Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (Thai: สมยศ พฤกษาเกษมสุข) is a Thai activist and magazine editor who in 2013 was sentenced to eleven years' imprisonment for lese majeste against King Bhumibol Adulyadej. His sentence drew protest from the European Union and from numerous human rights groups, including Amnesty International, which designated him a prisoner of conscience.
|Born||9 November 1961|
|Known for||prisoner of conscience (2013 Thai lese majeste conviction)|
Lese majeste incidentEdit
Somyot is a member of the "red shirts", a movement supporting former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra; Thaksin was removed from power in 2006 by a coup d'état. In 2010, Somyot, then the editor of the magazine Voice of Thaksin, published two articles critical of a fictional character interpreted by the court as representing King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was not the author of the two articles. Somyot was arrested for lese majesty on April 30, 2011, five days after launching a grass-roots campaign to collect 10,000 signatures for petition that called for a reform of the lese majesty law.
Somyot was arrested and imprisoned without bail for nearly two years. On 23 January 2013, the Criminal Court of Thailand convicted him of lese majeste and sentenced to a total of eleven years in prison: one year for a suspended sentence for a defamation charge, and five years each for the two counts of violating Article 112, the lese majeste law. The judge stated, "The accused is a journalist who had a duty to check the facts in these articles before publishing them. He knew the content defamed the monarchy but allowed their publication anyway". Somyot's lawyer said following the verdict that Somyot would appeal, adding: "I can confirm that he did not intend to violate Article 112 ... He was doing his job as a journalist."
The presiding judge in Somyot's case was Judge Chanathip Mueanphawong (ชนาธิป เหมือนพะวงศ์). Judge Chanathip has also been in charge of many lèse majesté cases, including the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul or Uncle SMS in which the judge sentenced Ampon to 20 years in prison, the case of Surachai Danwattananusorn who was sentenced to imprisonment for five years and six months, and the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn who was given a suspended sentence of one-year imprisonment on grounds of failing to remove lèse majesté comments on her website.
The verdict came at a time when Thailand's lese majeste laws were becoming increasingly controversial domestically and internationally. Thai activists and human rights groups stated that the laws were disproportionately used to imprison "red shirts" and other political opponents of the government. Prior to the trial, an alliance of human rights organizations lobbied for the dismissal of the charges against Somyot, including Amnesty International, Freedom House, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Amnesty International called Somyot a "human rights defender" and designated him a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned "simply for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression". The Asian Human Rights Commission argued that the lese majeste law itself was unconstitutional in Thailand, protesting a Constitutional Court decision to uphold it.
A delegation of the European Union criticized the verdict in Somyot's case, stating that it "seriously undermines the right to freedom of expression and press freedom". Human Rights Watch stated that "The courts seem to have adopted the role of chief protector of the monarchy at the expense of free expression rights". Reporters Without Borders called the verdict an "affront to media freedom".
The court's chief judge, Thawee Prachuablarb, defended the sentence: "There have been criticisms, rather one-sided, that the court was too harsh in its judgement but the five-year prison term for each of the two counts is considered appropriate ... It is mid-way between the minimum sentence under this law, which is three years, and the maximum punishment of 15 years. The court made its ruling in accordance with the law."
His release from prisonEdit
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk finished his sentence and was released from prison on April 30, 2018. In interviews, he said that he had lost his family and his job as a result of the lese majesty charge, and that at one point in jail, after developing gout due to wounds from his shackles, he had attempted suicide. Immediately upon his release he vowed to go back to fighting for democracy. “Participating in political activities is a civic duty. It is an expression. . . . So, I will join with any movement that demands elections. That’s surely a good thing."
- "Activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk jailed for 11 years under Thailand's lese majeste laws". The Australian. Agence France-Presse. 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- Andrew Buncombe (23 January 2013). "Thai magazine editor jailed for 11 years for insulting king". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Thailand jails magazine editor over articles defaming king". The Guardian. Reuters. 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Lese majesty prisoner Somyot released". Bangkok Post. 30 April 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
- "As prison term ends, lese majeste convict Somhot pledges to go back to fighting for democracy". The Nation. May 1, 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
- "Thailand: Quash Editor's Conviction for 'Insulting Monarchy'". Human Rights Watch. 2017-02-24. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
- พิพากษาจำคุก 7 ปีครึ่ง “สุรชัย แซ่ด่าน” ยังเหลืออีก 2 คดี (in Thai). Prachatai. n.d. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- ศาลนัดพร้อมคดีผอ.ประชาไทถูกฟ้องผิดพ.ร.บ.คอมพิวเตอร์ สืบพยาน ก.พ.54 (in Thai). Prachatai. 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "Case#112 - Prachatai" (in Thai). ilaw. n.d. Retrieved 2013-02-14.
- "Somyot lese majeste judgement on Wednesday". The Bangkok Post. 22 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Thailand: Release human rights defender imprisoned for insulting the monarchy". Amnesty International. 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Editor Gets 11 Years in Affront to Media Freedom". Reporters Without Borders. 23 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "Court plays down harshness of Somyot's sentence". The Bangkok Post. 25 January 2013. Archived from the original on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- Phaholtap, Hathairat (24 May 2018). "Somyot 'No Longer Human" After 7 Years of Prison for Lese Majeste". Kaosod English. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
- "As prison term ends, lese majeste convict Somhot pledges to go back to fighting for democracy". The Nation. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 24 May 2018.