Send a letter to Somyot

April 3, 2016 1 comment

somyot

On the 30th April we will be marking Somyot’s 5th year of being in prison.  Somyot is a Thai labour and democracy activist and leader who was imprisoned under the draconian lese majeste law.

There are many Thai political prisoners are being harassed, charged and imprisoned under this law in order to stop them working towards the end of military rule.  We are calling you to send a letter to Somyot to let him and political prisoners is Thailand know that the world has not forgotten them.

Please send your letters to our Facebook page here.

You can also send a hand written letter to:
Somyot Priksakasemsuk
Bangkok Remand Prison, Section 1
33 Ngam wong wan road, Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand

Categories: Uncategorized

Locked up for 5 years: The life and ideals of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

February 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Prachatai News

January 2016 marked more than four years since Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, social activist and former editor of Voice of Taksin magazine, lost his freedom for the publishing of two articles in the magazine which were deemed to fall within the domain of lèse majesté. (see Somyot’s case on our database here)

Four years is a long time for those with hopes and plans, especially when those years are spent behind the walls of a prison. For some prisoners, four years is long enough to extinguish the lights in their eyes. But Somyot’s spirit of resistance cannot be destroyed by the cell that confines him. This spirit was in evidence in the blurry picture of him raising his hand and beaming out a smile that spread around news websites in November 2015.

The extinguishing of his freedom

In addition to his usual work as an editor and social activist, in 2006 Somyot began to supplement his income by leading tours.

On 30 April 2011, Somyot travelled with the participants in one of his tours to the Thai-Cambodian border. At the checkpoint at Aranyaprathet, Somyot queued for his documents to be checked and stamped along with everyone else. The immigration officials discovered that there was a warrant for Somyot’s arrest from the Criminal Court. They took him into custody and liaised with headquarters to send him back to Bangkok. Somyot was informed that the accusation against him was defamation of the king under Article 112, which is one of the gravest accusations one can face during this era. The accusation stemmed from publishing two articles deemed to defame the king in Voice of Taksin magazine, which he had edited since 2010.

Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, Somyot’s wife, said that he is the kind of person whose view of the world is glass half-full. He is the kind of person who remains hopeful, even when he is in a terrible predicament.

Perhaps this is because Somyot has been absorbed in issues for which it is difficult to secure victory, such as workers’ rights and the amendment of Article 112, for his entire working life. With respect to his case, Somyot was confident that he would meet with fairness as he fought it, including being granted the right to bail. Over the past four years, Somyot has submitted 16 applications for bail and held out hope for justice. Unfortunately, every request resulted in disappointment. The court denied Somyot’s requests on the basis that the case against him is a grave one that carries a severe punishment, and so he might flee if released. Even though Somyot has been denied bail while he fights the case, he has chosen to fight it all the way to the end.

 
Life within the walls of the prison

Adjusting to prison life is not an easy matter. In addition to the restrictions of their freedom, prisoners must live under strict rules and regulations that limit eating and other aspects of life. Upon first entering prison, Somyot often complained about the food, but he later adjusted and these complaints faded away.

In addition to the issue of food, Somyot and other prisoners must face the tedium and loneliness that come from the monotony of the routine inside the prison. Somyot uses books in order to ease his loneliness. But the books available in the prison library are limited and the majority are dharma [Buddhist religious] books and novels. Somyot relies on his friends and family to send books on society and history, such as books about the lives and struggles of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Reading the biographies of freedom fighters who have been imprisoned boosts Somyot’s morale to a degree. But it is the visits from his many friends and other supporters that really make a difference and serve as encouragement for him to persist despite being locked up behind bars.

After the dispersal of protests in 2010, many people were arrested and then sentenced to terms inside the Bangkok Remand Prison. The prison allowed exceptions to be made to the rules for visitors. The political prisoners were allowed to go out in large groups to visit their friends and relatives. This meant that the families, friends, and supporters of the same political stripe could visit all those who were imprisoned at once.

Sometimes the visitors were so numerous that they spilled out of the rooms. During this period, the relatives who looked after Somyot came to see him, as did those who shared the same ideals, including those whom he had never met before as well as his friends. People came to ask him for advice on the path that political activism should take. The conversations and encouragement from the visitors fell like nourishing raindrops that kept Somyot’s morale from drying up.
The changes wrought inside the prison by the coup

On 22 May 2014, a group of soldiers fomented a coup in the name of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). They promulgated many laws and regulations that impacted the rights and freedom of expression of the people in the country, including prisoners. During the first two months after the coup, the Bangkok Remand Prison still allowed political prisoners to be visited by those who shared their ideals. But plainclothes officials photographed the visitors and stood and observed in the visitors’ waiting area. Then, in July 2014, the NCPO issued Order No. 84/2557, which appointed a new director-general of the Department of Corrections.

