Home Page > News Item > THAILAND: Editor sentenced to 11 years for defamatory articles

RAN 04/13 – 24 January 2013

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests the harsh sentence handed down on 23 January 2013 to Somyot Pruekasemsuk, editor of a political magazine, 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 United Nations International Covenant on Human Rights, to which Thailand is a state party. It urges that he is granted access to all necessary medical care whilst detained and is protected from ill-treatment. It also calls for the amendment of Article 112 of the Penal Code, which is commonly used to criminalise peaceful dissent and free speech.

On 23 January 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 5 years for each count of violating Article 112 of the Penal Code, otherwise known as the lèse majesté law, which prohibits acts of insulting, defaming or threatening 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 30 April 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 twelve applications for bail were denied by authorities. On 30 August 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.

For a statement by the United Nations High Commissioner Navi Pillay on Somyot Pruekasemsuk’s conviction of click here

Please send appeals:
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 criminalise free expression, and urging an amendment to Article 112 of the Penal Code in order to end the imprisonment of writers, journalists and publishers.

Appeals to:
Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Bangkok 10300, Thailand
Fax: +662 280 0858; +66 2 288 4016
Email opm@opm.go.th
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister of Justice
Pracha Promnok
Ministry of Justice
22/f Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road,
Pakkred Nonthaburi 11120, Thailand
Fax: +662 502 6699; +662 502 6734; +662 502 6884 Email: om@moj.go.th
Salutation: Dear Minister

And copies to:
National Human Rights Commission
120 Chaengwattana Road
Laksi District
Bangkok 10210
E-mail : info@nhrc.or.th

Please contact this office if sending appeals after 28 February.

For further information please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: cathy.mccann@pen-international.org