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Bailed Red Shirt Prisoners to Fight for Innocence

20130419_134325On Friday April 19th, four Red Shirt prisoners were released from Laksi prison on bail as they appeal convictions for the arson attacks on the Udon Thani provincial hall that occurred on May 19th 2010.

The provincial court in Udon Thani agreed to release Arthit Saithong, Kittipong Chaikung, Daycha Komkhum, and Buarian Pangsa, after seven witnesses supported the bail requests. Despite facing severe sentences of up to 22 years, the four are committed to proving their innocence in the appeal process.

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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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Free At Last

Pinit Chanarong (left)  and Saichon Paebua (right)

Pinit Chanarong (left) and Saichon Paebua (right)

Pinit Chanarong and Saichon Paebua made headlines last week when they were acquitted of the arson attacks on the Central World shopping centre on May 19th 2010. At the time of their release, they had spent three years in prison without bail. Thai Red Shirts (TRS) met with Pinit and Saichon to congratulate them on their release and to discuss life as a political prisoner, the taste of freedom, and hopes for their future and as well as the future of Thai democracy.

TRS: How does it feel to be out of jail? Did you expect this outcome?

Pinit: It feels great. I want to say that I expected to be acquitted this whole time, because I could not imagine serving a sentence for a crime I did not commit. But the fact that I had already been in prison for three years dampened my confidence. I am grateful that the judge had mercy on me.

Saichon: I am so happy! To be honest, I did not expect to be acquitted, I expected the worst. When the judge read out the verdict I could not keep back the tears of joy. But I am also thinking about my friends who are still in prison, I worry about them. We need amnesty for political prisoners, and it must be swift.

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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.

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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.

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United for Amnesty

At the press conference on Wednesday, UDD co-leaders discussed the necessity of amnesty for political prisoners in Thailand and the UDD’s short-term plans.

Amnesty for political prisoners of all colours, with the exception of rally leaders, is currently the main priority for the UDD. The organization has submitted a Draft Amnesty Decree proposal to the government which could provide speedy amnesty to those who are suffering in prison due to charges stemming from the current political conflict.

Jatuporn Prompan exclaimed,

Our brothers and sisters have been stuck in Laksi prison for too long. We must not be selfish and prioritise our own success over their release.

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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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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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