Thailand’s Somyot Sentenced to 10 Years for Royal Defamation

The AP reports:

A prominent Thai activist and magazine editor was sentenced to a decade in prison Wednesday for defaming Thailand’s monarchy, a verdict rights groups condemned as the latest affront to freedom of expression in the Southeast Asian country.

Somyot Pruksakasemsuk was convicted of publishing two articles in an anti-establishment magazine that made negative references to the crown.

The New York Times says:

A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced a labor activist and former magazine editor to 10 years in prison for insulting Thailand’s king, the latest in a string of convictions under the country’s strict lese majeste law.

The case of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, 51, was different from previous lese majeste cases because Mr. Somyot directly challenged the law itself, saying it violated the right to free expression.

The Wall Street Journal says:

A court in Thailand sentenced a magazine editor to 10 years in prison Wednesday for publishing two articles that prosecutors said defamed the country’s revered monarchy, focusing fresh international attention on both the way Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws are applied and the extent of the country’s gaping political divides.

And Reuters reports:

A former Thai magazine editor was jailed for 10 years on Wednesday for insulting the royal family under the country’s draconian lese-majeste law, a sentence that drew condemnation from international rights groups and the European Union.

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was found guilty of publishing articles defaming King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2010 when he was editor of a magazine devoted to self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin Talks to Bloomberg about Yingluck, the Amnesty Bill, and Lèse-Majesté

Bloomberg interviewed Thailand’s former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and has run two stories that are worth a look.

The pieces are here:

Former Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra said his sister’s government will avoid conflicts like those that led to his ouster in a 2006 coup, even as it presses ahead with efforts to curb the power of the courts.

…and here:

Any changes to a Thai law that protects Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and other royal family members from insults should come from his advisers, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said.

Red Shirt 112 Sticker Evokes Pizza Company Logo

2012 06 22 112 pizza co

Related to my last post

@Anasuya found this notable sticker today at a Red Shirt event here in Bangkok.

Yes, it refers to lèse-majesté — Article 112 of the Thai criminal code — and is modeled on…the Pizza Company logo.

Pizza Company restaurants are popular and widespread here in Thailand, and their advertisements often include a jingle with the number you dial for delivery: 1112.

Hence, the play on 112 and the (likely unintentionally misspelled) reference to “fast derivery.”

Thai Man Jailed for Lèse-Majesté Dies in Prison

2012 05 08 uncle sms

AP reports today:

A Thai man in his 60s who became known as “Uncle SMS” after he was convicted of defaming Thailand’s royal family in mobile phone text messages has died while serving his 20-year prison term, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The case of Amphon Tangnoppakul, a grandfather who had suffered from mouth cancer, drew attention to Thailand’s severe lese majeste laws last November when he received one of the heaviest-ever sentences for someone accused of insulting the monarchy.

And:

Amphon was arrested in August 2010 and accused of sending four text messages to a government official that were deemed offensive to the queen. He denied sending them, however, and said he didn’t even know how to use the SMS function on his telephone to send texts.

He wept during his court proceedings, saying, “I love the King.”

AFP says:

A 62-year-old Thai man considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International for his 20-year sentence for royal defamation has died in jail, his lawyer said Tuesday

And:

“He had come to represent the enormous degree of injustice that was this lese majeste law and yet he wanted nothing more than to be a grandfather and to enjoy his old age,” Amnesty researcher Benjamin Zawacki told AFP.

Reuters reports:

A Thai man who was jailed for 20 years after being found guilty of sending text messages disrespectful to Queen Sirikit has died in jail a few months into his sentence, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

The case last November of Amphon Tangnoppaku, 61, who the media nicknamed “Uncle SMS”, had stoked a debate about the harsh sentences imposed in Thailand for lese-majeste, or insulting the king, queen or crown prince.

Prachatai has this:

After being convicted to 20 years in jail for allegedly sending four offensive text messages to the secretary of former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva in November 2011, his lawyers applied for his temporary release several times citing his medical need as he had been suffering from cancer among other illnesses. The latest request was made in February 2012 and it was rejected by the Appeals Court who claimed that “The illness which the defendant claims [as one of the reasons for the bail] does not appear to be life-threatening.”

