Thailand: Free Somyot Pruksakasemsuk!

[More background information is available here.]

By Choo Chon Kai

February 13, 2012 --The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) expresses its solidarity with labour activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who has been imprisoned without bail since April 30, 2011, and who faces charges under lèse-majesté law.  We are deeply concerned over his continuous imprisonment, transferring of prisons and numerous denial of bail requests.

Somyot is known for his tireless work in the workers' movement and the establishment of democratic trade unionism in Thailand. In 2007 he became editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine (now called Red Power), a political publication opposed to the 2006 military coup. Somyot is the chair of Union of Democratic Labour Alliance and the leader of 24th of June for Democracy Group which was formed in the aftermath of the September 2006 military coup.

Somyot was arrested  by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), accused of violation of section 112 of the Criminal Code. Somyot’s arrest came only five days after the launch of a petition for a parliamentary review to revoke Section 112, which Somyot claims contradicts democratic and human rights principles. According to a document produced by the public prosecutor, Somyot is also alleged to have allowed two articles that make negative references to the monarchy to be published in his magazine.

There have been hearing dates for the prosecutor's witnesses on November 21 and December 19, 2011,  January 16, 2012, in different provinces, and on February 13 in Songkla province. These will be followed by dates for the defendant’s witnesses in Bangkok Criminal Court in May 2012.

We are concerned that the hearings for the prosecutor's witnesses, which are being held outside Bangkok, have put a tremendous burden on Somyot and his attorneys, as well as restricting the participation of trial observers, the diplomatic corps and journalists. We are worried because the moving  of Somyot from prison to prison has threatened Somyot’s health and security.

We are also concerned that Somyot’s applications for bail continue to be denied. The authorities have yet to provide any adequate justification for his prolonged detention. We view such measures as severely violating Somyot's fundamental rights.

We are alarmed by the escalating misuse of the lèse-majesté law to silence social activists and dissidents in the years following the military coup in 2006. We believe the continuous abuse of the lèse-majesté law is politically motivated and detrimental to the rebuilding of democracy in Thailand. Such laws have to be reviewed in accordance to international human rights standards.

We are  call on the authorities in Thailand to:

1. Immediately drop all charges against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and release him unconditionally.

2. Immediately drop all charges against political activists, journalists and any other individuals based on the lèse-majesté law and pardon all who are serving sentences under these laws.

3. Restore freedom of expression and opinion in Thailand to benefit, rebuild and enhance democracy in Thailand.

Free Somyot NOW!

Restore freedom and democracy in Thailand NOW!

[Choo Chon Kai is from the International Bureau of the Socialist Party of Malaysia (Parti Sosialis Malaysia, PSM). He is in Thailand to monitor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk's court hearings.]