Human Rights Organisations observe supreme court hearing

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment
Today (February 23, 2017) at 9.30 am The Supreme court scheduled to render a verdict of Somyot’s lese majeste case. In this case, Somyot was accused for publized two articles that deemed to be lese majeste offence in Voice of Taksin magazine that he was an editor.

In the courtroom no. 911, beside Somyot and his family, there are about 30 observers who are representative from embassy and human rights organization be it Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), European Union, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,  Sweden and France embassy
At 9.50 am the Supreme Court ordered to decreased Somyot’s prison term from five years to three year for each count to be added by the previous one year suspended sentence in which the he was found guilty for defaming Gen. Saprang Kalanamitra, altogether Somyot will be serving 7 years prison term.
The Court explained that Somyot is now old and has served time in jail for a while. Moreover Somyot did not write two articles on his own, he also gave the name of person who wrote both articles.
Previously the Court of the First Instance and the Court of Appeals sentenced Somyot to ten year with an addition of 1 year prison sentence of his defamation case against Gen.Saprang Kalayanamitr that had been suspend earlier, in sum Somyot’s prison sentence was  11 years.
On April 30, 2011 Somyot was charged at Aranyaprathet Immigration Check-point, Sakaeo province as he was trying to cross the border to Cambodia for doing his business and have been held in custody for five years and nine month and still have to serve 14 months in jail. For years he had tried to appeal for bail 16 times but the court denied his requests saying that the offence is about national security matter.

 

iLaw 24.2.17

 

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Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk’s sentence reduced, injustice continues

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment
Geneva-Paris – Today’s decision by Thailand’s Supreme Court to reduce the prison sentence of human rights defender Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk does little to mitigate the prolonged injustice Somyot and his family have endured, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (an FIDH-OMCT partnership) said. The Observatory reiterates its call for Somyot’s immediate and unconditional release.

Today, the Supreme Court reduced the sentence of activist Somyot from 10 to six years. Somyot has been in jail since April 30, 2011, and was convicted in January 2013 on charges of lèse-majesté under Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code [1] for allowing the publication of two satirical articles in the now-defunct magazine Voice of Taksin, of which he was the editor. The articles were authored by a third party and deemed by Thai authorities to have insulted the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reduce Somyot’s jail sentence is too little, too late. Despite displaying a façade of compassion, the court should have made a just decision and acquitted Somyot of a crime he did not commit,” said FIDH President Dimitris Christopoulos.

Somyot, 55, is currently the longest-serving lèse-majesté detainee. He remains incarcerated in the Bangkok Remand Prison, and will now have to serve the remaining two months and five days of his sentence, in addition to one more year, which stemmed from an earlier sentence for defamation in another case. The court justified the sentence reduction in consideration of Somyot’s age, the fact that he did not write the articles with lèse-majesté content, and the lengthy amount of time he had already spent in prison.

We deplore today’s harsh sentence of Somyot, who should have never spent a day in jail under a draconian law that curtails freedom of opinion and expression. He should be released immediately and unconditionally, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

Background information:

A former labour rights activist and magazine editor, Somyot Phrueksakasemsuk was arrested on April 30, 2011, five days after he launched a petition campaign to collect 10,000 signatures required for a parliamentary review of Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

Several United Nations (UN) human rights monitoring bodies have voiced concern over Somyot’s deprivation of liberty. In an opinion issued on August 30, 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) affirmed that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary, and called on Thai authorities to release Somyot and award him adequate compensation.

On January 23, 2013, the Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison on two counts of lèse-majesté.

On September 19, 2014, the Court of Appeals upheld the Bangkok Criminal Court’s lèse-majesté conviction of Somyot. The Court of Appeals failed to notify Somyot, his lawyer, and his family that the hearing would take place on that day. On November 19, 2014, Somyot filed an appeal to the Supreme Court against his conviction. Somyot unsuccessfully petitioned for bail 16 times – the last time being in November 2014.

Somyot’s conviction and detention do not comply with Thailand’s international legal obligations. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a State party, states that everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right includes “freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds.”

In its General Comment on Article 19, the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR), the body that monitors state parties’ compliance with the provisions of the ICCPR, affirmed that, “all public figures, including those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of state and government, are legitimately subject to criticism and political opposition.” The CCPR specifically expressed concern regarding lèse-majesté laws and stated that “imprisonment is never an appropriate penalty” for defamation.

