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Call to free ‘Red Shirt’ editor

Call to free ‘Red Shirt’ editor

THAILAND: A media rights group on Friday urged the government to free the former editor of two now-defunct “Red Shirt” magazines, who faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly insulting the monarchy.

Friday 5 August 2011, 08:41AM

“We call on the relevant Thai authorities to release Somyot Prueaksakasemsuk and to drop the anti-royal charges filed against him,” said Shawn Crispin, senior Southeast Asia representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Mr Somyot, a prominent political activist arrested in April, was charged under the country’s controversial lese majeste law over two articles deemed critical of the Thai royals.

Lese majeste – insulting the monarchy – is a serious offence in Thailand punishable by up to 15 years in jail for each charge.

The CPJ said Mr Somyot had refused tell the authorities who wrote the articles, which were published under pseudonyms.

“He told the police that he did not know the real name of those authors,” Mr Somyot’s lawyer, Suwit Thongnual, said.

Mr Suwit said the articles were published in February and April 2010 in the Voice of Thaksin -- a magazine that supported fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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It ceased publication under pressure from the authorities during the anti-government Red Shirt rallies in Bangkok in April and May last year that turned deadly.

Crispin said a “growing use of lese majeste charges to stifle free expression has greatly undermined Thailand’s democratic credentials”.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 83, the world’s longest-reigning monarch and revered by many Thais, has been in hospital since September 2009.

Prime Minister-elect Yingluck Shinawatra stopped short of saying she would reform the law after winning the July 3 election.

But Ms Yingluck, whose party contains senior Red Shirts facing lese majeste and terrorism charges, said the rules should not be abused. – AFP

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