24 January 2013
Press Statement on the Conviction of Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk
The Bangkok Criminal Court read a verdict on the Black Case no. O1952/2554 on 23 January 2013 between the public prosecutors v Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a defendant in an offence against the Penal Code’s Article 112 (lèse majesté).
Mr. Somyot was accused of publishing, distributing and disseminating “Khom Kwam Kid” column authored by “Jitra Phonchan” and another article “‘Bloody Plan, Shooting over the Head of the Seniors” in the Voice of Taksin. Both were deemed by the Court as being defamatory, insulting, or threatening to the King. That the defendant published, distributed and disseminated the articles was tantamount to an act to defame, insult, or threaten the King, an offence as per Article 112 of the Penal Code. He was therefore convicted of imprisonment on two counts, each for five years, plus another one year in a libel suit, the Red Case no. O1078/2552, altogether 11 years.
The Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) is concerned about the enforcement of the Penal Code’s Article 112 which directly impacts the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, a fundamental right guaranteed in any democracies. We therefore have the following demands to make;
1. While the case is pending in the Court, Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and other defendants or alleged offenders in lèse majesté cases should be granted temporary release immediately as they are considered prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. In addition, it is essentially held in criminal justice that a defendant be presumed innocent unless the final verdict is reached. In order to uphold the principle, the defendants should be granted bail. That a person is subjected to being held in custody for a lengthy period of time is tantamount to having the person convicted prior to the trial. Such an act is in breach of the justice process provided for by the Constitution.
2. The government should make an attempt to have the Penal Code’s Article 112 amended making it become more appropriate and proportionate to a democratic system and in compliance with Thailand’s international obligation regarding Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). In particular, the penalties should be adjusted to make them reflect the genuine severity of the offence. The preservation of the monarchy cannot be made possible by the enforcement of draconian and undemocratic law. Also, the power to report a lèse majesté case should not lie with any individual as currently prescribed for since it paves the way for the misuse of Article 112 as a tool to silence any political dissent.
3. The Court is urged to adjudicate in compliance with the rule of law and impartiality. The enforcement of law based on respect of constitutional rights to freedom shall help to minimize impact of any unjust laws. On the contrary, if the enforcement of law is made without any principle, even though the law is fair enough, it shall not enable justice in society.
In order to help solve conflicts in society, it is therefore vitally important that the judges perform their duties in compliance with the rule of law and based on impartiality. In so doing, they shall be able to help the nation wade through any crises and become a sustainable democracy in future.
For more information, please contact Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, phone 02 6934939