Category: Press Releases, Asia, Thailand
By: Adnan Mujagić, IPI Contributor

Thai editor sentenced to 11 years

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk convicted under ‘lese majeste’ laws


Thai alleged lese majeste suspect Somyot Prueksakasemsuk (C) arrives before hearing his verdict at the criminal court in Bangkok Thailand 23 January 2013. Photo by EPA/Narong Sangnak

By: Adnan Mujagić, IPI Contributor

VIENNA, Feb 12, 2013 - The Criminal Court in Bangkok has sentenced the former editor of the now defunct magazine Voice of Thaksin for defaming Thailand’s monarchy.
 
The Criminal Court sentenced Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 11 years in jail for publishing two articles deemed insulting of the royal family.
 
The court sentenced Somyot to five years in prison for each offensive article published, and a year tacked onto a previously suspended defamation conviction. Observers maintain that the judgment wasn’t handed down for what Somyot wrote, but that he was instead being punished for his active role in striving to reform the austere defamation laws often employed to silence political criticism.
 
The lèse majesté laws were implemented to prevent Thailand’s monarch and the royal family from being publicly criticised. Critics say the laws have to an increasing extent been abused for political reasons to pursue and silence members of the Red Shirt movement and others who expressed support for ex Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Under the current law, suspects face a maximum sentence of 15 years.
 
The reigning king who has been bedridden since 2009 is seen by many Thais as a coalescing, almost, celestial, figure.
 
Political landscape in Thailand remains erratic after former Prime Minister Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006, leaving the country partitioned between the royalists and nationalists on the one side and Thaksin’s mostly lower-class supporters on the other.