Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the 11-year jail sentence that a Bangkok criminal court passed today on Voice of Thaksin magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk on lèse-majesté charges for publishing two articles by another person in 2010 that were deemed to have defamed the king and the monarchy.
“This sentence is a nothing less that a political manoeuvre designed to silence a government critic,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The fact that the complaint about the supposedly defamatory articles was not filed until several months after Somyot’s arrest proves that the authorities wanted his head and just needed a pretext to jail him.
“We demand Somyot’s immediate release and the overturning of this conviction, and we urge the entire international community to react to this trial, which is a direct attack on media freedom in Thailand. The lèse-majesté law and article 112 of the criminal code must be repealed.”
The court sentenced Somyot to five years in prison for each of the offending articles and an additional year for a previous sentence that had been suspended. His lawyer, Karom Polpornklang, said he would appeal.
Somyot was affiliated to the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the movement also known as the Red Shirts, some of whose members support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
He has been held since 30 April 2011 in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo, 2 days after he participated to the launch of a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to remove the lese majeste article from the Thai criminal code. He was later reproached to refuse to reveal the identify of the author of the two articles, written under the pen-name of Jitra Polachan.
He was previously held for 21 days after being arrested in May 2010, following the final assault on thousands of Red Shirt demonstrators in Bangkok. Reporters Without Borders interviewed him after his release in 2010.
After the authorities closed his bimonthly, Voice of Thaksin, in 2010, it was replaced by Red Power.
Photo : Nicolas Asfouri / AFP