The new director-general brought a stricter visitor policy along with him. The rule which stipulated that each prisoner had to make a list of no more than ten people who could come visit him was adopted long ago but only implemented strictly after the coup. In addition, those imprisoned for violation of Article 112 had to meet visitors in a special room with a thick glass divider that necessitated the use of telephones to communicate, rather than the old method of communication in which yelling could suffice. Further, restrictions were placed on accessing the news. Prior to the coup, prisoners were sometimes able to read old editions of newspapers. But after the coup, even old news was forbidden.

Prior to the coup, Somyot was already deprived of freedom. But the coup brought new, dire consequences to his life. After the “ten person rule” was enforced strictly, only relatives and a few close friends can come to visit him. Their conversations tend to be about life and his living conditions rather than the political situation. This makes a person with a political consciousness, like Somyot, feel suffocated. Prisoners also suspect that prison officials have bugged the room where they converse with visitors, which makes them unable to communicate freely.

In addition, the officials are much stricter about the books that can enter the prison. Many of the books sent by Somyot’s family since the coup have been returned. The books that were sent to him prior to the coup that he placed in the library were all sent back to his family as well. But none of this is as grave as another new aspect of Somyot’s life in prison after the coup, which is being trailed by prison officials. They follow Somyot and note whom he speaks with and what they talk about, and then report it to the prison commander. This is likely the most difficult thing for Somyot to withstand.

 
The substance of his ideals

 

The picture of Somyot smiling and raising his hand that circulated at the end of 2015 demonstrates that his morale has not waned, even as amidst a disheartening situation in which he has been without freedom for more than four years and in which life inside the prison has grown more oppressive since the coup.

One thing that helps keep Somyot’s spirits up within such a discouraging situation is the sense that he can still do things for others. An example is that a friend of Somyot’s visited him and Somyot asked the friend to buy him a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. The friend visited him again only a few days later and Somyot asked the friend to purchase another toothbrush and another tube of toothpaste. Somyot had already given the first set to a new prisoner. Somyot’s friend said that he often kept bars of soap and toothbrushes in reserve for new prisoners whose families lived far away and could not come to buy necessary items for them. In addition, Somyot often chats with new prisoners and gives them advice about how to adjust to life in prison.

Somyot is well-known for his kindness in Zone One, the entry zone, of Bangkok Remand Prison. The political prisoners and other prisoners talked about a former prisoner who called after his release to ask after Somyot. While this person was in prison, Somyot helped him and gave him advice, and so he missed him after his release. Before the enforcement of the “ten visitor rule,” former prisoners also stopped by to visit Somyot. The people who visited and called were not only limited to former prisoners, but also included a warden from the Phetchabun prison, where Somyot had stayed for a short period while hearings were carried out in the province. While Somyot was held there, he organized his friends and family to collect donations of sweaters for the prison clinic to give to prisoners who did not have their own.
The figure behind the curtain of struggle

For the entire period of his imprisonment, Sukanya, Somyot’s wife, has been the one who visits him and sends him rice, fish, food and other necessary items, including steadfast encouragement. Sukanya explains that her employer allows her flexibility with time and so she is able to visit her husband once a week. Somyot does not have to worry too much about things at home, because Sukanya takes care of them. Her job is secure and their son has already graduated and is working. The only person left to worry about is their daughter, who is still studying. Somyot does not write letters to his wife, because he sees her nearly every week, but sometimes he sends letters to his daughter out of care.

The impact of Somyot’s imprisonment on his family is heavy, but perhaps not greater than they can bear. Somyot has always worked for nongovernmental or other civil society organizations, and so his income has never been his family’s primary income. His wife said that she has been the prime force in providing financially for the family from the beginning. The flexibility of her employer with regards to time means that she can allocate time to visit Somyot. Aside from this, both children are grown up and understand what has happened.

