Pro-Amnesty Activists Parade In Prisoners Suits

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk in an undated file photo.
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk in an undated file photo.

(1 August) Student
activists donned prisoners uniforms during their campaign in central Bangkok to raise awareness
about political prisoners in Thailand.

The students, who study at Thammasat University, are
members of the activist group Liberal Thammasart for Democracy (LTTD). They were led by Mr. Panitan
Prueksakasemsuk, the son of Mr. Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a former magazine editor currently
imprisoned on charge of lese majeste (insult of monarchy).

According to Thai lese majeste
laws, those who are found guilty of insulting the Royal Family face maximum of 15 years in jail per
offence.

Critics of the laws argue that lese majeste is of highly political nature, as most
of those punished under this law are allies of the Redshirts movement, such as Mr. Somyot, who once
served as editor of a (now defunct) pro-Redshirts magazine, and Mr. Surachai Daanwattanusorn, leader
of a more radical wing of the Redshirts called Red Siam.

Therefore, LTTD says, lese majeste
convicts are political prisoners similar to Redshirts protesters imprisoned for their alleged crimes
during the mass protests in 2010 which were ultimately crushed by the military.

To campaign
for more public awareness about the issue, around 10 members of the LTTD wore prisoners costumes as
they rode on the busy Skytrain from Victory Monument to Siam station and the heart of Bangkok′s
downtown, passing through Siam Paragon shopping mall and BTS Skywalk.

On the way, they
distributed pamphlets detailing the reasons why political prisoners should be released and the
dangers of imprisoning hose who think differently in our society. They received considerable
attention from the public as they made their way toward Ratchaprasong Intersection, the centre of
the Redshirts protests in 2010.

The activists also performed a short drama skit in front of Wat
Pathumwanararm Temple depicting the arrests of Redshirts protesters as the military launched final
crackdown on their camp site on 19 May 2010. The activists then dispersed after around 1 hour of
campaigning in the area.

Earlier, Mr. Panitan
and his group staged rally in front of the Parliament House, announcing their stance that they would
support the amnesty bill that covers only the political prisoners and not those responsible for 2010
crackdown.

The draft of the amnesty bill that the Parliament is set to debate on 7 August is
dubious about the fate of the military. While Mr. Worachai Hema, the MP who submitted the draft,
insisted the security forces could be put on trial following the passing of the bill, some Redshirts
activists argued that Mr. Worachai′s draft did not contain such wording.

At the rally, Mr. Panitan said the release of political
prisoners should be urgent mission for Thailand. He also called for compensation on behalf of the
political prisoners, as many of them had been wrongly imprisoned or even tortured into making false
confession.

The amnesty will be like medicine that helps cure Thailand′s failure of legal
system, Mr. Panitan said.

On the same day, the Court of Appeals in Bangkok ruled against
allowing Mr. Somyot to be released on bail after he appealed his jail sentence. Ms. Sukanya
Prueksakasemsuk, Mr. Somyot′s wife, had posted bail money of more than 4 million baht and asked the
court for her husband′s release, saying he deserved the right to fight his appeal outside the
prison.

The court disagreed. In their statement, the judges wrote that Mr. Somyot′s case is
a crime that severely affects people′s feeling, and they fear that Mr. Somyot might try to escape
from legal prosecution if he is released on bail.

It is the 15th time the court ruled against
granting bail to Mr. Somyot. Ms. Sukanya said she was not surprised by the court′s decision, and
would continue to submit her request to have the court release her husband in the
future.