The legal defence team for Somyot Prueksakasemsuk will on 24 April ask the Constitution Court to consider whether the penalty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law, is too severe, and whether the association of the law with national security is against the constitution, Somyot’s wife Sukanya told Prachatai on 22 April.
On 20 April, four prosecution witnesses testified in the ongoing trial of Somyot’s case at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
Krissada Jaisuwan, who had worked for the Voice of Taksin magazine for 4 months, and whose job was to proofread articles and select pictures to accompany them, testified that he had read the article entitled ‘Bloody Plan’ written under the pen name Jitr Pollachan, and did not think that there was any passage which directly referred to the King, but he felt that the writer had a bad attitude against the monarchy.
As far as he was concerned, he understood that the article alluded to the monarchy in two parts; one being a comparison of the killing of King Taksin over two hundred years ago with the persecution of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the other being about ‘a plan knocked off from a high building of a certain hospital’. The defence lawyer argued that the passages did not constitute lèse majesté, because the story of King Taksin was a well publicized history, and the mention of a certain hospital did not refer to the King, but privy councillors.
Krissada said that normally all articles would be submitted to Somyot to check and proofread, and then he would do a second proofreading. However, production of the edition cited in the charge was in a rush to be finalized, so he did not know whether Somyot had checked it or not.
Harirak Suksathu, a distributor of Somyot’s magazines including Voice of Taksin and Red Power, testified that he had distributed the Voice of Taksin magazine for 6-7 months before the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) came to search his office. He said that he was not sure whether or not Somyot was the licensee permitted to publish the magazine. He just knew that Somyot was a journalist and writer. And it was Somyot who gave him a call to ask him to be a distributor.
During cross examination, the defence lawyer said that the magazine was overseen by several people, and Somyot was just one of them.
Charinrat Ingphongphan testified that he had worked with Somyot in late 2009 as a salesman to sell the magazine. He received no salary, but had a 40% commission from his sales. He worked for 4-5 months and had to quit due to health problems and worries about his own safety as he had to take the magazine to sell at red-shirt rallies.
He was issued a summons from the DSI twice, but the first time, he did not immediately know about it, and after consulting a lawyer, he was advised not to go. The DSI stated in the second summons that if he did not show up, he would be prosecuted.
At the DSI, he was asked to read the articles. When he told the investigators, after reading the articles once, that he did not understand, an investigator threw the magazines on to the table and said, 'You try again. You finished a Master’s degree. You have no idea about just this little thing?’ He was also told that if he did not tell the truth, he would be in trouble himself, and if he did not agree to be a prosecution witness, he would be prosecuted for selling illegal printed matter. So he read both articles again, and commented that one of them constituted lèse majesté but he did not know the meaning of the other.
Somchai Sangrattanamanidet, Director of the Law Office of the Revenue Department, testified on the legal matter of tax payments of the Crown Property Bureau. He said that private property of either normal people or members of the royal family was not exempt from tax, so the property under the supervision of the Bureau of Management of HM’s Personal Assets was subject to tax. However, the Crown Property Bureau is exempt from tax, even though it gains income from the investment of its property, he said.
About 15 people attended the hearing, including Yamina Guerfi from the Political, Press and Information Section of the European Union.
The hearings of prosecution witnesses will continue on 24-26 April, and those of defence witnesses will be on 1-4 May at the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Rd in Bangkok, starting from 9am. Somyot will testify to the court on 1 May.