The Prueksakasemsuk family is an open-minded one. Sukanya knows well that Somyot’s work cannot be the main source of the family’s income. But she respects the work he does and so chose to spend her life with him. She also respects that he chose to fight his case all the way rather than ending the case by confessing so that he could ask for a royal pardon. Somyot’s wife and children respect his decision and offer support in the form of encouragement. His family’s support is another one of the reasons for Somyot’s continued perseverance after nearly five years of being deprived of freedom.
Five years down, six more to go

On 23 January 2013, the Criminal Court sentenced Somyot to ten years imprisonment under Article 112, and added an additional year of imprisonment that had previously been suspended, from a case of defamation of General Saprang Kalayanamitr. Somyot’s total imprisonment is therefore eleven years. In September 2014, the Appeal Court upheld the sentence of the Criminal Court. If the soon-to-be-released Supreme Court decision is in line with that of the two lower courts, then Somyot will have around six years and four months of his sentence remaining.

Given the present political situation, the possibility that the Supreme Court will depart from the earlier decision is faint, but Somyot still holds out hope. In October 2015, the Supreme Court reduced the Article 112 sentence of Ekachai from three years and four months to two years and eight months. Somyot’s hope is that the Supreme Court will grant a partial reduction to his sentence. But if the Supreme Court does not reduce his sentence, he is prepared to serve the full term. Somyot will not request a royal pardon.

Even though requesting a royal pardon would likely mean that Somyot would be released and would return to his family more quickly, Somyot is firm in his decision not to take this path. This is because Somyot is sincere in his belief that he has not done anything wrong. If he were to request a royal pardon, he would have to write an appeal in which he explained that he realized his crime and deeply regretted his actions. Even though this path would result in a swifter return of his freedom, it goes against his beliefs and would leave him imprisoned in another sense for the remainder of his life. So Somyot will fight his case all the way to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court judges him to be guilty, Somyot is prepared to accept the full term of the punishment. His family is ready to walk beside him as he faces hardship and awaits the day that they will bring him home from the prison

Categories: Uncategorized

4 years today

April 30, 2015 2 comments

At present, Somyot is appealing his verdict. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 16 bail applications being submitted. On the fourth anniversary of his life behind bars, Somyot’s family and supporters submitted a seventeenth application for bail on his behalf. In Thailand, a week of events culminating today have been organised to push for his release.

 

You can help!

Sign our iPetition here

If you have 20 seconds: show solidarity with Somyot’s appeal and like his facebook page.

If you have 1 minute: leave a message. For example: Free Somyot! Free all prisoners of conscience! Abolish Article 112!

If you have 2 minutes: send your email letter of support here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Clean Clothes Campaign update

April 30, 2015 Leave a comment
Today it has been four years since Thai editor and labour rights activist Somyot Pruksakaemsuk was arrested and imprisoned in Thailand, based on the lèse majesté law. CCC is concerned for his health and calls for his immediate release.

The abuse of the lèse majesté law to silence media and bloggers has intensified since the military coup in May 2014. It seriously undermindes the freedom of expression and threatens all Thai-citizens. Somyot needs to be released immediately.

Let our voices be heard and sign the petition here.

Somyot has worked with the CCC on numerous campaigns and Urgent Appeal cases. The charges against Somyot stem from two satirical articles, written by someone else, in the now-defunct magazine Voice of Taksin (Voice of the Oppressed), of which Somyot was the editor. Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” However, just before his arrest, on 28 April 2011, Somyot had publicly launched a petition calling for the removal of lèse majesté from the Thai criminal code.

By April 30, 2015, Somyot will have spent four years behind bar, during which all 16 of his bail applications were rejected. Somyot suffers from gout and hypertension and there are serious concerns that the medical treatment he is receiving at Bangkok Remand Prison is not adequate.

Let our voices be heard and sign the petition!

Categories: Uncategorized

Support Somyot now!

April 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Today is the 4th anniversary of Somyot’s prison sentence. We need your support to demand the immediate release of the well-known Thai human-rights activist and journalist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk by appealing to the Supreme Court of Thailand to hear his appeal and grant him bail.

 

At present, Somyot is appealing his verdict. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 16 bail applications being submitted. On the fourth anniversary of his life behind bars, Somyot’s family and supporters submitted a seventeenth application for bail on his behalf. In Thailand, a week of events culminating today have been organised to push for his release.

 

You can help!

Sign our iPetition here

If you have 20 seconds: show solidarity with Somyot’s appeal and like his facebook page.

If you have 1 minute: leave a message. For example: Free Somyot! Free all prisoners of conscience! Abolish Article 112!

If you have 2 minutes: send your email letter of support here.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sign the iPetition

April 29, 2015 Leave a comment

SIGN PETITION HERE

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a pro-democracy and labour rights activist in Thailand, was detained four years ago on April 30, 2011, just days after he initiated a peaceful campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to seek a parliamentary review of Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté law (Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code), which has been used to undermine freedom of expression.

