Reporters Without Borders again urges the Thai authorities to release Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, the former editor of the banned magazine Voice of Thaksin, who was tried on lèse-majesté charges during the past four days in Bangkok, with witnesses for the prosecution and defence giving evidence. Somyos has been detained for the past 12 months.
“The nine bail requests for Somyos during the past year were all rejected on the grounds that he could influence witnesses if he were released before his trial,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Now that the trial is all but over, we reiterate our call for his immediate and unconditional release.”
A Reporters Without Borders representative was able to speak briefly with Somyos on 1 May, shortly after Somyos testified in his defence. “I just want to expose the facts,” he said. “If I am punished for that, then so be it.” Somyos’ wife, who visits him once a week in prison, said the 50-year-old journalist seems to have been treated acceptably in prison, but his mental health is deteriorating.
In his testimony, Somyos argued that the two February 2010 articles that prompted his arrest did not refer to the monarchy. “I did not really imagine that these articles would be seen as criticizing the monarchy,” he testified. “In my view, the author was just referring to the Thai elite.” For the first time he revealed the real name of the person who wrote the two articles under the pen-name of Jit Polachan.
“The articles contain no explicit reference to the monarchy,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They and the law are being interpreted in a particular way in order to punish a ruling party opponent. We condemn this political use of the draconian lèse-majesté legislation to silence Somyos, and we urge the court not to convict him on the basis of a purely subjective interpretation of the articles.”
Somyos’ two defence lawyers petitioned Thailand’s constitutional court on 24 April, asking it to determine whether the lèse-majesté law is constitutional and complies with international legal standards, and requesting a suspension of the trial until it issued its ruling.
A member of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (better known as the “Red Shirts”), Somyos was arrested on 30 April 2011 after refusing to identify the person who wrote the two articles that allegedly defamed the king. He was formally charged on 26 July 2011 on two lèse-majesté counts for which he could get a combined sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
The court that is trying Somyos will not issue a verdict until the constitutional court has issued a ruling.
Thailand is classified as a country “under scrutiny” in the “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders updates every year.