Send your protest to Yingluck now

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Amnesty International this week calls on us to make  our protests to Yingluck Shinawatra  on behalf of Somyot. He has just completed one year of his 11 year sentence and we need your support to strengthen the appeal process for his release.

 

Please send your messages here or send by fax to +6622884016 or +6622825131. You can cut and paste the following Amnesty text below.

 

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to raise my concerns about Somyot Prueksakasensuk’s imprisonment and urge you to release him, dismiss the charges against him, and overturn his conviction. I ask you and teh Royal Thai Government to protect people who are peacefully exercising their right to Freedom of Expression and amend Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code to bring it in line with International Human Rights standards.

Yours

 

 

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One year of Somyot’s 11 year sentence

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Exactly one year ago Somyot was sentenced on the 23rd January 2013 to 11 years in prison for ‘insulting the monarchy’. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and so to help in Somyot’s legal appeal please take a few minutes to send your letter to the PM of Thailand asking for his human rights to be respected and his immediate release.

Click here to send Yingluck Shinawatra your message by facebook.

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Amnesty International takes up Somyot’s case

January 24, 2014 Leave a comment

We are delighted to let you know that Amnesty International has taken up Somyot’s case.

Read their appeal in the Wire (page 23) http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/NWS21/001/2014/en/a4a59b24-6800-4704-b525-6aaee4e2d3d4/nws210012014en.pdf.

Send your letters of protest via Amnesty International Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Y.Shinawatra.

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reflections on the situation in Thailand

December 3, 2013 Leave a comment

By Riki Lane

In recent weeks more than 100,000 anti-government protesters have taken to the streets of Bangkok and closed down numerous government offices. The ‘yellow shirt’ protesters are responding to the Yingluck Shinawatra government’s attempt to pass an amnesty bill that could lead to the return from exile of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Yingluck’s brother.

The amnesty bill is also criticised by left wing elements of the ‘red shirts’ because it does not include prisoners detained under Article 112, which includes many union and democracy activists, such as Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.

These left wing pro-worker red shirts characterise the yellow shirts as fascistic, anti-democratic, royalists who want to replace elected government with a more directly monarchical rule. The yellow shirts explicitly call for a military coup to introduce a system where many members of parliament are nominated by the monarchy and the military.

It may sound a little Maoist, but I think in Thailand there is a struggle between a modernising neo-liberal bourgeoisie versus feudal remnants in cooperation with the military. The problem for the left is that they have not been able to win the “battle of democracy”, so the anti-monarchical, anti-coup, pro-democratic movement is hegemonised by the bourgeoisie, not the working class.

The last three elections have produced Thaksin lead or influenced governments, which have made major reforms that benefit workers and peasants, such as in health care. The yellow shirts know they cannot win elections, so they organise reactionary mass mobilisations calling for anti-democratic actions by the military and their allies in the monarchy.

The government knows it cannot rely on the military to put down the yellow shirts, and also wants to avoid violent confrontation. A rally of 85,000 red shirts were basically told to go home, so as to avoid escalation and to keep the red shirt movement under the government’s control. For socialists elsewhere, we need to support the democratic anti yellow shirts struggle, while also helping build the left wing forces that can shift the terrain of the battles to working class issues.

Recently in Australia, state and national union peak councils adopted motions (below) supporting Somyot and other political prisoners. These were tabled at the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) regional meeting in Bangkok last week, during the yellow shirts mobilisations. The conference passed a motion in support of the right to freedom of expression for labour and human rights activists. Motions similar to the one below could usefully be put to trade union meetings in the UK.

1) We express our concern and opposition to the use of repressive laws in Thailand to stifle democratic debate and the right of people and workers to freedom of expression. We, as part of the worldwide labour movement, pledge our support for international working people’s solidarity and for the continuing struggle for democracy in Thailand.

We call for the:
• Immediate release of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk
• Immediate release of all political prisoners in Thailand
• Abolition of Article 112 (The Lese Majeste law)

2) To organise an ITUC Asia Pacific delegation to visit Somyot in jail and to meet with his support group in Bangkok.

Contacts for the campaign

http://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Free-Somyot/122999694453000

https://freesomyot.wordpress.com/

You can write to Somyot in prison, where he is prison librarian:
Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Bangkok Remand Prison, 33 Ngamwongwan Rd., Lay Yao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900 Thailand
Email: thelibrarianofbangkokprison@yahoo.co.uk

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Press release

September 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Free Thai activist Somyot ! His wife and best defendant in Geneva on September 9-13, 2013

Clean Clothes Campaign(CCC), together with the Free Somyot Campaign and the Thai Labour Campaign urges the Thai authorities to hear Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s wife’s call to free her husband, labour and human rights defender and magazine editor.

She will be in Geneva, invited by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), for one week to meet with diplomatic missions and UN staff. She will also participate in a panel discussion on freedom of expression in Southeast Asia, organized by FIDH in parallel to the 24th session of the Human Rights Council.

