Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a journalist, and a trade union and human rights activist in Thailand. He was editor of the magazine Voice of Taksin, and he is the former coordinator of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Worke …

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Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a journalist, and a trade union and human rights activist in Thailand. He was editor of the magazine Voice of Taksin, and he is the former coordinator of the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM – now part of IndustriALL) in Thailand.

He was arrested and taken into custody on 30 April 2011, and shortly thereafter charged with two violations of Article 112, 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.”

In Thailand, under  lèse-majesté law, any criticism of the King or a member of the royal family may result in up to 15 years imprisonment for the perpetrator. Somyot was sentenced to 10 years for “insulting the King“.

Trade unionists, human rights and civil society activists across the world, including the European UnionUN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International condemned the conviction and severe punishment of Somyot.

General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union Jyrki Raina said:

“IndustriALL joins the EU and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International in protesting for Somyot’s release, based upon the United Nations Human Rights Charter on Freedom of Expression.”

In Somyot’s case, the charges were for allegedly allowing two articles with anti-monarchy content to be published in his magazine. Somyot was held for six months of pre-trial detention, and after beginning in 12 November 2011, the hearings in his trial continued until 3 May 2012. On January 23, 2012, the Criminal Court in Bangkok found Somyot guilty on both charges, and he was sentenced to ten years in prison in this case, as well as to one year in prison in relation to a prior case.

At present, Somyot is appealing his verdict. Since he was first arrested and placed behind bars, like the majority of detainees under Article 112, Somyot has been consistently denied bail, despite 15 bail applications being submitted.

On 30 April 2014, the third anniversary of his life behind bars, Somyot’s family and supporters will submit a sixteenth application for bail on his behalf. In Thailand, a week of events culminating on May Da, have been organised to push for his release.

Meanwhile, at an international Thai Studies conference in Sydney, a strong motion was passed in support of Somyot and against article 112. In a sign of increasing dangers for labour and human rights activists in Thailand, last week, Kamol Duangpasuk, known as Mai-Nueng Goontee, was shot and killed in a clear case of political assassination. Mai Nueng was a well known poet and anti dictatorship figure.

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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