On 19 Dec, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Voice of Taksin magazine and red-shirt leader, was brought to the provincial court in Phetchabun in lower northern Thailand for the hearing of the second prosecution witness, a former employee of his magazine. The court room was packed with an audience from Bangkok and local areas.
Benja Homwan, currently a company employee, testified in court that she had been a member of the administrative staff for the magazine since the executive editor was Prasaeng Mongkhonsiri who was later replaced by Somyot. She was responsible for membership subscriptions and the distribution of the magazine to almost 1,000 members.
She also had to check emails, and save and print articles which were sent to Somyot for him to read, but she did not know whether Somyot ever edited those articles. She saw that a sender named ‘Jitr Pollachan’ sent articles, which were the grounds for this prosecution against Somyot, and heard her colleagues saying that it was a pen name of Jakraphob Penkair.
Jakraphob, a politician allied with Thaksin Shinawatra, was charged with lèse majesté for his speech on Thailand’s patronage system at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in August 2007, and he fled the country after the red shirt demonstrations were dispersed by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in April 2009.
‘Jitr Pollachan’ is a mix of the names of two legendary Thai Marxist revolutionaries: Jitr Bhumisak and Assanee Pollachan.
The prosecution witness, in answer to defence questions, said that she did not know whether Jakraphob was really ‘Jitr Pollachan’, and she had never seen him visiting the office. She saw several articles by Jitr Pollachan published in the magazine, but did not know whether they had been published after Prasaeng was the executive editor.
She said that Somyot had contributed to the magazine using his real name.
The first hearing in Somyot’s case was held in Sa Kaew province in eastern Thailand on 21 Nov. He was brought to Phetchabun on 28 Nov. He will be transferred further north to Nakhon Sawan and then down to Songkhla in the south for the next prosecution witness hearings on 16 Jan and 13 Feb 2012, respectively.
The defence lawyer asked the provincial court to send Somyot to a Bangkok prison because several prosecution witnesses, although having their original residences in the provinces, worked and lived in Bangkok. However, the provincial court refused, saying that the hearings in the provinces had been ordered by the Criminal Court and it would not change that.
Suwit Thongnual, the defence lawyer, told reporters that to bring the defendant to the provinces for the hearings was considered an abuse, subjecting his client to the hardship of travelling, isolation from his family and friends and without access to legal assistance. The witness today was in fact a native of Nakhon Sawan, not Phetchabun, he said.
He was particularly concerned with his client’s safety at the hearing in Songkhla, where local political leanings were very different from that of the red shirts. He had consulted with Somyot and they would ask the court to cancel that hearing.
‘Simply put, we’ll boycott it. We’ll never go there. If they force us to go, they have to drag or carry us there,’ the lawyer said.