 

FIDH 24.2.17

 

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Thailand: Quash Editor’s Conviction for ‘Insulting Monarchy’

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Thai authorities should quash the conviction and release a prominent magazine editor imprisoned under Thailand’s draconian law on insulting the monarchy, Human Rights Watch said today.

On February 23, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld lower court verdicts that found Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a labor rights activist and former editor of Voice of Thaksin magazine, guilty of lese majeste under article 112 of the Penal Code for publishing two satirical articles in 2010 that Thai authorities considered to defame the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The court reduced his sentence from 10 years to 6 on the grounds that he did not write the articles, he is advanced in age, and he has already served nearly 6 years of the original sentence. Somyot must also serve an extra year for an unrelated criminal defamation conviction.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, editor of “Voice of Thaksin,” gestures as he arrives at the criminal court in Bangkok January 23, 2013.

“Somyot’s guilty verdict shows yet again how Thailand’s ‘insulting the monarchy’ law has been misused to punish dissenters,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Instead of protecting basic rights, the courts are being complicit in clamping down on free speech.”

Somyot, 55, is currently Thailand’s longest-serving lese majeste prisoner. He was first arrested in 2010 during the period when street protests by the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or “Red Shirts” were taking place against the government of then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. On April 26, 2010, the government’s Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) put Somyot and his magazine on a chart containing names of individuals and groups whom it accused of being “anti-monarchy.” The CRES never offered any credible evidence to substantiate that allegation. On May 24, the CRES arrested Somyot and detained him without charge for 19 days in an army camp under state of emergency rules then in effect. He was released on June 13, 2010. Somyot then changed the name of his magazine from Voice of Thaksin to Red Power. The Abhisit government forced the shutdown of Red Power in September 2010.

Somyot was arrested again on April 30, 2011, five days after launching a grass-roots campaign to collect 10,000 signatures on a petition calling for amending article 112. Police charged him under article 112 of Thailand’s penal 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.” The authorities charged Somyot in connection with two articles that were written by Jit Pollachan, a pseudonym of Jakrapob Penkair, the now exiled former spokesman of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Jakrapob was never charged with any crime for these two articles.

Somyot’s guilty verdict shows yet again how Thailand’s ‘insulting the monarchy’ law has been misused to punish dissenters.

Brad Adams

Asia Director

Criticizing the monarchy is a serious criminal offense in Thailand. People charged with lese majeste are routinely denied bail and jailed in pre-trial detention for many months. Somyot has been denied bail 16 times.

While Thailand’s Printing Act protects editors from being held accountable for the content of others, the Constitutional Court ruled on October 10, 2012, that the restrictions on freedom of expression and the criminal penalties for lese majeste offenses were constitutional because breaches of lese majeste are considered as threats to national security.

In August 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary and requested the Thai government to release him and provide him an enforceable right to compensation in accordance with international law.

The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression stated in October 2011 that Thailand’s lese majeste laws were “vague and overly broad, and the harsh criminal sanctions are neither necessary nor proportionate to protect the monarchy or national security.” The UN Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Thailand has ratified, has stated in a General Comment that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.” In addition, the routine refusal to provide bail in lese majeste cases violates the covenant’s provision that it “shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.”

Neither the Thai monarch nor any member of the royal family has ever personally filed lese majeste charges. During his birthday speech in 2005, the King Bhumibol Adulyadej stated that he was not above criticism. “Actually, I must also be criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the king cannot be criticized, it means that the king is not human,” he said. “If the king can do no wrong, it is akin to looking down upon him because the king is not being treated as a human being. But the king can do wrong.”

However, the police, public prosecutors, courts, and other state authorities appear reluctant to reject allegations of lese majeste out of concern they might be accused of disloyalty to the monarchy. Successive Thai governments have made lese majeste prosecutions a top priority for their administration.

“The heavy-handed enforcement of lese majeste laws severely impacts freedom of expression in Thailand,” Adams said. “The government should urgently initiate a serious discussion on how to amend the law and revise the enforcement of its provisions so that Thailand can comply with its international human rights obligations.”

