Editor Sentenced to 11 Years for Allegedly Defamatory Articles
PEN International protests the harsh sentence handed down to Somyot Pruekasemsuk, editor of a political magazine, on January 23, 2013, for publishing two articles in 2010 deemed defamatory to the country’s monarchy. It demands his immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Human Rights, to which Thailand is a state party. It urges that Pruekasemuk be granted access to all necessary medical care while detained and that he be protected from ill-treatment. PEN also calls for the amendment of Article 112 of the Penal Code, which is commonly used to criminalize peaceful dissent and free speech.
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On January 23, 2013, the Bangkok Criminal Court found prominent activist and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk guilty of lèse majesté offenses for publishing two articles in his Voice of Taksin magazine that prosecutors argued made negative references to the monarchy. He was sentenced to five years for two counts of violating Article 112 of the Penal Code, otherwise known as the lèse majesté law, which prohibits acts considered to insult, defame, or threaten Thailand’s king, heir apparent, or regent. He received an additional year for a previous suspended sentence on a separate defamation case in 2009. Since 2006 the charge of lèse majesté has commonly been used to imprison writers and journalists and silence dissent.
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk was arrested on April 30, 2011, shortly after launching a campaign to gather support for a parliamentary review of Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. The following background is given by Human Rights Watch:
Somyot was first arrested during the street protests by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) “Red Shirts” against the government of then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. On April 26, 2010, the government’s Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) put Somyot and his magazine on a chart containing names of individuals and groups whom it accused of being “anti-monarchy.” The CRES never offered any credible evidence to substantiate this allegation. On May 24, 2010, Somyot was arrested by the CRES, which detained him without charge for 19 days in an army camp under state of emergency rules then in effect. He was released on June 13, 2010. Somyot then changed the name of his magazine from Voice of Taksin to Red Power. The Abhisit government forced the shutdown of Red Power in September 2010.
Police arrested Somyot again on April 30, 2011, and charged him under article 112 of Thailand’s penal code, 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.” The two articles for which Somyot was charged were written by Jit Pollachan, the pseudonym of Jakrapob Penkair, the exiled former spokesman of Thaksin. Jakrapob, now living in Cambodia, has never been charged with any crime for what he wrote.
Somyot Pruekasemsuk was ill-treated during his 20 months of pre-trial detention, during which all of his 12 applications for bail were denied by authorities. On August30, 2012, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Somyot’s detention was arbitrary and called for his immediate and unconditional release. Somyot Pruekasemsuk is expected to appeal the sentence.
Somyot suffers from hypertension and gout and there are concerns for his health, which is said to have deteriorated during his detention.
Read UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay's statement on Somyot Pruekasemsuk’s conviction.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the harsh sentence handed down to prominent activist and editor Somyot Pruekasemsuk, and calling for his immediate and unconditional release in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party;
- Expressing alarm about the continued use of lèse majesté laws to criminalize free expression, and urging an amendment to Article 112 of the Penal Code in order to end the imprisonment of writers, journalists and publishers.
Send Your Letter To
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Fax: +662 280 0858; +66 2 288 4016
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
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Chaeng Wattana Road,
Pakkred Nonthaburi 11120, Thailand
Fax: +662 502 6699; +662 502 6734; +662 502 6884
Email: [email protected]
Salutation: Dear Minister
With copies to:
National Human Rights Commission
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E-mail : [email protected]