Thai.” They justify repression and censorship as absolutely required to “protect” the monarchy.

That the conviction of Somyos further extends the repressive scope of lese majeste is cause for royalist celebration.

The Nation notes that his conviction was the “first time a magazine editor has been sentenced to jail for violating the lese majeste law…”. In a sense, though, this chilling application mirrors the manner in which webmasters are held responsible for each and every comments posted on their sites.

The judgement deserves consideration for the way that the courts, as a bastion of royalist reactionary politics, interpret and broaden the scope of the law and how they justify this unconstitutional extension of “their” law.

The Nation says that:Jit

… the four judges ruled that although the two articles never directly mentioned the name of HM the King or Rama I, their context suggested the fictitious name of “Luang Naruebarn” was in fact a reference to HM the King.

An unofficial translation of the summary of the verdict is available from Prachatai. Rather than reproduce it in full, PPT merely offers some commentary:

The plaintiff charged that in the period between the daytime of 15 February 2010 and the daytime of 15 March 2010, the defendant defamed, insulted and threatened His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the Head of the Kingdom of Thailand….

We looked at the Thai version and it doesn’t say “head,”  but refers to the monarch of the kingdom.

A first Voice of Taksin magazine article, which did not mention the king by name or title, defamed, insulted and threatened him because it:

conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the person who gave the order for the massacre in the 6 October 1976 event, and had been planning situations to slaughter a number of people mercilessly after the verdict to seize Thaksin Shinawatra’s assets.

The judges this was “unfounded.” In fact, while a good historical case can be made that the palace fomented murderous right-wing vigilantism that saw royalists go on a killing spree, no single order is ever likely to be revealed. Another article, which also did not mention the king by name or title, was construed offensive as it:

… conveys the message that His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was implicated in various conflicts and bloodshed in Thailand, and that His Majesty masterminded initiatives which dismantled pro-democratic movements.

This was also said to be “unfounded.” Again, though, very good academic accounts of this king’s failure to promote democratic progress while supporting military coups and authoritarian regimes are already available. Ignoring this, the court decided that while neither of the articles mentions the king by name, they were:

written with the intention to link past events together. When events of the past are brought together, it can be implied that they refer to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

“Implied” lese majeste has now been used against Somyos and Jeng Dokchik or Yoswaris Chuklom. This is a chilling interpretation of an already draconian law.

The court defends this real expansion of the law with threats. In another story at The Nation, it is reported that the “Criminal Court’s chief judge yesterday countered criticism by foreign organisations…”. Thawee Prachuablarb “warned that the court might take legal action against those who unfairly attack it.” We aren’t sure why “fairness” is used here, for this is the last concern of the court. He added that

the lese majeste law reflected Thailand’s culture, which is different from those of other countries. “It is narrow-minded to describe the court as barbaric or as an organisation that protects the monarchy,” he said.

Of course the culturalist argument is the usual royalist nonsense also peddled in palace propaganda. The idea that the court is not “an organisation that protects the monarchy” is simply ludicrous and a lie of royal proportions. However, we agree that the court is not barbaric; it simply serves and protects its feudal masters.

Update: Several readers have asked PPT to post the charges against Somyos. THese have been at the page we maintain for Somyos, now under Convictions. For ease of access, we reproduce our links here: His charges may be seen in this PDF in ไทย or this unofficial translation in English (Warning: readers should note that this document includes reproductions of the material determined to be in breach of the lese majeste law. Downloading it and/or distributing it may lead to a similar charge of lese majeste).





