By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer
BANGKOK — Held in overcrowded cells which sweltered in summer and soaked in the rain, Ekachai Hongkangwan’s nearly three years in prison for defaming the royal family were no walk in the park.
About half a year since he was freed, the former prisoner has co-founded a fundraising initiative asking the public to help Thailand’s 50-or-so people held for lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) as well as its approximately 100 political prisoners. It launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday.
“I have been inside and I feel empathetic. If I could do something, anything about it, I should. Some are poor, and once released, just have to make ends meet,” Ekachai said.
Ekachai now serves not in prison but as the secretary of the newly registered For Friends Association, which obtained legal status in late March and comes as a growing number of inmates are serving lengthy sentences for lese majeste convictions, many of which happen in relative secrecy before military tribunals.
Some have been held much longer than Ekachai, such as Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, the former editor of Voice of Taksin Magazine, who at five years has served half of his 10-year sentence.