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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thailand – Human rights defender and magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk faces lèse majestæcopy;

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk faces lèse majestæcopy; charge

16 November 2011

H.E. Yingluck Shinnawatra,

Prime Minister,

Office of the Prime Minister,

Government House,

Thanon Phitsanulok, Dusit

Bangkok 10300,

Thailand

Re: Thailand – Human rights defender and magazine editor Somyot
Prueksakasemsuk faces lèse majestæcopy; charge 

Dear Prime Minister,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, a human rights activist and journalist. I
am writing to you to raise my concerns about the situation of human
rights defender and magazine editor Mr Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who
will stand trial on charges of lèse majestæcopy; from 21 November 2011
until 4 May 2012. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk is a longtime labour rights
activist and is affiliated with the Democratic Alliance of Trade
Unions. He is facing a maximum of 30 years' imprisonment if found
guilty. 

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who is also editor of Voice of the Oppressed
(Voice of Taksin), was arrested on 30 April 2011 at Aranyaprathet
district, Sa Kaeo Province, and charged with contravening the lèse
majestæcopy; law or Section 112 of the Thai Criminal 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". He was detained in Bangkok Special Prison
and was reportedly transferred to Sa Kaeo Provincial Court on 12
November 2011. He has been in pre-trial detention for six and a half
months since his arrest by Department of Special Investigation
officials in April 2011. His fourth bail request was denied on 1
November 2011.

Somyot is known for his active support for the empowerment of the
workers' movement and the right to freedom of association both in
Thailand and internationally. Somyot's arrest on 30 April came only
five days after he held a press conference in Bangkok launching a
campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to petition for a parliamentary
review of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, which Somyot claims
contradicts democratic and human rights principles. According to a
document produced by the Public Prosecutor, Somyot is alleged to have
allowed two articles that made negative references to the monarchy to
be published in his magazine. 

The hearings involving the Prosecution witnesses will take place on 21
November 2011, 19 December 2011, 16 January 2012, and 13 February 2012
in the provinces of Sa Kaeo, Petchabun, Nakorn Sawan, and Songkla,
respectively, while the Defence witnesses will be called to appear
before Bangkok Criminal Court on 18-20 April 2012, 24-26 April 2012,
and 1-4 May 2012.

I am concerned that the venues of the hearings for the Prosecution
witnesses are all held outside Bangkok in different provinces across
the northern, northeastern, and southern provinces of Thailand, which
will place an undue burden on Somyot and his family and undermine his
fair trial rights. This may also prevent the full presence and
participation of trial observers, diplomatic corps, and journalists. 

I am further disturbed that if Somyot's application for bail
continues to be denied until the conclusion of the trial, he will have
been in prison for over a year before a verdict is reached, since the
trial is expected to last until at least 4 May 2012. This is in
violation of the constitutional guarantee for a right to bail under
Section 40 (7) of the 2007 Thai Constitution, the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand has
ratified, and Principles 36-39 of the Body of Principles for the
Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment
(1988). 

The Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand (TRCT), in its
second report, also emphasised that "a temporary release…is a
fundamental right of accused persons and defendants in order to enable
accused persons and defendants to defend their cases, to prove
innocence and to reduce effects from the restriction of freedoms on
themselves and families." Under national and international law, the
right to bail can only be restricted on limited and precisely defined
grounds. The authorities have yet to provide an adequate justification
for his continued detention or an explanation as to why less
restrictive and non-custodial measures are not sufficient to ensure
his appearance at trial and non-tampering with evidence.

Our organisation William's desk are alarmed by the escalating cases
of using lèse majestæcopy; law against human rights defenders and
dissidents in the years following the military coup d'etat in 2006.
Concerns have already been raised, in particular regarding the ongoing
case of Ms Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Executive Director of Prachatai and
a media rights advocate, who is also charged under the lèse majestæcopy;
law and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. 

On 10 October 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right
to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, urged Thailand to
urgently amend lèse majestæcopy; laws (Section 112 of the Penal Code and
the 2007 Computer Crimes Act)[1]. As emphasized by the Special
Rapporteur, "he threat of a long prison sentence and vagueness of
what kinds of expression constitute defamation, insult, or threat to
the monarchy, encourage self-censorship and stifle important debates
on matters of public interest, thus putting in jeopardy the right to
freedom of opinion and expression". 

Concerns regarding lèse majestæcopy; laws were also raised during the
consideration of the situation of human rights in Thailand through the
UN Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on 7 October 2011.

I call on the authorities in Thailand to: 

1. Immediately drop all charges against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, or
else, grant him the right to bail in accordance with fair trial
standards under domestic and international law; 

2. Review the lèse majestæcopy; law to ensure its conformity with
Thailand's international human rights obligations, as recommended by
the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right
to freedom of opinion and expression, and immediately drop all charges
against human rights defenders based on these laws;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in
Thailand, especially those working on freedom of expression, are able
to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of
reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

I respectfully remind you that the United Nations Declaration on the
Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society
to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly
on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of
human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and
calls on States to ensure that they can carry out their activities
without fear of reprisals. 

I would particularly draw attention to Article 6: "Everyone has the
right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study,
discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in
practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through
these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those
matters", and to Article 12: "(1) Everyone has the right,
individually and in association with others, to participate in
peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental
freedoms. (2) The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure
the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually
and in association with others, against any violence, threats,
retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or
any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate
exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration."

Yours Sincerely, 

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Activist and journalist 

80/ B Bramon Chiron, Saydabad,

Dhaka-1203, Bangladesh.

Cell: +88 019 7 444 0 666

E-mail:William  williamgomes.org

Skype: William.gomes9

Face book: http://www.facebook.com/wngomes

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/persecutionbd

http://www.williamgomes.org

Copies to:

1. United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders

2. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Regional Office,
Bangkok

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