AHRC on Somyos

22 01 2013

The Asian Human Right Commission has issued this press release on the upcoming lese majeste verdict in the case against Somyos Prueksakasemsuk. PPT reproduces it in full:

PRESS RELEASE

AHRC-PRL-003-2013

THAILAND: Arbitrary detention of a human rights defender and continued removal of constitutional protections

Hong Kong, January 22, 2013

On December 19, 2012, the Criminal Court in Bangkok was scheduled to deliver the verdict in the case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who has been charged under Article 112 of the Criminal Code.  The reading of the decision was rescheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, 2013, at 9 am at the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The Asian Human Rights Commission urges all individuals concerned with freedom of expression, and human rights broadly, to attend the reading of the verdict if possible, and if not, to follow developments in this case closely.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a long-time labour rights activist and human rights defender in Thailand. Since 2007, he has been the editor of Voice of Taksin magazine. He was arrested and taken into custody on April 30, 2011, and shortly thereafter charged with two violations of Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which states that “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”  In Somyot’s case, the charges were for allegedly allowing two articles with anti-monarchy content to be published in Voice of Taksin magazine.  Somyot was held for six months of pre-trial detention; the hearings in his trial began on November 12, 2011 and continued until May 3, 2012.  Similar to the majority of individuals who have been charged under Article 112, his repeated requests for bail were denied on the basis of the gravity of the charges against him.  In August 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention noted that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary because “he has been detained for his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression provided for” in both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Read the full opinion of the Working Group here).

The reason given by the Criminal Court for the deferral of the reading of the decision on December 19, 2012, and therefore the extension of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s arbitrary detention, was the need to read a comment by the Constitutional Court in relation to Article 112 of the Criminal Code. The comment, dated October 2012, addressed a petition submitted by Somyot as well as a petition submitted by Ekachai Hongkangwan, who is being prosecuted in a separate case for alleged violations of Article 112. The comment addressed whether or not Article 112 was in contravention to Article 3 (2), Article 29, and Article 45 (1, 2) of the Constitution (The full comment can be read in Thai here).  In response to concerns about each of these provisions of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article 112 did not stand in contravention and was therefore constitutional.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned by the stance taken by the Constitutional Court in their comment and their cavalier dismissal of the significant concerns presented. With regard to each of the three articles of the Constitution raised as contravened by Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the Court’s explanation is at best, vague, and at worst, ideological. What makes this comment significant is both the potential impact it may have on the judgment rendered in Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s case, as well as other lese majeste cases and the broad frame of freedom of expression and human rights in Thailand.

The Constitutional Court frames their comment by citing Articles 2 and 8 of the Constitution. Article 2 states that “Thailand adopts a democratic form of government with the King as Head of the State.” Article 8 states that “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated.  No person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action.” The Court then notes that Thailand has had a king as head of state “for a long time, since the Sukhothai era, even though there was a transformation in 1932 to be a democratic regime with the king as head of the state under a constitution.” The Court continues, noting that “Up until the current constitution of the kingdom, the form of regime remains one with the king as head of the state.” The Court then comments on what this means, offering the interpretation that “This demonstrates the great respect, esteem, and admiration held by the people for the institution of the monarchy. The place of the Thai king as the respected and beloved center of the Thai people has been continuous, as shown in age-old royal traditions and legal conventions. The king has administered with virtue and taken action with the intention of the well-being of the people. In particular, King Bhumipol Adulyadej, the current monarch, greatly contributes to the nation and gives royal grace to the Thai people. He visits the people and bestows royally-conceived projects in different areas in order to alleviate the suffering and solve the problems and troubles of the people. He teaches the people to subsist in line with the principles of the sufficiency economy, by living in line with the middle way, having enough, and being prepared to face changes which may arise. Ordinary people are aware of the king’s conduct and his generosity. They therefore have deep-seated respect, trust, and loyalty for the king and the institution of the monarchy. The long-standing patronage of the Thai king has made the Thai people to continually respect, love, and admire the king. This is a unique characteristic of Thailand held by no other country.” For this reason, the Constitutional Court explains that the state provides protection because the king is the head of state and a primary institution of the country.  The Court then notes that Article 112 of the Criminal Code is a complimentary provision to Article 8 of the Constitution.

In addition, the Constitutional Court also frames the comment by noting that the purpose of Article 112 of the Criminal Code is to “control the behavior of individuals in society, protect safety, and safeguard public peace for members of society, including strengthening the security in society.”  The reason why it is appropriate to do so is because speech deemed to insult, defame, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent, “may be action that destroys the hearts of Thai people who have respect, love, and are loyal to the king and the institution of the monarchy, and may cause resentment among the people.”

