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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 3/4/13

IMG_2149During Wednesday’s press conference, UDD co-leaders discussed obstacles to the ongoing efforts to amend the post-coup Constitution of 2007 as well as a recent ruling by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) regarding Jatuporn Prompan’s disqualification from parliament in 2011. They also announced a commemorative rally that is being held in Bangkok on April 10th in honor of those who died during the brutal and illegal military crackdown of Red Shirt protests in 2010.

The UDD supports the Pheu Thai government’s efforts to amend the post-coup Constitution, but pro-coup forces have continuously tried, and often succeeded, to thwart the amendment process. In one such recent effort, opposition Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn has petitioned the Constitutional Court to issue an injunction against the parliamentary proceedings and dissolve the Pheu Thai party.

While the Court rejected Senator Somchai’s appeal for an injunction, it has accepted his petition to consider the constitutionality of the proposed constitutional amendments, in particular alterations to Sections 68 and 237. The UDD co-leaders expressed frustration that the amendment process is facing obstacles every step of the way.

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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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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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UDD Congratulates Mr Sukhumband on election victory

UDD co-leaders congratulated Mr Sukhumband on a fair and clean victory in Bangkok’s gubernatorial elections on Sunday.

Dr Weng said,

We would like to congratulate Mr Sukhumband and welcome him again as the governor of Bangkok.

The UDD leadership welcomed the election as proof that good democratic practice is getting stronger in Bangkok.

Dr Weng added,

We want to thank Bangkokians for defying the rain and going out to vote. It is crucial for us to express this right because, in so doing, we strengthen democracy in Thailand.

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