Free red shirts face more poverty
Two detained red shirts, who were recently released after serving six months for violating the emergency decree in May, said they received no proper legal representation or counselling and were summarily handed down six-month imprisonment terms.
Both men, who are from working-class backgrounds also said their livelihoods had been severely affected as a result but vowed to continue to support the red-shirt struggle.
"Police told me to just admit [of having committing wrongs] and said it's no big deal and the charge might be dropped. But I got [the sentence] big time as a result!" said Vishnu Kamolman, 18, a native of Bangkok who was arrested at a petrol station at Soi Lang Nam on May 15.
Prayoon Surapinit, a red-shirt vendor in the Klong Toei area was arrested on May 14 near Bon Kai. He said police told him nobody would put him behind bars and that he could go home on the following day after the detention. Presented to the court, he was told to admit he was guilty and then bussed to jail. "The judge presided over the case and read the verdict while I didn't even have a chance to speak. Within 10 minutes everyone [who was arrested together with him] were put on a waiting bus heading to the prison," said Prayoon.
Prayoon said his wife was seven months pregnant when he was arrested and the family have since suffered more poverty than they used to. "It's been excruciating. There is no justice for us under this government," Prayoon said.
As for Vishnu, who was a security guard prior to being arrested, he said he had tried but failed to secure a job after his release in November as nobody wanted to hire someone with a criminal record.
The two were speaking yesterday at a symposium organised by Social Move, a leftist political group, and the Student Federation of Thailand. The organisers regard the two and other red shirts detained as "political prisoners", a term not acknowledged by the government, and said there were still many serving longer sentences, such as one-year jail sentences.
Asked about how he was treated after being arrested, Vishnu said he was kicked so hard by a group of army officers that he was forced to lie down. He said blood covered his T-shirt and face while he heard one soldier shouting: "You made me miss the chance to return home to play during Songkran!"
Prayoon wasn't beaten, but said the place where he was arrested was crowded and full of possible witnesses. Both said they were not abused while serving their sentences in prison and added that representatives from the National Human Rights Commission visited them while in prison.
In a related development, Pitch Pongsawat, lecturer of Political Science at Chulalongkorn University, speaking at the same event at October 14 Memorial Hall warned that talk by the government about lifting the state of emergency only to have it replaced with the Internal Security Act would further entrench the anti-democratic climate in Thailand.
"We need to expand democratic space and return to the normal rule of law and not to law where power is exercised with impunity and creates a climate of fear as we're experiencing now."