Bunyuen Prasertying: 1 year and 10 months in jail for lèse majesté

Lèse majesté convict Bunyuen Prasertying was recently granted a royal pardon on the occasion of Coronation Day (5 May), and released from jail around the same time as some other convicts, including Suwicha Thakor.

Bunyuen did not look much changed from when she was in prison.  Though seemingly not in very good health, and walking unsteadily as a result of an old motorcycle accident, her eyes still shone with enthusiasm.

Prachatai met with her for an interview one day in June.  She wore a pink t-shirt with a royal symbol, like everyone else in Thai society, to show loyalty to the monarchy.

She said that it was her own conviction not to let anyone claim the institution for his or her own political interest which had led to her arrest, because she had strongly attacked the coup-making Council for National Security, and unintentionally made certain references to the monarchy, in front of an audience of only a few dozen at Sanam Luang.

She was arrested on 15 Aug 2008 on a charge of insulting the Crown Prince, and was punished with a sentence of 12 years in jail, which was reduced by half as she had confessed.

During that time, people gathered in small groups to voice their opposition to the coup at Sanam Luang.  The outspoken Bunyuen was a prominent speaker among them, claiming the alias ‘Eagle Lady’.

She said that she had followed politics in the same way as other wage earners.  She had never participated in political activities, until the Thaksin government, whose policies and actions she admired, was ousted by the coup.  She then came out to join protests which were pro-Thaksin and against the People’s Alliance for Democracy.  She said that poor people were doing better during Thaksin administration, and they had given their votes to elect that government.

She grew up in Bangkok in a broken family, and struggled hard to survive.  She finished Matthayom 3 (Grade 9) in the non-formal education system.  She has two children who can take care of themselves now.

She has been a junk dealer for many years.  While she was in jail, her mortgaged house was seized, among other things.

However, she did not talk much about her own difficulties, but kept on asking about the recent political tragedy.

Bunyuen was an exemplary inmate.  Each time Prachatai visited her, she always referred to wardens with respect and conformed to all rules.

She chose a totally different path in her court case from Da Torpedo.  She pleaded guilty and insisted on her loyalty to the crown.

During her 1 year and 10 months in prison, she heard a lot of stories from other inmates, perplexing and depressing at the same time.  She has been inspired to write about these, and run a campaign to improve certain aspects of the law and the justice system which suppress ordinary people.

She plans to write two books, one telling the hardships of inmates who are mostly from the lower class, and whose life has been wretched both outside and inside prison; and the other dealing with problems of Thai law and the process of justice, particularly police arrests of narcotics suspects.

These proved to be numerous and exciting as Prachatai sat listening to her for almost three hours.

She, however, has not yet come up with titles for her books, and welcomes ideas.       



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