THAILAND: Death in custody of 61-year old grandfather jailed for allegedly sending four SMS messages

The Asian Human Rights Commission wishes to express our grief and extend our deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Amphon Tangnoppakul, who was found dead in prison custody on 8 May 2012. Amphon (also known to his family as "Ah Kong" or "grandfather," and to the public at "Uncle SMS"), a 61-year-old man, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on 23 November 2011 in Black Case No. 311/2554. The Criminal Court convicted him of four violations under section 112 of the Criminal Code and under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for allegedly sending four SMS messages to Mr. Somkiat Klongwattanasak, personal secretary of the former prime minister, Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva. These four SMS messages allegedly contained vulgar language defaming the Thai queen and insulting the honour of the monarchy.

As the AHRC noted at the time of Amphon's conviction (AHRC-STM-180-2011), the prosecution's actions raised serious questions about the validity of evidence in cases of this sort, and pointed to lacunae in the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, which is in fact broad enough to cover all forms of electronic communication; not only those on computer. The prosecution argument rested on the assertion that the mobile phone that sent the four allegedly criminal SMS messages had the same IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifying) number as the mobile phone which Amphon had used to call his children. Despite Amphon's assertion that he did not send the SMS messages in question, and did not even know how to send an SMS message, the court sentenced him to a lengthy term in prison.

Yet Amphon Tangnoppakul's death in custody raises an additional layer of questions and concerns about the Thai justice system. Amphon had been in detention since being formally charged on 18 January 2011. At the time he was charged, he was already suffering from oral cancer for which he had already been receiving regular treatment, and his counsel immediately requested bail while awaiting trial on this basis. The court denied this request, as it did seven subsequent requests made before his trial, at the time of his conviction, and up until several months before his death.

The repeated denial of Amphon's requests for bail itself raises serious questions about the obscure process by which a prisoner awaiting trial--or awaiting the consideration of a Court of First Instance decision by the Appeal Court--is granted or denied bail in Thailand. At the time of Amphon's last request for bail, in February 2012, the Appeal Court ruled that his illness, which constituted one of the grounds for the request, did "not appear to be life-threatening". On the same reasoning, the courts in Thailand have denied bail in other cases where it would seem to be justified on medical grounds, such as the case of Ms. Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul who suffers from severe jaw disease. Coupled with known deficiencies in the prison healthcare system in Thailand, the repeated refusal of bail to Amphon seems to reflect a manifest disregard among members of the judiciary for the wellbeing of detainees in the country's jails.

Given that the tragic death of Amphon in prison has followed repeated refusals of bail while his appeal was under consideration, and in view of the custodial responsibility for him that the state undertook in denying bail, including responsibility to provide him with the necessary healthcare, the Asian Human Rights Commission calls on the government of Thailand to ensure that an autopsy and post-mortem inquest in line with the Criminal Procedure Code are carried out fully and transparently. Preliminary information in this case indicates that Amphon entered the prison hospital on Friday, but that unavailability of laboratory services meant that he could not be treated over the weekend. We also call for the government to provide much more open and complete accounting of the prison healthcare system in Thailand than what is currently available publicly, and to do so with reference to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. With regards to the death of Amphon we wish in particular to highlight and call on the government to respond in detail to section 22(2) of the rules, that:

"Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers"; and, to section 25(2), that:

"The medical officer shall report to the director whenever he considers that a prisoner's physical or mental health has been or will be injuriously affected by continued imprisonment or by any condition of imprisonment."

Finally, the AHRC wishes to underscore its insistence, set out in previous public statements, that the government of Thailand repeal section 112 of the Criminal Code--which provides penalties of three to fifteen years for any alleged insult, defamation, or threat against the king, queen, heir-apparent, and regent; and thereby demands unquestioned allegiance to the monarchy in Thailand--and release all remaining individuals facing charges or convicted of violating the section, and related provisions of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. In the years since the 19 September 2006 coup, many people have paid a high price for alleged disloyalty to the monarchy, with sentences whose length is comparable to those for persons convicted of drug trafficking and murder. The death in custody of Amphon Tangnoppakul indicates that the price of loyalty is too high: a man has paid for four SMS messages with his life, and his family has paid with the loss of their husband, father and grandfather.

