On 1 May, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk testified to the court that ‘Jitr Pollachan’ was the penname of Jakrapop Penkair who wrote two articles which brought lèse majesté charges down on him.
He said that in 2009 he was a writer for Voice of Taksin magazine, and became executive editor for issue 9 of the magazine, succeeding Prasang Mongkholsiri, now an advisor to the Minister of Education. His salary was 25,000 baht per month. The magazine was not owned by any single person, as the investment was shared by several people. The reason for using the name ‘Voice of Taksin’ was marketing. The magazine was critical of the coup and the Democrat Party and advocated rights and freedoms and democracy, until it was banned because, he believes, it criticized the army’s reshuffle at the time.
Normally, his duty was to skim all articles, as there were many articles to read and deadlines to be met.
‘Jitr Pollachan’ was Jakrapob Penkair, former Minister in the PM’s Office under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, who fled lèse majesté charges in Thailand in 2009. Jakrapob had contributed to the magazine as a columnist early on at the invitation of his predecessor Prasang, Somyot said.
When asked by the public prosecutor who made the final decision as to which article was to be published, Somyot asked to see a name list of the magazine’s board, and said that the person was not on the list. After further questions from the public prosecutor, Somyot finally said that it was the writer [Jakrapob] himself who made the decision, and his job was to send the magazine to print.
Somyot said that he thought that the two articles referred to the ‘ammat’, not the monarchy, and the accompanying pictures did not imply anything about the monarchy.
Regarding an alleged reference to King Taksin in one of the two articles according to the testimony of some prosecution witnesses, Somyot said that he did not agree, as there was no mention of ‘sandalwood bar (ท่อนจันทน์), but of a ‘red bag’ instead, which he did not know the meaning of.
According to legend, King Taksin was killed over two hundred years ago, at the beginning of the current Chakri Dynasty, by being beaten with a sandalwood bar, or Thon Chan in Thai. However, how exactly the execution of King Taksin was carried out is still debatable among Thai historians.
Somyot said that the mention of a person staying on a high floor of Phraram 9 [Rama IX] Hospital had nothing to do with the King, as the King was residing at Siriraj Hospital.
Also, the fictitious character of ‘Luang Narueban’, in one of the two articles, cannot be interpreted to be referred to the King, as ‘luang’ was a low government rank [cancelled by the People’s Party after the overthrow of the Absolute Monarchy in 1932], he said.
The article states that Luang Narueban ‘fawned on a big general’, by which Somyot believed that it was supposed to mean a military officer with a rank lower than that of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat [who seized power through a coup in 1957], not the King.
After the government crackdown on the red shirts in May 2010, Somyot and Chulalongkorn University Suthachai Yimprasert held a press conference calling on the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to be held responsible.
He and Suthachai were then arrested under the Emergency Decree and were detained at a military base for 21 and 7 days respectively before being released without charge.
During that time, Voice of Taksin was banned, and the staff launched a new magazine called Red Power, which could continue for only 5 issues until its printing house was ordered to stop printing it. So they turned to a printer in Cambodia to print the magazine, and brought copies into the country for distribution. Somyot also started to organize tours for red shirts to visit Cambodia, until he was arrested when he was leading a tour group to enter the country at the Aranyaprathet immigration checkpoint in Sa Kaew province on 30 April 2011.
Somyot told reporters that he believed that his arrest resulted from the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES)’s ‘diagram of plot to overthrow the monarchy’ which included his magazine among many conspirators.
Suthachai, also accused among the conspirators in the CRES diagram, lodged a defamation suit against Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban and CRES spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, but finally agreed to withdraw the case after Col Sansern admitted that the diagram was groundless.
Somyot said that he had never criticized the monarchy, and had been loyal to the institution like other people, but he disagreed with Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lèse majesté law. He saw that the law had been used as a political tool to destroy opponents, its penalty of 3-15 years’ imprisonment was too severe, and it was against the principles of rights and freedoms according to the constitution.
He had held a press conference to address this problem and announced a campaign to collect people’s signatures to abolish the law about a week before he got arrested, he said.
‘I have the duty to speak the truth, but if after speaking the truth they punish me, that’s OK. I consider that I have fulfilled the duty of my life, so be it,’ he said.
The two articles which led to his charges were published separately in issues 15 and 16 of the magazine in Feb and March 2010.