After this introduction, which foreshadows the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of the two petitions at hand, and any future petitions, the Court turns to specifically address Article 112 of the Criminal Code in relation to Article 3 (2), Article 29, and Article 45 (1, 2) of the Constitution.

Article 3 (2) of the Constitution states that “The National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Courts, other Constitutional organizations and State agencies shall perform duties of office by the rule of law.” The petition noted that the classification of Article 112 of the Criminal Code as a crime of national security, and the corresponding harsh punishment, was not in line with the rule of law. In response, the Constitutional Court notes that Thailand is a democratic regime with the king as head of state. The Court further argues that the monarchy is in a special position, and therefore a special law is just because the monarchy is a primary pillar of the nation, owing to history, royal tradition, and legal convention. Rather than addressing the question of national security, and how an alleged violation of Article 112 of the Criminal Code might affect it, the Constitutional Court instead attempts to redefine the rule of law to include special protection for particular individuals within the polity. i.e., the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent.

The Constitutional Court examined Article 29 and Article 45 (1, 2) together. Article 29 is in the section of the Constitution which addresses rights, liberties, and human dignity in a broad sense, and states that “(1) The restriction of such rights and liberties as recognized by the Constitution shall not be imposed on a person except by virtue of provisions of the law specifically enacted for the purpose determined by this Constitution and only to the extent of necessity and provided that it shall not affect the essential substance of such rights and liberties. (2) The law under paragraph one shall be of general application and shall not be intended to apply to any particular case or person provided that the provision of the Constitution authorizing its enactment shall also be mentioned therein. (3) The provisions of paragraph one and paragraph two shall apply mutatis mutandis to rules or regulations issued by virtue of the provisions of the law.” Article 45  states “(1) A person shall enjoy the liberty to express his or her opinion, make speeches, write, print, publicize, and make expression by other means. (2) The restriction on liberty under paragraph one shall not be imposed except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, safeguarding the rights, liberties, dignity, reputation, family or privacy rights of other persons, maintaining public order or good morals of preventing the deterioration of the mind or health of the public.” In response, the Constitutional Court argues that Article 112 of the Criminal Code does not have any effects on freedom of expression. The Court further notes that freedom of expression must be in line with the Constitution, and speech which defames, insults, or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent is not, and so Article 112 of the Criminal Code does not limit freedom of expression.

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to note one line in the Constitution not mentioned by the Court in their comment. The first sentence of Article 3 notes that “The Sovereign power belongs to the Thai people.” Throughout this comment, rather than specifying how the Constitution might be used to uphold the rights and liberties of the people, the Constitutional Court has instead specified the conditions under which the people do not have rights, or recourse to demand their rights.  Combined with a comment issued in 2011 in response to a petition filed by Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul (See AHRC-FAT-038-2011), the Constitutional Court seems to have taken up the task of systematically stripping rights and liberties out of the Constitution.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned about what this comment may mean for the specific case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years if convicted, as well as what it means broadly. The AHRC urges all concerned parties to observe the Criminal Court decision in the case of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk tomorrow and to closely follow related developments in other cases and Thai state actions and comments in relations to Article 112 of the Criminal Code.





Release Somyos!

27 06 2012

The following letter is circulated by the Asian Human Rights Commission. PPT knows Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra won’t lift a manicured finger on this case despite the fact that the editor of the Voice of Taksin remains in jail after 14 months of pretend investigation and kangaroo court appearances, accused of lese majeste. She’s too frightened, too “pragmatic” and too quiet:

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following joint press release to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand regarding the release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a labour activist in Thailand.

For inquiries, please contact to Mr. Na Hyun Phil from Korean House for International Solidarity by email (khis21@hanmail.net).

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong

————-
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FPR-028-2012
27 June, 2012

A Joint Press Release to the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

THAILAND/SOUTH KOREA: Release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

21 June 2012

H.E. 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
June 21, 2012

Your Excellency,

We are writing this letter to you on behalf of endorsed South Korean and international labour and social movement organizations to express our solidarity with labour activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.

