Prison visit has taken place!
The campaign for the release of Somyot Prusakasemsuk and other political prisoners in Thailand took a further step in Bangkok this week with a day of action held on Monday 27 June. The day of action was organised by the newly formed Workers’ Organization for Democracy (WOD) and consisted of:
· Protest outside the Bangkok Remand Prison where Somyot and some other political prisoners are being held
· Visit to Somyot and other political prisoners inside the prison
· Protest outside UN Asia Pacific Headquarters in Bangkok
· Submission of a letter to UN Secretary General at UN Asia pacific HQ.
A long-time friend and colleague of Somyot, Robert Reid, General Secretary of the National Distribution Union in New Zealand, attended this programme and was also able to visit Somyot. The following is his report:
Around fifty people gathered outside the Bangkok Remand Prison from 9.30 am on Monday 27 June. Placards were in Thai and English and called for “repeal of section 112 of the penal code” (relating to lese majesty), “free political prisoners”, “democracy for Thailand”.
At 10.30 am we moved into the prison compound to prepare for our visit to Somyot. Our visit took place for 20 minutes at 11.05 am. Around 30 of us crammed into the visiting booth to see Somyot, Surachai and one other political prisoner.
We were separated from the political prisoners by a thick plastic and metal grill. Although we could see the prisoners, we had to talk to them one to one through a telephone on each side of the grill.
The local Thais let me speak to Somyot first. I had very little time, so I informed him briefly of the international campaign for his release. I asked if he had any message for his international supporters. Somyot said that he deeply appreciated the international solidarity campaign. He said that this was keeping his spirits up. He said that he never expected to be in prison in his lifetime. “All of my life I have works in solidarity with political prisoners in other countries such as Malaysia, Korea and Nepal, but never though international friends would now be supporting me.”
Somyot said that he is fine physically; he does regular exercise and meditation. However, he has lost a lot of weight and I am sure that he is finding it hard emotionally and mentally.
I told Somyot he was now the most famous prison librarian in the world. He replied that he is a librarian for boring books as the prison censors all the interesting ones!
Many local friends were also able to talk to Somyot and the other prisoners one on one. After 20 quick minutes the time was up and the supporters and prisoners together gave the peoples power salute and shouted slogans.
The group from the prison then left to travel to the UN HQ on the other side of the city.
First, a further protest was held outside the UN HQ for about 30 minutes. Then Promma Phumphan, from WOD, Robert Reid and another WOD representative took a letter from WOD to the UN Secretary General calling for the release of Somyot, repeal of the lese majesty law (112). The letter asked the Secretary General to take up these issues with the Thailand government under article 11 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The letter was received by the head of the information section of the UN Bangkok office who promised to pass it on to the Secretary General in New York.
Final speeches and chants were made outside the UN HQ when the delegation came out, which ended the day’s activities.