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Red Shirts Pressure Government to Grant Amnesty

An estimated 4,000 Red Shirts marched from the Royal Plaza to the Government House on Tuesday to demand amnesty for Thailand’s political prisoners.

Organized by the Red Shirt group called the Declaration of Street Justice, recently renamed the January 29 For the Release of Political Prisoners group, the protesters called on the government to recognize an amnesty proposal that was drafted by the Nitirat Law group of Thammasat University. The proposal would achieve amnesty through constitutional reform, which in itself continues to be a pressing issue for the government. The protesters demanded a response by 6pm, after which the government replied that it would consider all amnesty proposals carefully.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth expressed her gratitude to Tuesday’s protesters, she said,

We thank everybody who came out yesterday to show the government that Thailand needs amnesty for the people. Regardless of what method is proposed and ultimately implemented, we share the common goal of freeing political prisoners.

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Calls for Amnesty Intensify

Red Shirts across Thailand have amplified their calls for the government to grant amnesty to all political prisoners still suffering in jail. These calls have increased in intensity following the Criminal Court’s decision to sentence prominent Red Shirt activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 10 years imprisonment for allegedly violating Thailand’s lèse majesté law. The verdict has prompted major outcries from local and international critics who have condemned the sentence as a political maneuver.

UDD lawyer Robert Amsterdam traveled to Bangkok this week to express solidarity with Somyot. During his visit with Somyot in Bangkok Remand Prison on Monday, Amsterdam told the press that

The charges against Somyot are being used by the opposition who are against free speech and human rights. They are the reason we are here visiting our friends in jail.

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Somyot’s Sentence Exposes the Dark Heart of Thailand

On the 23rd of January, a Criminal Court judge sentenced Red Shirt activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 10 years imprisonment for publishing two articles that violated Thailand’s notorious lèse majesté law, enshrined in article 112 of the Thai criminal code. Somyot’s arrest, detention, and verdict betrays Thailand’s disregard for the fundamental human rights that should be at the basis of any true democracy.

Detained for 21 months and denied bail 12 times, Somyot has had his human rights violated by the Thai judicial system from day one. Somyot, his wife Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk, and many in the Red Shirt and anti-112 camp, firmly believe that his arrest in April 2011, under the Abhisit administration, was politically motivated. Not only was Somyot a prominent Red Shirt with a long history of activism on labour issues, he was organizing a petition to challenge, and potentially abolish, article 112. 

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UDD Reacts to Constitutional Court’s Silence

At a press conference on Friday, Red Shirt  leaders reacted to the Constitutional Court’s response to a letter submitted by the UDD which sought clarifications on the Court’s 2012 decision on amending the constitution. The UDD also reiterated its calls for the government to act on amnesty for political prisoners as well as for granting jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Earlier in January, the UDD had submitted a letter to the Constitutional Court seeking clarification on the appropriate procedure for a constitutional amendment. The Court had proposed a referendum should be held prior to the third reading of a bill which would open the door to comprehensive charter reform. In response to the UDD’s inquiry, the Court stated that

The ruling is clear. It is not necessary to explain further.

UDD leader Tida reacted,

The Court’s response reveals its negative attitude. The questions were posed in all sincerity as they are important for the country.

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UDD Responds to Democrat Delusion

At a press conference on Friday, the UDD leaders called on the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to reopen their investigation into the death of Boonmee Rermsuk, one of the 98 victims of the 2010 military crackdown, after the Criminal Court failed to establish his killer.

In a unsurprising distortion of logic, the Democrat Party has argued that the Court’s failure to find the authorities guilty is sufficient proof that the protesters were armed and violent. UDD leader Tida Tawornseth maintained that the Red Shirts were not armed in 2010 and the Court has found the Democrat-led authorities guilty in the 4 other cases from 2010 already dealt with by the Thai judicial system. Tida asked the DSI to further investigate the death of Boonmee, also known as “Uncle Boonmee”.

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A Call for Amnesty

Below is the English translation of the UDD’s statement that was released together with the draft amnesty decree.

January 15 2013

UDD Statement: A Call for Amnesty

The coup d’état of September 19th 2006 executed by the Council of Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), later renamed the Council of National Security (CNS), has provoked political turmoil and has caused a great divide in Thailand. This split is manifested most clearly in the form of political movements which disagree on the legitimacy of the actions of the coup-makers.

One faction advocated for the overthrow of a democratically-elected government and continues to defend the military coup. They do so on the grounds that the deposed government was led by “crony capitalists” and won elections by deception, vote-bribery, and the ignorance of the electorate. People adhering to this faction demanded that the military overthrow the government despite the fact that it had been elected by a majority of voters.

Another group has emerged in opposition to the 2006 coup d’état. The group grew into a political movement that defied those who prepared, executed, and supported the coup. The movement identified the coup d’état and the post-coup intrusions on Thailand’s democracy as the acts of an aristocratic network. For more than 5 years it has fought against the repercussions of the coup d’état which included the tearing up of the 1997 Constitution and the appointment of a puppet government. The aristocratic network also formed a committee to write a new constitution in order to control state apparatuses to suit its beliefs and interests.

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UDD Draft Amnesty Decree

The following is the draft of an Amnesty Decree. It was proposed by the UDD to the government, together with this statement.

Draft Amnesty Decree

(English Translation)

Royal Decree on Amnesty of Political Convicts and Political Defendants Stemming from the Political Conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, A.D.

  • Article 1: This Decree shall be cited as “Royal Decree on Amnesty of Political Convicts and Political Defendants Stemming from the Political Conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, A.D.”.
  • Article 2: This Decree shall come into force the day following the date of its publication in the Royal Thai Government Gazette.
  • Article 3: All persons who have been charged of committing any crime stemming from the political conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, be they convicted or awaiting sentencing, shall be declared as innocent, and shall be freed of any responsibility for the charges brought against them.

The provision of the preceding paragraph shall not include the leaders who have authority or are in charge of political movements during that time.

  • Article 4: The Prime Minister shall be in charge of this Decree.

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UDD Submits Draft Amnesty Decree

On Tuesday, 500 Red Shirts and UDD leaders gathered outside Laksi Prison in Bangkok to announce a draft executive decree which, if signed by prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, would grant amnesty to all political prisoners, excluding decision-makers.

The concise draft decree states that all persons, Red, Yellow, or other, charged or convicted of a criminal offense should be granted amnesty if said offense stemmed from Thailand’s post-coup political conflict (2007-2012). However, people in leadership and decision-making positions would not be let off the hook, the draft decree stipulated.

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