Reporters without boarders statement
Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s refusal by a Bangkok court to free Somyos Prueksakasemsuk on bail although he has been held for six months on a lèse-majesté charge in connection with his former position as editor of Voice of Thaksin, a magazine closed in 2010.
“The new government continues to violate the principles it proclaimed,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are sceptical about its intention to carry out the prime minister’s pledge not to abuse the lèse-majesté laws. We call on the judicial system to free Somyos and drop the charges against him.”
A member of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (which is better known as the “Red Shirts”), Somyos arrested on 30 April for refusing to identify the person who wrote two articles for Voice of Thaksin under the pen-name of Jit Polachan that allegedly defamed the king.
He was formally charged on 26 July on two lèse-majesté counts for which he could get a combined sentence of up to 30 years in prison. His trial is due to take place at the end of the month but it might be postponed because of the current widespread heavy flooding.
Lèse-majesté charge used to crackdown on opposition media
Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the fate of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, editor of the magazine Voice of Thaksin, who was arrested by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on 30 April and was placed in pre-trial custody today by a Bangkok criminal court on a charge of lèse-majesté. A request for release on bail was rejected.
“This arrest confirms that a crackdown on the opposition media is under way,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Once again it is a lèse-majesté charge that has been used to detain an opposition journalist and activist. This is not an isolated case but one that targets all media that are close to or support the opposition. In less than a month, about 20 opposition figures have been accused of lèse-majesté.”
Somyos was arrested at the border in Aranyaprathet, in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo, as he was trying to cross into Cambodia. The Bangkok Post quoted a police officer as saying the court granted a request from the DSI to hold him for ten days so that he could not “tamper with the evidence against him.”
The editor of the bi-monthly Voice of Thaksin (which was banned in 2010 and which was subsequently replaced by Red Power), Somyos was arrested in May 2010 following the final assault on the “Red Shirt” opposition demonstrators and was held for three weeks. He later gave Reporters Without Borders an interview.
During the news conference he gave on 21 May 2010, he called for a halt to “any threatening act against all mass media.” At the end of the news conference he turned himself in to the authorities.
Representatives of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA) announced on 30 April, the day of his arrest, that they were writing to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva requesting his support for World Press Freedom Day tomorrow.