After almost six years in prison, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a long-time labour activist turned lèse majesté suspect, was sentenced to six years in jail by the Supreme Court for royal defamation and another year for defaming a military general.
At around 10 am on 23 February 2017, the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road in Bangkok read the Supreme Court’s verdict for Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, labour activist and former editor of Voice of Taksin magazine indicted under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law.
He was accused of lèse majesté for publishing two articles in the now-defunct Voice of Taksin magazine written by a contributor with the penname ‘Jitr Pollachan’ in the February and March 2010 issues of the magazine.
The Supreme Court handed him a six year jail term for lèse majesté and one additional year of imprisonment suspended from a defamation case against General Saprang Kalayanamitr.
In 2013, the Court of First Instance sentenced Somyot to 11 years imprisonment for both the lèse majesté and criminal defamation charges. In 2014, the Appeal Court upheld the sentence.
Somyot was arrested in 2011 and has been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison since. Despite 16 applications, the courts consistently denied him bail, citing the severity of the charge and flight risk.
As he has already been imprisoned for five years and 10 months, he will remain in jail for another one year and two months.
Unlike many other lèse majesté suspects who choose to plead guilty or request a royal pardon to end their trial and have their jail sentence reduced, Somyot has always stood firm and maintained his innocence.
In November 2016, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions awarded Somyot the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize to recognise his dedication to labour rights.
Kang Yeon-bae, Head of Education and Information for the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union, told the Bangkok Post that he hoped that the award will support an international campaign to free Somyot.
"For the past two decades, Somyot and I have worked closely together at the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions. He has also brought union members from Thailand to attend workshops in Korea many times. We consider him a good friend to labour movements in the region," the Bangkok Post quoted Kang as saying.
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (file photo)