'Don't forget lese majeste prisoners'

The public must not forget prisoners of conscience at this crucial juncture in Thai politics, a young student activist said after visiting lese majeste prisoners at the Bangkok Remand Prison on Saturday.

About 50 well-wishers and members of the June 24 for Democracy group made a special visit to show solidarity with those behind bars. Joining them were the wife and daughter of former Voice of Thaksin editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, who has been detained without bail for three years.

Aum Neko, a Liberal Arts student from Thammasat University, said students and the general public had become more aware of the problematic application of Article 112 of the Criminal Code against those accused of insulting and defaming the royal institution.

"In studying the problem of the lese majeste laws, we must not forget that there are real examples of those who become victims of the law being detained in prison," said the transgender student.

Aum also was accused of lese majeste in a complaint lodged with Nonthaburi police on Sept 16 last year after an interview on a satellite television talk show.

Aum, whose real name is Saran Chuchai, has been the force behind an anti-uniforms campaign at Thammasat for the past two years. He said he might receive the first formal summons from police later this month.

He also reminded the public that the death of Ampon "Uncle SMS" Tangnoppakul in the prison hospital in May 2012 should not be forgotten.

Daranee Charncherngsilapakul, the only female lese majeste prisoner at the Women's Central Correctional Institute, also remained in bad health, said Aum.

Daranee has become the longest-serving lese majeste prisoner. She was arrested since July 2008 and in December 2011 the court found that she had committed the crime of royal defamation.

She received a five-year sentence for each of the three offences — committed on June 7 and 13 and July 18, 2008 – for a total of 15 years. In June 2013, the Appeals Court rejected Darunee's appeal.

She never received bail and last year decided to drop her final appeal to the Supreme Court and seek a royal pardon.

Aum joined other activists and the Prueksakasemsul family members, who are preparing for a week-long campaign for Somyot's freedom. He has been denied bail a dozen times.

The labour activist and media man is appealing against the Court of First Instance ruling that sentenced him in January last year to 10 years in prison on two counts of violating the lese majeste law plus a one-year suspended sentence for a previous violation in 2009 of the Printing Act.

Three other male lese majeste prisoners are also at Bangkok Remand Prison.

Former stockbroker Khatha Pachachirayapong was jailed on March 6 last year when the Appeal Court sentenced him for two years and eight months. That was a reduction of the lower court's four-year term for lese majeste-like offences under the Computer Crimes Act in December 2012.

He has been bailed throughout the court trials until as he is fighting the case in the Supreme Court.

Ekachai Hongkangwan was convicted on March 28 last year of lese majeste for selling copies of Wikileaks cables and an ABC news documentary on the monarchy. He was sentenced to three years and four months and is fighting in the Appeal Court. He was granted bail during the first court trial but was denied bail during the appeal.

Kittiton Yaemsamai, who was sentenced to 13 years on two counts of lese majeste in December for an unprecedented charge of "attempting to commit the crime of lese majeste", has been detained at the prison since last August.

Kittiton said he was waiting for the documents to be processed for a royal pardon.

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