 

In January 2013, Somyot was convicted and sentenced by the Bangkok Criminal Court to 10 years’ imprisonment under Article 112. His conviction triggered an avalanche of condemnation and statements of concerns from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and numerous international, regional and domestic media outlets, human rights groups and trade unions.
In August 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a decision declaring Somyot’s detention arbitrary and demanding his release. In April 2013, Somyot appealed against his conviction, which was subsequently upheld by the Court of Appeals in September 2013. The final appeal is pending before Thailand’s Supreme Court since November 2014.
The charges against Somyot stemmed from two satirical articles, written by someone else, in the now-defunct magazine Voice of Taksin (Voice of the Oppressed), of which Somyot was the editor. Article 112 of the Criminal Code stipulates that “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
Somyot’s campaign for free speech is now more relevant than ever in the face of increased use of the lèse-majesté law following the May 2014 military coup. According to human rights monitors, as of 10 April 2015, there are at least 63 individuals who have been investigated, detained, convicted, or are awaiting verdicts for alleged violation of the lèse-majesté law. Most of these cases were initiated after the last military coup. Thailand remains under the tight grip of a military junta known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), with no clear calendar for the full restoration of civilian and democratic rule.
By April 30, 2015, Somyot will have spent four years behind bar, during which all 16 of his bail applications were rejected. Somyot suffers from gout and hypertension and there are serious concerns that the medical treatment he is receiving at Bangkok Remand Prison is not adequate. During his incarceration, Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk has campaigned tirelessly for her husband’s release and was herself subjected to arbitrary detention at the hands of the Thai military following the coup in May 2014.
Thailand’s human rights situation has seriously deteriorated since the May 2014 coup. In its decision on Somyot’s final appeal, the Supreme Court of Thailand has an opportunity to reverse this repressive trend by upholding the basic rights to freedom of expression and liberty of the person.
The signatories of this petition urge the Supreme Court of Thailand to
1. Immediately release Somyot on bail; and
2. Expedite the appeal process, with a view to ensuring Somyot’s eventual unconditional release

 

SIGN PETITION HERE

นายสมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข นักกิจกรรมเคลื่อนไหวเพื่อประชาธิปไตยและสิทธิแรงงานในประเทศไทย ถูกคุมขังเมื่อ 4 ปีที่แล้วในวันที่ 30 เมษายน ปีพ.ศ. 2554 เพียงไม่กี่วันหลังจากเขาจัดแคมเปญรวบรวมรายชื่อ 10 000 เพื่อรณรงค์เรียกร้องรัฐสภาให้มีการตรวจสอบกฏหมายหมิ่นพระบรทเดชานุภาพ หรือกฏหมายอาญามาตรา 112 ซึ่งถูกใช้ในการจำกัดเสรีภาพทางการแสดงออก

เดือนมกราคม ปีพ.ศ.2556 ณ ศาลอาญากรุงเทพฯ สมยศถูกตัดสินว่ากระทำผิดต่อมาตรา 112 จำคุก 10 ปี คำพิพากษาในครั้งนี้กระตุ้นให้เกิดกระแสการต่อต้านและก่อให้เกิดความกังวลจากองค์กรสหประชาชาติ สหภาพยุโรป และสหรัฐอเมริกา รวมไปถึงสื่อทั้งในประเทศและต่างประเทศ องค์กรเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชนต่างๆ และสหภาพแรงงานด้วย

เดือนสิงหาคม ปีพ.ศ.2555 คณะทำงานแห่งองค์กรสหประชาชาติเรียกร้องให้มีการปล่อยตัวสมยศ ในเดือนเมษายน 2556 สมยศทำเรื่องยื่นขออุทธรณ์ แต่ถูกศาลอุทธรณ์เลื่อนไปในเดือนกันยายนปีเดียวกัน

ข้อกล่าวหาสมยศมาที่มาจากบทความเสียดสีสองชิ้น ที่เขียนโดยบุคคลอื่น บทความเหล่านี้ถูกตีพิมพ์ในนิตยสาร Voice of Taksin (ปัจจุบันไม่มีการเผยแพร่แล้ว) โดยสมยศเป็นบรรณาธิการของนิตยสาร Voice of Taksin นี้ กฏหมายอาญามาตรา 112 บัญญัติไว้ว่า “ผู้ใดหมิ่นประมาท ดูหมิ่น หรือแสดงความอาฆาตมาดร้ายพระมหากษัตริย์ พระราชินี รัชทายาท หรือผู้สำเร็จราชการแทนพระองค์ ต้องระวางโทษจำคุกตั้งแต่ 3 ปีถึง 15 ปี”

