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Four Red Shirt Political Prisoners Transfered to Laksi

Red Shirt gathering outside Laksi Prison

Red Shirt gathering outside Laksi Prison

After intense lobbying by the UDD and Red Shirt activists fighting on behalf of political prisoners, the Ministry of Justice has recently agreed to transfer 4 convicted Red Shirt political prisoners from Bangkok Remand Prison to Laksi Prison.

UDD chairwoman Tida Tawornseth said the move is significant because Laksi was originally reserved for persons on trial for politically related offenses. The decision to transfer political prisoners already convicted of violating the Abhisit government’s Emergency Decree of April-May 2010 brings Laksi one step closer to becoming a prison for all political prisoners, she said.

However, the Ministry did not approve the transfer of lèse majesté (112) prisoners that were included in the UDD’s request. The decision demonstrates the devastating political marginalization of 112 prisoners. Even Mr. Yuttapoom Martnork, accused of lèse majesté by his brother, was not green-lighted for transfer. Since his arrest in September 2012, the court has denied him bail several times and he will have spent 11 months in Bangkok Remand Prison before the start of his trial in August.  

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UDD Political Schools In Context

IMG_1950Over the course of several months, Thai Red Shirts (TRS) have attended many of the UDD’s political schools. The latest school in the Northern province of Chiang Mai was the UDD’s thirteenth ever political school and more schools are scheduled for the coming months.

While the concept of “political schools” may have negative connotations for some readers, in this case they refer to gatherings akin to political party conventions. Much like party conventions, the UDD’s political schools are important venues for the exchange of ideas between the movement’s leadership and grassroots activists. They also serve to build strong local Red Shirt organizations that are vital to the movement’s long-term success as a vehicle for democratic change in Thailand.

At a previous event in Lamphun province, UDD co-leader Nisit Sinthuprai said,

The Red Shirt movement needs to start at the village level. We need a strong network of local committees that can work together to defeat the amaat system in Thailand.

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Somyot’s Legal Team submits Appeal and Bail Requests

20130401_153856At Ratchada Criminal Court on Monday, Sukanya Prueksakasemsuk submitted a request to appeal the decision in the case of her husband Somyot, who was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for lèse majesté, and a previously suspended defamation conviction. She also filed a 14th bail request in the 23 months since Somyot’s arrest on April 30th 2011.

Sukanya was joined by former National Human Rights commissioner Vasant Panich who has joined Somyot’s legal team for the appeal trial. He maintains that, as acting editor of the Red Shirt magazine Voice of ThaksinSomyot could not be criminally responsible for articles that he did not write. 

Mr Vasant said,

There is no law for which Somyot could be charged. In fact, the Printing Act of 2007 ensures that editors are protected from criminal responsibility for material they haven’t authored. If the verdict stands, then that act would become obsolete. 

The ramifications of the Printing Act are significant in Somyot’s case, as he was convicted on two counts of violating article 112 of the criminal code.

Sukanya and Mr Vasant have also requested that the Appeals Court listen to new witnesses. They expect a response to all requests within two weeks.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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…)

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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…)

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