She is available for interviews.

Press contact : Vanessa Gautier, Clean Clothes Campaign France + 33 1 48 58 21 85 v.gautier@peuples-solidaires.org

Somyot is a prisoner of conscience. He was convicted solely for the exercise of his right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to participate in public life. He has been in detention since April 30, 2011 for the publication of two articles deemed insulting to the monarch. On January 23 2012, the Bangkok Criminal Court found him guilty on 2 counts of Article 112 of the Criminal Code (the lèse-majesté law*) and sentenced him to 11 years of imprisonment.

The verdict seriously 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.

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 his family, better attend to his medical conditions, and adequately prepare for his defense.

One political prisoner is one too many.

CCC calls 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

*Thailand’s lèse-majesté law prohibits any word or act, which “defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent”. This law places the country in contravention of its international legal obligations to uphold international standards of freedom of expression.

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Thailand: where ‘insulting’ the king gets you locked up

August 16, 2013 Leave a comment

By Equal Times Newsdesk

In Thailand, any criticism of the King or a member of the royal family may result in up to 15 years imprisonment for the perpetrator. Article 112 of the Penal Code punishes any word or deed that “defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent”.

Activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk arrives at court in Bangkok, Thailand on 23 January, 2013. The prominent labour rights activist and magazine editor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing a pair of articles prosecutors said defamed the country’s monarchy (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit).
Activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk arrives at court in Bangkok, Thailand on 23 January, 2013. The prominent labour rights activist and magazine editor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing a pair of articles prosecutors said defamed the country’s monarchy (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit).
Anyone can file a complaint for lèse-majesté. The police must then carry out an investigation.

At present, the majority of prosecutions for the crime of lèse-majesté are brought by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) or by supporters of the “yellow shirts” (royalist militants), but recently, Article 112 has been used by people of every political persuasion.

The victims of these accusations include politicians, labour activists and even ordinary citizens.

Opponents to Article 112 point out that even the current monarch, 85-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej (who recently left hospital for the first time since 2009) has criticised the law acknowledging in a 2005 speech that: “the King can do wrong.

Actually, I must be criticised. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know.”

However, this did not prevent a sharp increase in the number of lèse-majesté complaints brought before the courts between 2006 and 2010 (from 30 to 478 cases). This increase is partly due to the political instability which followed the 2006 military coup but it is worth mentioning that in 2011, the number of complaints fell to 84 cases.

One of the most notorious trials in 2013 has been that of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, the activist, journalist and former coordinator of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM) in Thailand. Somyot was arrested inApril 2011, five days after launching a petition that aimed to gather 10,000 signatures calling for a parliamentary revision of the lèse-majesté law.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the 23 January 2013 by the Criminal Court in Bangkok on account of two articles published in a magazine of which he was Editor and that were considered insulting to the monarchy.

The court added an extra year to his sentence for another defamation offence committed previously.

Derisory evidence

To many observers, the weakness of the evidence and the severity of the sentence show that it was above all Somyot’s support for a legal revision of the lèse-majesté law that posed a problem for the courts – more so than the articles whose offensive nature vis-à-vis the royal family was never proven.

The first article was a story about a family that carried out massacres to keep them in power, the other was a story about a ghost that haunts Thailand and plans killings.

The court considered that the royal family and the King were being targeted by these stories.

But Dr Suthachai Yimprasert, a history professor at the University of Chulalongkorn in Bangkok told Equal Times that:

“It should not be possible to secure a conviction on the basis of such weak evidence. T

hese stories did not insult the King but in Thailand it is the court’s opinion that counts, not the strength of the evidence.”

Somyot is currently in jail in Bangkok.

“The conditions of his detention are marginally better than those of the other prisoners because he was sent to the section for new prisoners which is not as crowded as the others,” says Sukanya Pruksakasemsuk, Somyot’s wife and spokesperson for the campaign fighting for his release.

“Some sections house more than fifty prisoners per cell, many of whom suffer from contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. In Somyot’s section, there are ‘only’ seven or eight prisoners per cell. This is still very hard particularly in summer when the temperatures reach between 40°c and 42°c. He cannot sleep at the moment and his health is deteriorating.”

Somyot is holding on to the faint hope of bail while he waits for his case to be reviewed on appeal. But Sukanya specified that: “An appeal takes between two and five years and is limited to a re-examination by the judge of the legal arguments put before him unless he decides to call new witnesses.

“If the Court of Appeal renders the same verdict, we can then appeal to the Supreme Court, which could take 10 years! Somyot is really trying to stay positive but his mood fluctuates.

We all know that no one has ever been released on bail for this type of crime prior to a ruling, but he does not want to give up.”