There’s also a story from The Nation and The Bangkok Post.

And finally, for background info, here’s a BBC story from Nov., when Ampon was convicted.

(All emphasis mine.)

(Image: The Nation.)

Update: There’s also a story from The New York Times.

Nitirat Leader Assault Update: Twin Brothers Confess

An update to my previous post:

The AP says:

Twin brothers have confessed they assaulted a professor who leads a campaign to reform laws concerning Thailand’s monarchy, police said Thursday.

Police Lt. Gen. Winai Thongsong said Supot and Supat Silarat turned themselves in and admitted punching Worachet Pakeerut in a parking lot at Bangkok’s Thammasat University because of “differing views.”

Worachet and other members of a group called Nitirat, or Enlightened Jurists, have drawn criticism for seeking to reform Thailand’s lese majeste law. The law mandates prison terms of up to 15 years for insulting the monarchy.

Winai said the brothers acted on their own in Wednesday’s attack.

“I was not happy,” Supat said, as police discouraged him from speaking at a news conference. The brothers said they sell clothes and perfume for a living.

The Bangkok Post has more, including a photo of the brothers.

Bangkok Post: “Nitirat leader attacked at Thammasat”

The Bangkok Post says that the leader of the group of academics arguing for the reform of Thailand’s royal insult laws was reportdly assaulted at Thammasat Univ. today:

Law lecturer Vorajate Pakeerat, leader of the Nitirat (enlightened jurists) group, was punched in the face by an unidentified man at Thammasat University’s Tha Phrachan campus on Wednesday afternoon, reports said.

Thanapol Aiewsakul, editor of Fah Diewkan magazine, was quoted as saying said two men arrived on the campus on a motorcycle.

They waited for Mr Vorajate in a car park in front of the law faculty building. When he showed up, one of them punched him in the face several times. Both men then fled.

Mr Vorajate suffered cuts and bruises, was left bleeding, and his spectacles were broken. He was quickly taken to Thonburi Hospital for a medical examination.

The Post story has security camera pics of the men who allegedly assaulted Vorajate.

Reminder: Previous posts on the Nitirat group and other related topics can be found via the lèse-majesté tag.

Red Shirt Jailed for Lèse-majesté

Bloomberg reports today:

A Thai man who helped lead anti- government protests was sentenced to seven and half years in jail for insulting the royal family.

Surachai Danwattananusorn, 68, had a 15-year prison term cut in half because he pleaded guilty to the charges, Bangkok’s Criminal Court said today. His legal team will seek a royal pardon, even as police investigate an additional complaint against Surachai, lawyer Karom Ponpornklang told reporters.

“Surachai has accused the monarchy of being behind protests and conflicts in the country,” the court said in its ruling. “This is not true as the monarchy’s activities are for the benefit of Thai people. His move is considered a severe offense and does not deserve a suspended punishment. He’s mature and he still does this.”

The AP says:

A Thai court has sentenced a member of the Red Shirt political movement to 7 1/2 years imprisonment for remarks judged to have insulted the country’s monarchy.

The court ruled Tuesday that 70-year-old Surachai Danwattananusorn made speeches against the monarchy three times in 2010.

Surachai was a communist insurgent in Thailand in the 1970s and was imprisoned in the 1980s. More recently he has led a faction of the Red Shirts, who that took to the streets and clashed with the military in 2010.

There are also stories from Reuters, the BBC, the Bangkok Post, and MCOT.

(Note that reports of his precise age are inconsistent.)

Notes from Thongchai’s FCCT Talk on lèse-majesté

Last night Thongchai Winichakun gave a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand about the increased application of the lèse-majesté law since 2006.

Thongchai is a professor of Southeast Asian History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of the well known 1997 book Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation.

Here are my Tweets from the event, in reverse-chronological order. I thought it might be helpful to provide them all together here.

More soon on this topic, perhaps, but I wanted to post these snippets for now.