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Bangkok Post reports on Somyot’s case

Spotlight on LM defendant

Bangkok Post article here

An art event and seminar to be held on Sunday will shine a spotlight on the case of lese majeste defendant Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, who has been denied bail eight times in the past 365 days of detention and trial.
The exhibition titled “The 365 Days of Being Crippled” is to be held at the October 14 Monument as the trial of magazine editor Somyos continues in Bangkok Criminal Court following months of hearings being shuffled around four other provinces.
Mr Somyos, also the leader of the June 24 Democracy group, was arrested on April 30, 2011 near the Thai-Cambodian border in connection with two articles he did not write, which were published in February and March 2010 in the Voice of Taksin magazine, of which he was editor. Thai authorities claimed that the articles by the writer using the pseudonym “Jit Ponlajan” offended the monarch.
Hearings to date have revealed that the now-defunct Center for Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) and the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) launched the criminal lawsuit against Mr Somyos.
The magazine editor was among those whose names appeared on the so-called “diagram of the plot against the monarchy” released by the CRES. The diagram was circulated widely at the peak of the political confrontation in May 2010 between the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), known as the red shirts, and the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.
The trial, to last until May 4, has so far drawn attention from the international community with Bangkok-based diplomats, visiting unionists, political prisoners, and academics from the Netherlands, Pakistan, and Britain attending.
While UDD chairwoman Tida Tawornseth and other red-shirt sympathisers such as Jitra Kotchadet have lent moral support to the Somyos case, the well-known labour activist and journalist has been treated as a non-person by local media organisations.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Human Rights Watch, however, consider him part of the traditional media. The Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA) in the early days of the trial also reported on the Somyos case.
The lese majeste charge under article 112 of the Penal Code means Mr Somyos could face up to 15 years in prison for each offence.
The court has denied his bail requests eight times since his arrest, including most recently when the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department sought to use government-budgeted funds to guarantee his bail applications.
Mr Somyos’s lawyers, Karom Polpornklang and Suwit Thongnual, last week submitted their petition to the Criminal Court to ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether Article 112 was against the 2007 Constitution and consistent with international standards or not.
The defence lawyers argued that Article 112 was similar to the defamation law in Article 326 of the penal code, but Article 112 did not lay out the “exemption of wrongdoing” rule that the accused were not allowed to prove they were innocent. As a rfesult, they argue, it curtailed human rights principles written in Thai constitutional law.
Moreover, article 112, they said, should have not have a national security provision because wrongdoing relating to national security should be action that would affect the existence of the state.
Article 112, the lawyers said, also prescribed that those who violated the law would be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years. This means the court is not allowed to give the accused less than three years in jail, despite its similarity to defamation law prescribed in the Article 326, which is inconsistent with the prinicple of proportionality.
The court has decided to accept the petition for consideration but declined to temporarily dispose the case. Therefore the witness hearings are continuing.
The National Human Rights Commission, which has received a petition from Mr Somyos’s wife, on Monday plans to raise his bail denial and other issues in a meeting with representatives of the Department of Corrections, the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection, the DSI and the Office of Justice Affairs.

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