Lese majeste convict Somyot freed after 7 years in jail

Prominent labour rights activist and former editor of Voice of Taksin magazine Somyot Prueksakasemsuk had his first taste of freedom after he was freed from jail this morning (April 30), having served his seven-year imprisonment on lese majeste charge.

Mr Somyot who was former core leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), or the red-shirt movement, was embraced by his son and daughter who were at the exit gate of Bangkok Special Prison to welcome him.

After his release from prison, he briefly told the media in front of the prison that he would carry on with his political activity to demand the restoration of democracy.  He added that he would write a book about his hard life and mistreatments behind bars.

Somyot was arrested by immigration officials at Aranyaprathet border checkpoint on April 30, 2011 after he was charged by the Department of Special Investigation with lese majeste over an article in the Voice of Taksin magazine written by Mr Jakrapob Penkair under the pseudonym of Chit Polachan.

During the court trial, Somyot, then the magazine editor admitted to the court that he didn’t read every article to be printed, including the one by Chit Polachan, because the latter was a wellknown figure, a former minister and reliable. He also defended that Chit’s article did not offend the Monarchy as charged, but was critical of the feudal system.

On January 23, 2013, the Criminal Court found Somyot guilty of lese majese and sentenced him to ten years in jail.  But during the trial of the lese majeste case, the fomer UDD core leader was jailed one year for defaming Gen Saprang Kalayanamit, so the combined sentence of the two cases was increased to 11 years.

The Supreme Court upheld Somyos’s lese majeste conviction on February 23 last year, but commuted the 10-year jailterm to six years which he had fully served on April 30, 2017.  But he continued to be locked up behind bars to serve the one-year jailterm on the defamation conviction against Gen Saprang until April 30 which was the last day of his imprisonment.