The 10 year jail term handed down to magazine editor Somyot Pruksakasemsuk this month, under Thailand's Article 112, has drawn wide concern from, among others, the UN, the European Union, and the media community.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "The court's decision is the latest indication of a disturbing trend in which lèse-majesté charges are used for political purposes."
Reporters Without Borders in a statement said "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 The lèse-majesté law and article 112 of the criminal code must be repealed."
Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement said "Somyot's harsh sentencing represents the latest abuse of lèse-majesté laws to stifle freedom of expression in Thailand."
The Bangkok Post quoted the chief judge of the Criminal Court Thawee Prachuablarb, as saying "There have been criticisms, rather one-sided, that the court was too harsh in its judgement but... 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."
"The court's procedure showed the articles which Mr Somyot published did not contain academic views of the monarchy. The articles were insulting in nature and caused damage to the King."
Indeed the magazine Mr Somyot edited was deeply political. Accordingly, the sentence is inevitably also seen through the prism of Thailand's political divide, and there are also sections of the Thai public who believe he deserved the sentence he was handed. The Court's view was that he would have known the two articles in question were taking aim at the Monarchy, and went ahead and published them anyway.
There are wider, complex issues: The law itself; the chorus in some quarters to abolish or amend it; and the impact it may have on the Monarchy that it was promulgated to protect. To discuss the implications of the Somyot case and the use of Article 112, the FCCT is hosting a panel discussion with:
- Sukanya Pruksakasemsuk, wife of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk
- Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Director, Prachatai.com
- Dr. Tul Sittisomwong, leader of the "multicoloured shirt" group
- David Streckfuss, noted scholar of lèse-majesté legislation, and author of Truth on Trial in Thailand
Please Note the 7:30pm start time. Join us for an excellent panel on an emotive and pressing issue of the day!
Members: No cover charge, buffet dinner is 350 baht
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