September verdict for jailed Somyot?
Hearings ended on 3 May in the trial of Thai journalist and labour organiser Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. Already held for over a year on remand, he could face up to 30 years' jail for the publication of two articles that allegedly breach Thailand's draconian lèse majesté law. At the time, he was the acting editor-in-chief of the magazine in which the articles appeared. He did not write them, and neither of them even mentions the King of Thailand. Lawyers for the defence have asked the Thai Constitutional Court to determine whether the lèse majesté law is constitutional and meets international standards.
The verdict on Somyot's case will not be delivered until the constitutional issue is settled. This means that a verdict is unlikely before late September. So Somyot's supporters are emphasising the need to maintain the international pressure for his release on bail. He has already spent more than a year in jail on remand, and the difficult conditions have worsened his existing health problems. Nine successive bail applications have been denied.
This month saw the tragic death of Uncle SMS, Amphon Tangnoppakul, the 62 year old man being held on Lese Majeste charges. He was suffering for cancer and because of the lack of medical provision and the repeated denial of bail he was unable to receive much needed treatment. This is a brutal reminder of the human cost of having several hundred people held in prison over these charges.
The campaign demands the immediate bail of Somyot whose next bail request will be submitted on the 16th June.
The online ActNow campaign for Somyot launched by the LabourStart site on 30 April gained more than 5,000 supporters within its first week. International human rights organisations, journalists' federations and trade unions are among those calling for Somyot's release and the repeal or overhaul of the lèse majesté law. The ActNow campaign for Somyot is now online in seven languages, in a format that lets users send a message to the Thai Prime Minister with just a click of the mouse.
There are signs that the international pressure around the lèse majesté law is working. On 30 April, the verdict in the controversial trial of Thai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn was unexpectedly put off for a month. She could be sentenced to up to 20 years' imprisonment on lèse majesté-related computer crimes charges. According to the Bangkok Post, "Some human rights activists said the court's decision to postpone the verdict reflected unease among the authorities, the judiciary included, about how to handle such a high-profile lawsuit."
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