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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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Democracy Update 17/4/13

IMG_2550At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, the leadership discussed plans for the Thai new year, as well as the ongoing commemorative events that will be taking place within the next month to mark the third anniversary of the brutal military crackdown on Red Shirt protests that killed over 90 people.

Thailand has started to wake up after the celebrations of Thai New Year, Songkran. In traditional Songkran spirit, the UDD leaders announced 3 “wishes” that they will work towards during the new year: amnesty, constitutional reform, and justice.

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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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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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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.

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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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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.

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