Reading the latest and possibly last letter from jail from convicted lese majeste and computer crime law offender Suwicha Thakor dated January first 2010 was a sobering experience. The letter reflects Suwicha's lack of faith on Thai mainstream media which do not care to put his side of the story to the public. So instead, Suwicha only mentioned in his Thai-language letter, the left-leaning not-for-profit prachatai.com online newspaper which duly published his letter on Wednesday.
Aside from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders having claim this week that his pardon request has "mysteriously disappeared" from his official file, Suwicha's lawyer Anond Nampha who received the letters (a shorter version is in English) stated that the letters may be his last since an Interior Ministry official who has been appointed to look after the case have allegedly told Klong Prem Prison to "censor" future correspondents from Suwicha. This is a double blow for what already exist in Thailand in term of censorship and self-censorship under lese majeste law.
Spending a year in jail and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment while being forgotten by the mainstream mass media didn't make Suwicha thinks that justice is being served, however, as the man, convicted of spreading offensive Youtube video about the king online wrote: "They see me as a criminal who must be suppressed but fail to see the root cause of the problem... I feel very troubled that these people do not understand me at all."
The two-page Thai language letter also claim that his lowly-educated wife has been pressured by some officials into becoming silent. "Police wanted her to be silent and they have told her that if I got out from jail there would not guarantee my safety. If [she] doesn't want to see me suffer harshly she must stay silent."
The letter also reveal how difficult the family, with three school-age children, has been coping over the past year since the family's sole bread winner has been in prison. "[My wife] is incredibly frugal because our family no longer has any income. Brothers and sisters at prachatai.com [who reported about me] know this and the state of my wife's mind. The only think we want is to return to lead a normal life, to till th land in a self-sufficient way. We wish for nothing more than that but they have no compassion on us. They do not pity us though we are Thai and human too."
Suwicha's mentioning of his Thai identity is telling as many Thais who are used to claiming that "all Thais" love and revere the king think people who think differently about the monarchy institution cannot possibly be Thai. This is a fallacy created by the relentless stereotyped-projection of Thai people's relationship to the king and the monarchy institition. The fact remains that there are quite a number of people who are critical of the institution but dare not express their view for fear of legal and social repercussion.
Suwicha related in his letter how his wife thinks she is in jail as well. "She had told me that although she is outsid prison it is no different from being imprisoned because she is under pressures from all sides." Suwicha may be in a physical prison but many Thais who think about the monarchy institution in a critical way also found themselves in an invisible jail as they go freely about their daily life but without the right to freely express their critical view about the institution publicly. It is as if they too are in jail, albeit an invisible jail against their conscience. Many chose to dwell in this invisible jail instead of the physical jail Suwicha now 'inhabits'. At its foundation is the big debate about the merit of lese majeste law that Thai society will have to contemplate more publicly and transparently and find some form of acceptable solution or accommodations to all sides.
If anything, a year in jail for Suwicha gave the former thirty-something engineer ample time consider his fate and the state of Thai society. "As long as they jail me, those who stand to incur damage are those who committed sin against me, my wife and children... Political power is the crudest greed as it can make people imprison or kill others... Our five lives are under their power and there's nothing I can do. I may not want my wife and children to beg for donations in order to survive but I may not have a better choice and would like to thank those who had helped my families... For me, come what may, because I'm already like a dead person and do not think I can be afraid of anything any further."