Human Rights Watch 24.2.17

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Could Somyot be free next year?

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

BANGKOK — The Supreme Court sentenced a Redshirt activist and magazine editor to 7 years in prison Thursday for publishing articles deemed offensive to the monarchy.

The decision affirmed convictions by lower courts of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, 55, who’s been in jail since May 2011 and is now the longest-serving inmate jailed on royal defamation charges. But the Supreme Court verdict also reduced jail term handed by the Appeal Court from 10 to seven years.

In today’s verdict, the judges said Somyot defamed the royal family in two articles published in 2011 in a magazine he edited. Although the articles did not directly address the monarchy, judges ruled that their analogies were sufficient to lead the public into thinking such.

Somyot’s argument that he should not be held liable for articles he did not write was also rejected by the court. He was subsequently handed a 7 year jail term.
Because Somyot has been jailed for nearly six years now, the verdict meant that he would have served his sentenced by 2018.

“He will be released in the next 14 months,” his wife, Sukanya Pruksakasemsuk, wrote on Facebook.

Insulting the monarchy, or lese majeste, is punishable by up to 15 years in prison per offense.

The court only announced the verdict would be rendered late Wednesday night. When the Appeals Court read his verdict in 2014, Somyot was also notified about it several hours before the ruling.

A longtime labor rights advocate who later turned to pro-democracy activism after the coup of 2006, Somyot was well-known among his circles for his protests and political magazines that he edited, such as Perspectives of Siam and Voice of Taksin. The latter catered to supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a political network known as the Redshirts.

In 2011, Somyot was arrested and accused of lese majeste in two articles published in Voice of Taksin.

Somyot has been repeatedly denied bail since May that year, meaning that he has been held in jail for five years and ten months now, longer than any other inmate who’s currently held for similar charges.

 

K Magazine 23 February 2017

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Could Somyot be free in 2018?

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

The Supreme Court has reduced to six years the 10-year jail term handed down on Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, former editor of a red-shirt magazine, for lese majeste by the lower courts. Somyot, 56, was brought from Bangkok Remand Prison to hear the ruling read out at the Criminal Court on Thursday morning. The Criminal Court initially sentenced Somyot to 10 years in jail, five years each for two counts of lese majeste charges, for publishing articles of a writer by the pseudonym of Jit Polachan in the February and March 2010 editions of Voice of Taksin. The content was deemed lese majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

His sentence drew protest from the European Union and from human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which designated him a prisoner of conscience. The sentence was upheld by the Appeals Court. Somyot brought the case to the Supreme Court, which reduced the jail term on Thursday. Since Somyot was also sentenced to one year in jail in another case for defaming Gen Saprang Kallanyanamit, a former army commander, his combined jail term is seven years.

Somyot, a former labour activist, has been in jail for nearly six years since his arrest. He has never been granted bail.

Bangkok Post 23 February 2017

 

 

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Somyot’s daughter talks about her father

November 15, 2016 1 comment

somyotaward2

Speech presented by the daughter of Somyot, Prakaidao Phurksakasemsuk today in Seoul during the award presentation to his father, Somyot Somyot Prueksakasemsuk

Nov 13 2016,Seoul

I am greatly humbled and honored to be receiving this award on behalf of my father. Somyot Phurksakasemsuk. I would like to offer my sincerest gratitude to the Korea Foundation of Chun Tae-il as well as Korea Health & Medical Workers’ Union for the support for this honor.

My father has worked for labor rights since I was a little girl. He was always a busy father, rarely be at home with his family. But at the same time, he is a very respectable labor rights activist. Three days before I came here, my father told me that he might not be as great as Jeon Tae-il but he is inspired by his story. The death of Jeon Tae-il brought attention to the substandard labor conditions and helped the formation of labor union movement in South Korea. Still, the unfairness regarding working conditions remains and that’s why my father wishes to carry on Jeon tae-il’s will.

Growing up, I learned little by little what my father was doing out there, what change he would like to see in the world and why he kept fighting until he was sent to jail. The answer is just simple. It’s because we are all human. To be human is knowing that you are not alone in the world and that you can always make your life or the others’ life better. That’s the point of life.