Read this statement online

 

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Comments

Yet Amphon Tangnoppakul's

Yet Amphon Tangnoppakul's death in custody raises an additional layer of questions and concerns about the Thai justice system. Amphon had been in detention since being formally charged on 18 January 2011. At the time he was charged, he was already suffering from oral cancer for which he had already been receiving regular treatment, and his counsel immediately requested bail while awaiting trial on this basis. The court denied this request, as it did seven subsequent requests made before his trial, at the time of his conviction, and up until several months before his death.

The judges that denied his requests need to be charged with manslaughter, at least. Never happen in Thailand during this incarnation. Which points to the urgency of a new, real constitution.

The Nitirat, toiling own their own - ever faithful to the people of Thailand, have made a good start.

Now the people must prevent the Puea Thai from cutting a deal with the more traditional 'elite' and handing over the CDA to traditional 'elite' appointees in return for a get out of jail, come home free card for the monopolist Thaksin.

Uncle SMS 'died of liver

Uncle SMS 'died of liver cancer'

Convicted lese majeste prisoner Ampon Tangnoppakul, or Ah Kong, who also became known as "Uncle SMS", probably died from liver cancer, preliminary autopsy results showed on Wednesday.

Ah-Gong ... the Bangkok Post of course prefers to diminish him with their preferred epithet ... was not convicted of anything. The court admitted that it imprisoned him because, the prosecution unable to prove their 'case' against him, Amphon himself was, marvelous to relate, unable to prove himself innocent!

1con·vict /kənˈvɪkt/ verb
con·victs; con·vict·ed; con·vict·ing
law : to prove that someone is guilty of a crime in a court of law [no obj]
▪ There is sufficient evidence to convict. [+ obj]
▪ He was convicted in federal court.
▪ The jury convicted them on three counts of fraud.
▪ Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
▪ a convicted criminal — compare acquit

I had two brothers die of liver cancer. It spread from other cancers in both cases. If Amphon had been able to continue his treatment during the 309 days he was imprisoned prior to his 'official' arbitrary imprisonment, or during the 168 days since, his cancer may well not have mestastisized to his liver.

The 'big people' in Thailand are brutal, vicious, and petty little pissants. Real aristocrats, yes they are.

Amphon Tangnoppakul sent

Amphon Tangnoppakul sent death threats to Thailand's head of state (according to Reuters Andrew Marshall who provided the full text of the court case), and his family. This is a criminal offense in any country you go to. In the US for example, under 18 USC § 876 - Mailing threatening communications - just sending such a threat to ANYONE would land you up to 20 years in prison or a steep fine - saying nothing of what would happen if you did so to the US head of state.

He committed an intolerable act, amongst a violent mob purposefully manipulated and incited to commit such acts. If you want to blame someone other than Tangnoppakul himself for his actions, blame the shameless paid-for demagogues on UDD's stage knowingly leading their impressionable, emotional followers to ruin.

Surely now using the man's death as a political football only highlights how bankrupt the US State Dept. and its network of funded propagandists like Prachatai are morally and intellectually.

TC: here's another one of

TC: here's another one of your deliberate lies. It is a complete fabrication.Wrong law, wrong information, all presented as propaganda. When will you apologize for this?

If a ruler wants to be loved,

If a ruler wants to be loved, to behave worthy of love. Not supposed to exist in the world such tyranny.
หากผู้ปกครองต้องการจะรับความรักที่จะประพฤติอย่างสวยหรูของความรัก. ไม่ควรจะอยู่ในโลกการปกครองแบบเผด็จการเช่น