In recent years, foreigners have also been convicted of lèse-majesté offences but they usually receive a royal pardon and are deported.

Several academics, writers and Thai campaigners for workers’ rights have left the country for fear of being arrested on the basis of this law.

This is the case of Junya Lek Yimprasert, founder of the Thai Labour Campaign.

An accusation of lèse-majesté was made against her in 2013. “Three of my friends were interviewed by the DSI and the Attorney-General who asked them questions about me. They were told that the interview was in relation to my article entitled ‘Why I don’t love the King’. Four workers’ rights campaigners are currently in exile on account of the lèse-majesté law,” she says.

A revered king

King Bhumibol does not fulfil any official political role but he is revered by the majority of his countrymen.

This devotion leaves the door wide open to truly ridiculous interpretations of Article 112.

Sukanya points out that: “Last April, a television talk show invited academics to discuss the monarchy as an institution without referring to individuals. This is all it took for people to go after the TV station and the show’s participants.”

The judgements handed down often make the Thai justice system look ridiculous. For example, Amphon Tangnoppakul was a 61-year-old man sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for sending four SMS deemed insulting to the monarchy (he received four consecutive five-year terms for each SMS).

Nicknamed ‘Uncle SMS’, Amphon Tangnoppakul always proclaimed his innocence, stating that he does not even know how to send an SMS. However, he died of cancer in prison on 8 May, 2012.

In 2012, a new petition to revise the law on lèse-majesté was signed by almost 30,000 people.

One of the proposed key amendments was that only people with a link to the King could lodge a complaint for lèse-majesté. It was rejected by the parliament.

In 2011, Yingluck Shinawatra – sister of the former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in the 2006 coup – won the general election by a landslide.

Her Pheu Thai party currently leads the ruling coalition which, despite being considered less royalist than the previous government, declared that it has no intention of amending the law on the crime of lèse-majesté despite pressure from the international community (among others, the Committee of Experts of the ILO on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations has urged the Thai Government to take the necessary measures to repeal or amend section 112 of the Criminal Code).

The political situation remains very unstable in Thailand and the threat of a new uprising by the army or the ‘yellow shirts’ – who are extremely sensitive to any perceived attacks on the monarchy – has dampened the enthusiasm of those in the ruling party who would like to see a loosening of this law.

Thai Police summon facebook users over postings

August 13, 2013 1 comment

ABC News BANGKOK August 5, 2013 (AP)

Full article http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/thai-police-summon-facebook-users-postings-19868913

Police in Thailand have opened investigations of four people for allegedly causing panic by posting rumors of a possible military coup on Facebook — and an investigator threatened Monday to charge anyone who even “liked” the postings on the social media site.

The move comes as Bangkok braces for possible political protests this week coinciding with a bill related to a 2006 coup in the country. Opponents say the bill could pave the way for the return of the man that the military ousted in that takeover, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister leads the current elected government.

Technology Crime Suppression division chief Police Maj. Gen. Pisit Paoin said Monday that the four posted Facebook entries with false information that could damage the country. If found guilty, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine worth 100,000 baht ($3,200).

“These four have posted false messages about the coup and other messages that could lead to chaos in the society,” Pisit told at a press conference. “The postings’ content does not hold any truth, and if the words kept spreading around, it could damage to the country.” He said the police have issued summons for them to meet investigators.

Among those summoned are Sermsuk Kasitipradit, the political editor of public television channel TPBS, and a local pro-government protest leader.

The postings mentioned a possibility of a military coup and urged the public to hoard food and water.

“Those who ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ the posts will also face charges, so we would like to ask the public to contemplate very carefully about the way they use social media,” Pisit added.

More than 1,000 anti-government protesters kicked off a rally in Bangkok on Sunday as lawmakers were scheduled to deliberate on the controversial bill on Wednesday.

Last week, the government invoked the Internal Security Act in three Bangkok districts, citing the possibility of protest violence. The act, in effect from Aug. 1 – 10, authorizes officials to seal off roads, take action against security threats, impose curfews and ban the use of electronic devices in designated areas. Peaceful and unarmed rallies are allowed under the law.

Opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government feared the bill, which would grant amnesty to people arrested for political activities since the 2006 military coup, could pave the way for the return of her brother Thaksin.

Thaksin was ousted in the 2006 coup and has been living in self-imposed exile.

The government’s special peace-keeping command under the Internal Security Act warned on Sunday against sharing any information that could lead to havoc in the nation.

Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday denied the coup rumors and urged the public to be careful in distinguishing truth from rumors.

“Do not spread the rumors. Rumors are rumors. I want every group, every side, everyone, no matter which side you’re on, to be sensible … and be able to see what is true and what isn’t,” Prayuth told reporters.

Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crime Act addresses hacking and other traditional online offenses, but also bars the circulation of material deemed detrimental to national security or that causes panic. It carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 baht ($3,300).

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