TOP

Red Shirt Convicted of Lèse majesté

At Ratchada Criminal Court in Bangkok this morning, Red Shirt activist and former UDD journalist Aekachai Hongkangwarn was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months imprisonment for violation of Thailand’s lèse majesté law, or Article 112 of the Criminal Code. He is alleged to have sold VCDs containing an Australian documentary about the monarchy.

This verdict is the latest in a series of tough sentences handed down by Bangkok’s courts in cases of alleged defamation against the monarchy. In an earlier case, Red Shirt activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for lèse majesté for two articles that appeared in a magazine of which he was the editor.

UDD leader Tida expressed her sympathies for Aekachai and his family. She also commented on the nature of Article 112:

I know that Aekachai was confident that he had done nothing wrong and had not broken the law, as was Somyot before him. This is the danger of this law. Unlike other laws, where one can be certain what does and what does not count as criminal behavior, with lèse majesté it is difficult to know where the line is.

Unlike many others that have been accused of lèse majesté, Aekachai was fortunate enough to be released on bail during his trial. Since Aekachai will appeal the verdict, his lawyer and his father have re-applied for bail. Until he receives the outcome of his bail application, Aekachai will join other 112 defendants in Bangkok Remand Prison, pending an appeal hearing.

Read More
TOP

Democracy Update 27/3/13

At their weekly press conference on Wednesday, UDD leaders celebrated the recent release of Red Shirt prisoners Saichon Paebua and Pinit Chanarong after three years of imprisonment without bail. The duo was finally acquitted on Monday of the arson attack on the Central World shopping centre that occurred on May 19th 2010, the last day of the Red Shirt protests at Ratchaprasong. The two other defendants in the case, both juveniles, had already been acquitted in December 2012.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth said that the verdict proved that the Democrats have lied about what happened that day,

They’ve tried to sell a lie to Thailand and the world, instead they’ve robbed innocent people of their freedom and their dignity. That is truly criminal.

Tida also expressed her grievances towards the courts that had denied Saichon and Pinit their right to bail,

For three years they’ve been treated as convicted criminals. Why weren’t they granted bail, where is the reasoning?

(more…)

Read More
TOP

Academics Call for Judicial Reform

An academic panel hosted by the progressive Nitirat law group last Sunday at Thammasat University debated the role of the courts in the pursuit of justice in Thailand. Special attention was paid to article 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lèse majéste law, which states that  “whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The panel, which consisted of academics and activists, argued for reform of the Thai judiciary in order to adapt it to a democratic state.

The panel members raised several concerns regarding the lack of legal basis for the actions of judges in lèse majesté cases. According to Thai law, in order for the court to find a defendant guilty of a crime, his/her guilt must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Ms Sawatree Suksri, a member of Nitirat and lecturer of law at Thammasat University, argued that Thai courts often betray this fundamental principle,

In Akong’s [Ampon Tangnoppakul] case, the courts were satisfied with a lack of evidence of his guilt, citing instead his presumed guilt. This is a clear violation of the “burden of proof” principle that underlies criminal law.

(more…)

Read More
TOP

Progressives submit Open Letter to Thai Judges

The following is an open letter to all judges in Thailand signed by the Red Shirt group the 24th of June for Democracy, the progressive academic group Nitirat, and other activist groups. The letter calls on judges to critically examine the role of the judiciary in Thailand’s political conflict and the future of Thai democracy.

An open letter to judges in Thailand

March 17th 2013

Dear Sirs,

            In the aftermath of the undemocratic and illegitimate usurpation of power operated through the 19 September 2006 coup d’état, the Thai judiciary—be it the Constitutional Court, the Court of Justice or the Administrative Court—has faced significant and growing questions from the general public over its interpretation and application of law in a number of cases. Specifically, there has been a growing chorus of scepticism over whether or not the decisions of these judicial branches have been made in full conformity with democratic principles and in support of fundamental rights and freedoms—themselves the very basis of the rule of law. (more…)

Read More
TOP

Uncertain Times Ahead- UDD Leaders

At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, UDD leaders called on Red Shirts to be prepared for a precarious month of April. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is set to announce its decision on an investigation of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s financial assets which could result in the Pheu Thai leader’s disqualification as a member of parliament.

UDD spokesperson Tanawut Wichaidit said,

The NACC has started to make its move against the government. We need to stay alert because the political situation can change quickly.

UDD co-leader Dr Weng Tojirakarn reiterated that Red Shirts need to be ready to defend a democratically elected government against so-called “independent agencies” that were created by the 2006 coup-makers,

The anti-democratic forces in this country will try to bring down the government in April. We need a strong show of strength so that the amaat knows we are watching them.

Red Shirts will gather in numbers on April 10th for the third anniversary of the start of the brutal military crackdown that shook Bangkok in 2010. While the gathering, set to be held at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, will express solidarity with the Pheu Thai administration, the UDD will also continue to pressure the government to fight on behalf of Thailand’s political prisoners, push forward with constitutional reform, and allow the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary investigation on the events of spring 2010.

(more…)

Read More
TOP

112 Prisoners hope for Laksi Prison Transfer

The UDD has petitioned the government to transfer all political prisoners to Laksi prison in Bangkok. Included in this group are lèse majesté prisoners Thantawut Thaweewarodomkuland and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who are currently held in Bangkok Remand Prison.

Thantawut is serving a 13 year sentence and is hoping for a Royal Pardon. He is eager to return to caring for his young son who is waiting for him on the outside.

Having been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in January, Somyot is currently awaiting a date for his appeal hearing which his lawyers have pushed back to the end of March. He says that he will fight his case to the end:

I would remain a prisoner of the mind if I gave up the struggle and confessed to a crime that I did not commit. Justice must prevail.

Thantawut and Somyot, among other 112 and Red Shirt prisoners, are hopeful that they will soon be transferred to Laksi prison, where conditions are more comfortable and where they can join other political offenders. Meanwhile, the UDD continues to urge the government to grant amnesty to all political prisoners in Thailand.

Read More
TOP

UDD Petitions Justice Minister for Prisoner Transfer

At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, UDD chairwoman Tida Tawornseth called on the Minister of Justice Pracha Promnok to act swiftly on behalf of Thailand’s political prisoners. 

In a letter dated March 11th 2013, Tida requested the immediate transfer of 10 Red Shirt and lèse majesté prisoners to Laksi prison which is reserved for political offenders. The list includes noted 112 prisoners Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Thantawut Thaweevarodomkul, and Daranee Chanchengsillapakul, who are currently imprisoned alongside violent criminals.

Tida said,

The manner in which Thailand is treating its political prisoners is contrary to basic democratic principals. Even the Sarit dictatorship recognized a distinction between political offenders and other prisoners. Now that we are more democratic we can’t even meet such low standards.

(more…)

Read More
TOP

Amnesty is Long Overdue – Red Shirt Activist

Throughout the past few months, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) has had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Red Shirt activists who are at the front line of the struggle for justice and equality in Thailand. Tui is well known among activists as one of the first to engage with political prisoners and highlight their cause. Her story mirrors both the frustration that many Red Shirts feel towards the political situation and their dedication to propelling positive change.

TRS: When did you first come to Bangkok?

I came to Bangkok from Isaan about 30 years ago. Like so many others, I was looking for job and business opportunities in the capital.

TRS: When did you start to become involved in the Red Shirt movement?

I first joined the Red Shirts after the military coup in 2006. I voted for Thaksin Shinawatra’s government and was very upset by the coup which removed democracy from our country.

(more…)

Read More