Update from Thailand Part 1
The 30 April will mark the fourth anniversary of the deprivation of freedom of the red-shirt political magazine editor, sentenced to 10 years in jail for articles he did not write. His wife has been very supportive and has become an active campaigner against Article 112.
It has been four years since he was detained on 30 April 2011.
There are probably few editors in modern history who have been arrested and detained for ten years for articles they did not write. The court of first instance found him guilty under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lèse majesté law, for publishing two articles he did not write. The appeal court confirmed the verdict.
This is part of the verdict from the Court of First Instance:
“Regarding the issue of whether the defendant violated Article 112, the court views that the two articles under the column Khom Khwam Khid published in two issues of the Voice of Taksin do not mention any person’s name, but were written with the intention of drawing a link with past events. When linking the past events [with the articles], we can infer that they refer to His Majesty the King. The content of the articles insulted, defamed and threatened the King. Publishing and distributing such articles, therefore, constitutes having the intention to defame, insult and threaten the monarchy and a crime under Article 112.”
In a country where a picture of the King hangs in every courtroom, most lèse majesté defendants choose to plead guilty in order to reduce the sentence by half. By applying for a royal pardon, they may get out of jail even faster.
This man insists on his innocence and fought his case to the Supreme Court. He is also the lèse majesté prisoner with the highest number of bail requests — 16. All of them rejected.
Before becoming an editor and political activist, he had a solid background in labour rights and union activism. Since his college years, he worked alongside labourers and unionists to call for better welfare and justice for workers. The 2006 coup was the turning point in his interests. Some of the unionists working with him once said “He wanted to steal the mass by working ideologically with the red shirts.”
Amid the difficulties he has had to endure in the past four years, his wife has been the most important person to help him preserve his identity and ideology and took his place in several roles outside the jail. Interestingly, despite the greater burden on her, she approves of and agrees with what he did and decided; the decision that many others call “banging his head against a brick wall”.
Many others who faced a similar fate at around the same time may first have wanted to fight the case, but all of them later decided to surrender to the Thai justice system which is never on the side of freedom and liberty.
A former inmate facing a politically-related charge whom he took care of in prison said he was very impressed with the editor’s attitude and determination to prove his innocence.
“I couldn’t stand the conditions in prison. He told me that ‘You have to think that we’ve died. We’ve left this world. We then can cope with this,” said the former inmate.
We are talking about Somyos Pruksakasemsuk.
One evening, Prachatai talked with Sukanya Pruksakasemsuk, wife of Somyos. Her name has become more and more well-known in the country and abroad due to her active campaign against Article 112 and to free her husband.
Sukanya showed Prachatai a thousand postcards, tied up together. These postcards were sent from across the world to Somyos at Bangkok Remand Prison. Somyos could not read them all and did not have space to keep them. Sukanya brought them home a few months ago.
She proudly told Prachatai that since the trial of Somyos, hundreds of international human rights and workers rights organizations have campaigned for the freedom of Somyos. The workers-related organizations include the Clean Clothes Campaign, Asia-Australia Worker Links (AAWL), the First Union, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), trade unions of Nepal, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM). The human rights organizations include the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International (AI), Article 19, Human Rights Watch, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the EU, Pen International, the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), Freedom House, and Reporters Without Borders.