I get to know my father through the first pages of newspaper and a lot of pictures. There is one picture of him in the cemetery of Jeon Tae-il. I cannot believe that today I’m standing at the same place he was. But it wasn’t just doing nothing that made this possible; I wouldn’t be here getting this award without all the effort my father put to improve worker’s life conditions.

Finally, as some of you may know about my father’s situation, he has been detained for more than five years only for exercising his legitimate right to freedom of expression. I wouldn’t be here if he isn’t imprisoned. All I want to ask for my father is just some encouragement from you, my fellow Koreans. We would like to get your support to send the letters to him to support his courage and long fight against the suppression of Freedom of Speech in Thailand. Please send the letters to the address following….

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk At Bangkok Remand Prison, Section 1 33 Ngam wong wan road, Ladyao, Jatujak, Bangkok 10900
Again, thank you.
Prakaidao Phurksakasemsuk

 

 

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Somyot receives Human Rights Award in South Korea

November 15, 2016 Leave a comment

somyotaward3

 

On November 5, the Jeon Tae Il Foundation (Chairman Lee Soo-ho, Former Chairman of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions) announced that Thai prisoner of conscience Somyot Prueksakasemsuk won the 24th Jeon Tae Il Labour Award.
Established in 1988, the Jeon Tae Il Labour Award has been given to 7 individuals and 29 organizations up to last year. For this award, labor organizations and individuals nominate candidates, but the Jeon Tae Il Foundation judges select the final winner. The award ceremony is held at the “National Workers’ Rally in honor of the Spirit of Jeon Tae IL,” which takes place every year in early November.

 

This prestigious award within the labor community goes to those who have realized the spirit of Jeon Tae IL most completely. The final winner should be the one who has contributed the most to the labor movement, and civil and labor rights in terms of community organizing, commitment, morality, and deep affection and trust in human beings.

 

Before comrade Somyot, Korean labor activists and organizations have been the only award winners. But, this year, the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union (KHMU, President Yoo Ji-hyun) nominated our Thai brother Somyot, and the Foundation endorsed the health union’s recommendation. Hence, Somyot has become the first non-Korean winner of the prize.

 

Meanwhile, the Foundation decided to award the same special prize to Chairman Han Sang-gyun of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), who has been detained. Since both winners are in prison, no one can attend the award ceremony. For brother Somyot, his daughter plans to be on stage on her father’s behalf for the ceremony taking place on November 12.

The special prizewinner Somyot (55) had been active in the labor movement for over three decades as an activist and a journalist before being imprisoned by the military regime on April 30, 2011. He was charged with so-called lese majeste. He received an 11 year sentence in 2013, but is currently serving a five year and six months prison-term.

 

Somyot formed the Centre for Labour Information Service and Training (CLIST). At CLIST, he unionized and trained workers in various industries such as chemicals, apparels, and automobiles, and thereby helped workers organize democratic labor unions and cemented solidarity among unionists. With a high level of interest in the Korean democratic labor movement, he has long been in touch with Korean labor movements since the 1990s. He organized trainings and exchanges between labor movement activities in Korea and Thailand and translated “March for the Beloved,” a flagship movement song of Korea into Thai as the “Solidarity Song.” The translated song soon became popular among Thai unionists.

Somyot has also been a leader in international solidarity activities. Whenever the Korean government oppressed the KCTU, he held a protest rally at the Korean embassy in Thailand.

The KHMU first got to know brother Somyot in 2008 when it ran a training program for Thai union executive activists in cooperation with Somyot. The KHMU has continued a campaign demanding his release, together with civic groups, after he was imprisoned. The KHMU strongly urge the Thai government to set free all political prisoners, including brother Somyot, immediately, on the occasion of this award presentation.

Jeon Tae-il (August 26, 1948–November 13, 1970) was a tailor in the Seoul Pyeonghwa Sijang (Seoul Peace Market). He is a legendary labor movement activist who burned himself to death, demanding that employers observe the Labor Standard Law in 1970. The founding of Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) honored his spirit. The democratic union confederation holds the National Workers’ Rally to commemorate Jeon’s spirit every November. Jeon’s mother, Lee So-seon (December 30, 1929–September 3, 2011) devoted herself to the movement for workers’ rights and democracy on her son’s behalf after Jeon died. Ms. Lee has been called the “Mother of Workers

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