Diego Rivera 2

As the New Year approaches, Thai political prisoners are still in jail

Numnual  Yapparat

 What is happening in Thailand? The answers very much depend on who you are and which side you are on. We, who are still free and welcoming the New Year, must not forget the Thai political prisoners. They have been denied the right to celebrate the New Year with their families because they expressed their desire for democracy.  At the moment, there are about 23 political prisoners who are in jail.

If you are poor or are opposed to the Thai conservative ruling class, then you cannot trust the Thai justice system. For those who are charged with Lese Majeste, the trails are held in secret. The judges explain that these people insulted the king and that they pose a dangerous threat to “national security”. Naturally, the judges say that they cannot reveal what the detainees have said to insult the king or the queen. Put it simply, if you want to abuse someone you don’t like, you just tell the police that they insulted the king.

One interesting question that we should raise in such a context, is what should be done if the king insults the people and democracy? Should he say sorry for his wrong doings? These kind of questions are very simple to ask in the democratic world. But Thailand you can land in jail. Given that things are so wrong, how can people be prevented from thinking about a Republic?

I would like to give some examples of how the courts behave against Thai political prisoners.

“Ekachai” who was charged under the Lese Majeste law, distributed the ABC documentary which was produced by the news agency in Australia. The documentary is about the crown prince and his wife. The matters that have been said in the documentary are not new at all. People know very well about the facts and pictures that are mentioned in the documentary.  Ekachai also sold copies of the Wikileaks papers which were translated into Thai at a Red Shirt demonstration. In the papers, Prem Tinsulanonda, Siti Savetsila and Anand Panyarachun, who are on the Privy Council, openly discussed the crown prince’s ill-behaviour with the American Ambassador. During the trial, the defence wanted these people to be summoned to the court. Disgustingly, the court did not dare to summon these big names and anyway that would have exposed them as having criticised the prince. Ekachai is still in jail.

A Red Shirt protestor who was accused of setting fire to public buildings is still in jail. The evidence that the court used against him is very weak. For example, the court used only one picture to blame him and put him in jail.

There are countless other examples where the courts fail to deliver justice to ordinary people, especially in labour disputes between employers and employees.

The best solution to reform the Thai court system is to introduce a jury system. The judges also should be elected, otherwise the courts will just be the tool of those who are in power.

The mainstream parties will not make a positive change in Thailand unless a pro-democracy mass movement, which is politically independent from Pau Thai, is built. When Pau Thai tried to pass the amnesty bill a few weeks ago, it did not include lese majeste political prisoners but Pua Thai were ready to give a pardon to those who killed unarmed Red Shirt protestors. Shame on them!

The Democrat Party is a dirty party. They lie straight-faced about democratic principles and demand that Thailand should go back to be under an absolute monarchy. The Democrats committed crimes in broad daylight. They were involved with closing down the airports in 2008 and now they are using violence to block candidate registrations for the coming elections. When the Democrats were the government, they killed people who demanded democracy. When in opposition, they call for democracy to be dismantled.  Yes, and they are still free and seem to have the right to commit crimes against innocent people and democracy repeatedly.

After the New Year, we are anticipating a fresh political crisis. However, we should not let those at the top, whether Democrats or Pau Thai, set the political agendas. Pro-democracy people have to set our own political goals. The lessons from the previous year teach us that we cannot trust any of them. In the short term, we have to move forward to the election and we should not end up as mere cheerleaders for Pau Thai. We have to put pressure on them to have progressive policies. We need to have our own party, the party that puts working peoples’ interests before that of the elites.

This New Year, remember the political prisoners; Somyot, Ekachai, Da and all the others.