We demand release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who has been detained from the 30 April 2011. Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has devoted himself for democracy and labour movement in Thailand and for international solidarity as a labour activist, scholar and journalist. Particularly, he has shown strong solidarity to labour movement in Korea. He has translated and popularized a Korean Solidarity song for Thai labour movement. Therefore Korean Labour movement and civil society especially have deep interest and concern on his situation.

He has been imprisoned since he faced charges under the Lese Majeste Law from the article 112 of Criminal Code. Bail of him has been refused and his detention has been extended. We are deeply concerning that the Thai government uses the Lese Majeste Law to oppress Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who criticized the Thai government through <Red Power> magazine.

In addition, we heard that Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, who was supported by the Red Shirt Movement, stood firm on the policy of not amending the Lese Majeste Law because it was not part of the party’s election campaign platform. In this circumstance, Mr. Amphol Tangnoppakul, a 62 years old political prisoner who was victimized by the Lese Majeste Law passed away on 8 May 2002 in prison. He was sentenced 20 years in prison convicted of the Lese Majeste Law for supposedly sending an SMS message to ex-prime minster Abhisit’s personal secretary.

Mr. Amphol Tangnoppakul’s tragedy is not the only case. There are still many political prisoners of the Lese Majeste Law. There are being denied constantly of the right to bail and treatment outside prison. The Lese Majeste Law is a antidemocratic law for suppressing labour movement and social movement in Thailand. We demand the Thai government release political prisoners of the Lese Majeste Law and amend of the law.

We 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, recognizes 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 Lese Majeste 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.

So, we are call on the Thai authorities to:

Release all the political prisoners of the Lese Majeste Law including Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk unconditionally and grant them amnesty,

Amend the Lese Majeste Law from the article 112 of Criminal Code.

Yours Sincerely,

Endorsed by:

1. Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong
2. Citizen of the Earth Taiwan (CET)
3. Globalization Monitor, Hong Kong)
4. Human Rights Education Center ‘Deul’, Korea
5. International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT, U.S.A.)
6. Korea Contingent Workers Center
7. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), Korea
8. Korean House for International Solidarity, Korea
9. Labour Action China, Hong Kong
10. Local Initiative for OSH Network
11. Network for Glocal Activism, Korea
12. People’s Power, Korea
13. Sedane Labour Resource Center, Indonesia
14. Thai Labour Campaign, Thailand
15. United Progressive Party, Korea
16. Workers’ Assistance Center, Philippines
17. Workers Solidarity All Together, Korea
18. Yokohama Action Research, Japan





RWB: Release Somyos

5 05 2012

Reporters Without Borders has issued a call for Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, now awaiting a verdict in his lese majeste case, to be released. Somyos is unlikely to hear the verdict in his case until September 2012, meaning that, if not bailed, he will have been jailed for 17 months before his case is decided by the less than impartial courts. Here’s the RWB call, in full:

Reporters Without Borders again urges the Thai authorities to release Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, the former editor of the banned magazine Voice of Thaksin [sic. Taksin], who was tried on lèse-majesté charges during the past four days in Bangkok [sic., the trial began in November 2011], with witnesses for the prosecution and defence giving evidence. Somyos has been detained for the past 12 months.

“The nine bail requests for Somyos during the past year were all rejected on the grounds that he could influence witnesses if he were released before his trial,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Now that the trial is all but over, we reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

A Reporters Without Borders representative was able to speak briefly with Somyos on 1 May, shortly after Somyos testified in his defence. “I just want to expose the facts,” he said. “If I am punished for that, then so be it.” Somyos’ wife, who visits him once a week in prison, said the 50-year-old journalist seems to have been treated acceptably in prison, but his mental health is deteriorating.

In his testimony, Somyos argued that the two February 2010 articles that prompted his arrest did not refer to the monarchy. “I did not really imagine that these articles would be seen as criticizing the monarchy,” he testified. “In my view, the author was just referring to the Thai elite.” For the first time he revealed the real name of the person who wrote the two articles under the pen-name of Jit Polachan.

