Article in Bangkok
Published: 22 Jan 2013 at 13.23
With an online global campaign drumming up support for lese majeste defendant Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a large contingent of observers and friends is expected at the Criminal Court for the scheduled reading of the long-delayed judgement on Wednesday.
Protests against the arbitrary detention of Mr Somyot, editor of the Voice of Taksin, have been organised throughout the past year in such places as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Paris, Seoul and Sydney.
A global appeal on his behalf was also jointly launched by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), Civil Rights Defender, Freedom House, Clean Clothes Campaign, and Amnesty International.
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has also ruled that Mr Somyot was arbitrarily detained twice – first for 19 days from May to June 2010, and for 72 days after he was arrested on April 30 before being officially charged on July 22, 2011 by the prosecutor over two articles he did not write but appeared in the magazine he edited.
Last week national and international campaigning began afresh with 381 supporters – 110 organisations and 271 individuals – submitting an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) expressing shares concern over the limitation of freedom of expression in Thailand and demanding the unconditional and immediate release of Mr Somyot.
Amnesty International Thailand last Friday called on its members called for a letter-writing campaign after its head office urged AI members worldwide to write in support of Mr Somyot’s release and his treatment as a prisoner of conscience.
It was the first time the London-based formally labelled Mr Somyot a “prisoner of conscience”.
In a letter sent to embassies in Bangkok inviting them to send observers, the 112 Family Network said the defence in the Somyot case has been a struggle, involving the violation of human rights and negative interpretations of the law, especially the recent Constitution Court’s ruling that Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majete law, is not unconstitutional.
As an additional complication, since Dec 19, 2012, there has been a new team of judges on the bench hearing the case – comprising two deputy directors-general of the Criminal Court. The family has grave concerns that Mr Somyot may be looking at sentence of 10 years in prison. The last bail request was made on Jan 8. All 12 previous applications for release on bail were refused.
The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission issued a statement on Tuesday challenging the Constitution Court’s ruling. The Constitution Court should not to forget the first sentence of Article 3, which says the sovereign power belongs to the Thai people, it said.
“The Asian Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned by the stance taken by the Constitutional Court in their comment and their cavalier dismissal of the significant concerns presented,” the statement said.
“Throughout their comment, rather than specifying how the constitution might be used to uphold the rights and liberties of the people, the Constitution Court has instead specified the conditions under which the people do not have rights, or recourse to demand their rights. The Constitution Court seems to have taken up the task of systematically stripping rights and liberties out of the constitution,” the regional human rights organisation said.
Karom Polpronklang, Mr Somyot’s lawyer, said the 18-page defence closing statement had been sent to the court early last week. It argued that Somyot should not be found guilty since the Print Act 2007 said editor was not the prime offender.
Also, the defence argues that since the authors of the two articles, written under the pseudonym Jit Polachan, were not included in the lese majeste lawsuit then the articles did not violate the lese majeste law.
“But above all, His Majesty the King has said he did not object to criticism from his subjects. He has a more open mind than other people,” Mr Karom said in his closing written argument.