Thailand: Free Somyot, abolish lese-majeste

The statement below was initiated by the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM), in solidarity with workers' rights and pro-democracy activist Somyot Pruksakasemsuk ― jailed in April last year under the lese-majeste (insulting the monarch) law. It has been signed by the Australian Socialist Alliance, the Party of the Masses in the Philippines, the Indonesian People's Liberation Party, the Confederation of Congress of Indonesian Unions Alliance (KASBI), Indonesia, and the Labour Party Pakistan .

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We, the undersigned organisations, are deeply concerned about the continuous repression against social activists under lese-majeste law in Thailand ― including Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, a labour activist who has been jailed without bail since April 30 last year.

We are concern about the continuous imprisonment, transferring of prison and numerous denials of bail requests in Somyot's case.

Somyot is known for his tirelessly work in the workers' movement and for his role in establishing democratic trade unionism in Thailand.

In 2007, he became editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine (now called Red Power), a political publication opposed to the 2006 military coup.

Somyot is the chair of Union of Democratic Labour Alliance and the leader of 24th of June democracy group, which was formed in the aftermath of the coup.

Somyot was arrested on April 30 last year by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), which accused him of violating section 112 of the Criminal Code. Somyot’s arrest came only five days after the launch of a petition for a parliamentary review to revoke Section 112, which Somyot claims contradicts democratic and human rights principles.

According to a document produced by the public prosecutor, Somyot is also alleged to have allowed two articles that make negative references to the monarchy to be published in his magazine.

We are also concerned that Somyot’s application for bail continues to be denied. The authorities have yet to provide any adequate justification for the prolonged detention of Somyot.

We are of the view that such a measure severely violates his fundamental rights. We urge the government of Thailand to urgently address the matter of Somyot's right to bail.

Somyot is not the only victim being persecuted under the draconian lese-majeste law.

We are alarmed by the escalating misuses of the lese-majeste law to silence social activists and political dissidents in the years following the military coup in 2006. We believe the continuous abuses of the lese-majeste laws are politically motivated and detrimental to rebuild democracy in Thailand.

Such laws have to be reviewed in accordance with international human rights standards.

We call upon the authorities in Thailand to:

* Immediately drop all charges against Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and release him unconditionally;
* Immediately drop all charges against political activists, journalists and any other individuals based on the lese-majeste  laws and pardon all who are serving sentences under these laws;
* Grant amnesty to all those who sentenced to jail for convicted under lese-majeste charges;
* Repeal Article 112 (lese-majeste prohibition) of Thai Criminal Code, to restore freedom of expression and opinion in Thailand.

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