Thailand: Death of man jailed for insulting king reveals brutal system

May 12, 2012

The death in prison of poor odd-job man Aa-Kong (also known as Ah Kong) is yet another indication of the barbarity of the lese majeste (insulting the monarch) law, the injustice of the Thai legal system and the brutality of the Thai ruling class.

The fact that he was refused bail to get medical treatment, and the that the prison authorities waited three days after he became ill before sending him to the prison clinic, is an indication of the terrible conditions in Thai prisons.

He was convicted of lese majeste for supposedly sending an SMS message to ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s personal secretary. The evidence given by the state proved nothing.

In Thailand, generals and politicians who ordered repeated killings of unarmed demonstrators on five occasions since 1973 have never been charged or punished. But criticising the ruling class is considered to be a “grave offence”. Long prison sentences are handed down for lese majeste.

As progressive Red Shirts gathered to light candles and place flowers in Aa-Kong’s memory, some held up posters that asked “Who killed Aa-Kong?”

The simple answer is that King Pumipon, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra are collectively responsible for Aa-Kong’s death.

King Pumipon has limited powers. He cannot order the military to stage coups or to gun down pro-democracy demonstrators, although he provides legitimacy for such vile actions afterwards.

But one thing that Pumipon has the power to do is to say that lese majeste must no longer be used and that all lese majeste prisoners be immediately released.

After all, the Thai ruling class claims this barbaric law is there to protect Pumipon. Yet Pumipon said not a word about releasing the prisoners. He does not care a fig about ordinary Thai people, and shows more affiliation with his pet dogs.

This is not the first time that Pumipon has remained silent and allowed innocent people like Aa-Kong to die. He remained silent when three innocent palace servants were executed for his brother’s death.
Pumipon knew they were innocent because he was there when his brother died of a gunshot wound.

Pumipon lacks any basic morals. He has never carried out his duty to protect democracy and the constitution and therefore he is unfit to be the head of state. His actions and those of the military prove that Thailand urgently needs to become a republic.

Abhisit became prime minister in 2008 only because the army put him in office. He had never won a majority in any election.

While he was prime minister in 2010 he ordered the killing of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators. Aa-Kong was put in prison because of Abhisit’s actions.

Yingluck won a huge majority in last year's election. Red Shirts (a pro-democracy movement based on the poor majority) voted for her en masse.

Yet she has betrayed all those who are in prison for political reasons and all those who died for democracy.

Yingluck could have spoken out against any further use of lese majeste and she could have called for the release of all lese majeste prisoners. Yet she and her loathsome government ministers insisted that they would increase prosecutions under lese majeste and they set their faces against any reform of the law.

Instead of building democracy and justice, Yingluck has spent her time loving up to the military. She is responsible for Aa-Kong’s death in prison.

Aa-Kong is dead. Let us all make sure that the other lese majeste prisoners such as Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Surachai, Da Torpedo and all the others are quickly released.

[Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a political commentator and dissident. In February 2009 he had to leave Thailand for exile in Britain because he was charged with lese majeste for writing Thailand’s Crisis and the Fight for Democracy , which criticised the 2006 military coup. He is a member of Left Turn Thailand, a socialist organisation. His website is Red Thai Socialist.]

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