“The articles contain no explicit reference to the monarchy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They and the law are being interpreted in a particular way in order to punish a ruling party opponent. We condemn this political use of the draconian lèse-majesté legislation to silence Somyos, and we urge the court not to convict him on the basis of a purely subjective interpretation of the articles.”

Somyos’ two defence lawyers petitioned Thailand’s constitutional court on 24 April, asking it to determine whether the lèse-majesté law is constitutional and complies with international legal standards, and requesting a suspension of the trial until it issued its ruling.

A member of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (better known as the “Red Shirts”), Somyos was arrested on 30 April 2011 after refusing to identify the person who wrote the two articles that allegedly defamed the king. He was formally charged on 26 July 2011 on two lèse-majesté counts for which he could get a combined sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

The court that is trying Somyos will not issue a verdict until the constitutional court has issued a ruling.

Thailand is classified as a country “under scrutiny” in the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders updates every year.





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.





Lese majeste case to go to Constitutional Court

24 04 2012

Prachatai reports that the:

“legal defence team for Somyot Prueksakasemsuk will on 24 April ask the Constitution Court to consider whether the penalty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law, is too severe, and whether the association of the law with national security is against the constitution….

This is an interesting and innovative approach, although PPT is not going to hold its collective breath for any positive outcome from the royalist elite’s court.

The report in Prachatai also comments on 20 April evidence in the lese majeste case by four prosecution witnesses.

A former associate at the Voice of Taksin magazine:

testified that he had read the article entitled ‘Bloody Plan’ written under the pen name Jitr Pollachan, and did not think that there was any passage which directly referred to the King, but he felt that the writer had a bad attitude against the monarchy.

PPT isn’t sure that a “bad attitude” is covered by the law, but it suggests that the prosecution is keen to prove that a negative attitude to the monarchy is a motive.

The witness stated that “he did not know whether Somyot had checked it [the article on which the charge is based] or not.”

Charinrat Ingphongphan, another prosecution witness and a former salesman for the Voice of Taksin, stated that the Department of Special Investigation summonsed him. He was directed by DSI:

to read the articles. When he told the investigators, after reading the articles once, that he did not understand, an investigator threw the magazines on to the table and said, ‘You try again. You finished a Master’s degree. You have no idea about just this little thing?’ He was also told that if he did not tell the truth, he would be in trouble himself, and if he did not agree to be a prosecution witness, he would be prosecuted for selling illegal printed matter. So he read both articles again, and commented that one of them constituted lèse majesté but he did not know the meaning of the other.

The picture emerges of investigators prepared to threaten and cajole witnesses.





Tai’s hunger protest for Somyos

12 02 2012

The hunger protest by Panitan Prueksakasemsuk or Tai for his father, Somyos, jailed on lese majeste charges, is getting some media attention.

At The Nation it is reported that 24 year-old Tai decided on this action after his father was refused bail seven times.

His action, in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road is “a bid to raise awareness of the importance of a detainee’s right to bail.”

In fact, under Section 40 of the 2007 constitution, a person has specified rights in judicial processes. These include:

… 2) fundamental rights in judicial process composing of, at least, right to public trial; right to be informed of and to examine into facts and related documents adequately; right to present facts, defences and evidences in the case; right to object the partial judges; right to be considered by the full bench of judges; and right to be informed of justifications given in the judgement or order;…

3) right to correct, prompt and fair trial;…

7) an alleged offender and the accused in criminal case shall have the right to correct, prompt and fair investigation or trial with an adequate opportunity in defending his case, the right to examine or to be informed of evidence, right to defend himself through counsel and the right to bail….

Arguably, those charged with lese majeste are denied one or more of these provisions. Indeed, in the case of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul, a closed trial was initially held and demonstrating that both lese majeste and the judiciary are political tools, later ruled to be constitutional.

Tai argues that his father “ought to be granted bail if he is to have a fair chance of fighting the lese-majeste charge.” He also points out that people on charges that carry the death penalty are granted bail.

At the Bangkok Post, Tai’s 112-hour famine is reported to have begun with about 30 students from Thammasat showing their support for his cause.

After his hunger strike ends, Tai plans to “file a petition with the Justice Ministry, seeking temporary release on bail for his father.”