แคมเปญเพื่อเสรีภาพในการพูดของสมยศปัจจุบันมีความเกี่ยวข้องสัมพันธ์กับอัตราการเพิ่มขึ้นของการใช้กฏหมายหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพตั้งแต่การรัฐประหารเดือนพฤษภาคม ปีพ.ศ.2557 โดยคณะทหาร จากการตรวจสอบด้านสิทธิมนุษยชน เมื่อวันที่ 10 เมษายน 58 มีบุคคลอย่างน้อย 63 รายถูกนำตัวไปไต่สวน กักกัน พิพากษา หรือรอคำตัดสินว่ากระทำผิดต่อกฏหมายหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ กรณีส่วนใหญ่เริ่มต้นภายหลังการรัฐประหาร ประเทศไทยตกอยู่ภายใต้การปกครองอย่างเข้มงวดของรัฐบาลเผด็จการทหาร ในชื่อคณะรักษาความสงบสุขแห่งชาติ (คสช.) โดยไม่มีช่วงเวลาที่แน่ชัดว่าจะกลับคืนสู่ประชาธิปไตยของประชาชนเมื่อไร

ในวันที่ 30 เมษายน 58 นี้จะเป็นวันครบรอบ 4 ปีที่สมยศใช้ชีวิตอยู่หลังลูกกรง 4 ปีที่การยื่นขออุทธรณ์ 16 ครั้งถูกปฏิเสธ สมยศทนทุกข์ทรมานกับโรคประจำตัวซึ่งก็คือโรคเกาต์และความดันโลหิตสูง ทั้งการได้รับการรักษาในเรือนจำพิเศษกรุงเทพฯก็ไม่เพียงพอ ระหว่างการคุมขังของเขา สุกัญญา พฤกษาเกษมสุข ได้จัดแคมเปญรณรงค์อย่างไม่รู้จักเหน็ดเหนื่อยเพื่อการปลดปล่อยสามีของเธอ และยังถูกเรียกไปปรับทัศนคติโดยกองทัพ หลังรัฐประหารเดือนพฤษภาคม 57

สถานการณ์ด้านสิทธิมนุษยชนในไทยย่ำแย่ลงอย่างมีนัยยะสำคัญตั้งแต่เกิดการรัฐประหารเดือนพฤษภาคม 57 ในการการอุทธรณ์ครั้งสุดท้ายของสมยศ ศาลฎีกาของประเทศไทยมีโอกาสที่จะกลับมามีแนวโน้มลดทอนสิทธิขั้นพื้นฐานของประชาชนที่จะมีเสรีภาพในการแสดงออกและเสรีภาพของบุคคล

การลงนามในคำร้องนี้ขอเรียกร้องให้ศาลฎีกาแห่งประเทศไทย

1. อนุญาตให้ประกันตัวสมยศในทันที และ

2. เร่งกระบวนการขออุทธรณ์ สร้างความมั่นใจในการปล่อยตัวสมยศอย่างไม่มีเงื่อนไข

Categories: Uncategorized

4 long years: send your letter of support today

April 27, 2015 2 comments

Please submit this letter to librarianbangkokprison@yahoo.com and we will submit directly to the Thai Supreme Court.

 

The Supreme Court of Thailand
No. 6, Thanon Ratchadamnoen Nai,
Khwaeng Phra Borommaharatchawang,
Khet Phra Nakhon, Bangkok

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you in connection with the continued detention of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk who has been serving a prison sentence for the last four years.

A longtime campaigner for labour rights and democracy, Somyot has been in jail since April 2011 on lèse majesté charges.. He is charged only with the “publication and dissemination” of two articles in the journal Voice of Thaksin, of which he was the acting editor but not the legal publisher. The charge sheet alleges that he thereby “dared to defame, insult, or threaten His Majesty King Bhumipol Adulyadej of the Kingdom of Thailand”. Throughout this process he has been denied a fair trial and right to bail.

The Thai Constitution affords the right to a speedy and fair trial. We are concerned Somyot Prueksakasemsuk may not be accorded these basic rights. We believe the denial of bail is part of an ongoing pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Thailand. We ask the Thai judicial authorities to ensure that the rights of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk are upheld and that his appeal and request for bail are processed quickly.

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 ask you to ensure that Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s appeal is heard.

Yours Sincerely,

Categories: Uncategorized
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