Bangkok, May 3, 2011–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest and detention on lese majeste charges of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a political activist and editor-in-chief of the Thailand-based Voice of Taksin and Red Power news magazines.
Somyot was arrested on April 30 at a border checkpoint at Aranyaprathet province while attempting to cross into neighboring Cambodia, according to local and international news reports. He was escorted by Thai police back to Bangkok and is being held without bail, according to the reports.
Agence France-Presse reported that police first issued a warrant for his arrest on April 12. It was unclear whether the arrest was related to materials published in his partisan newsmagazines, which are openly aligned with the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) protest movement.
Somyot who also leads a UDD-affiliated protest group known as the June 24 for Democracy Group, was detained for more than three weeks in 2010 after troops cracked down last May on a UDD protest encampment in Bangkok. The current clamp down on partisan media coincides with a run-up to early elections expected to be held in either June or July.
“We call on the relevant authorities to release Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and to stop using anti-royal charges to stifle partisan media,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Arresting and detaining partisan journalists is out of step with the democratic reconciliation Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has proposed by holding early polls.”
Lese majeste charges in Thailand carry possible 15-year jail terms for guilty convictions. Abhisit’s government and senior military officials have increasingly resorted to the vague and arbitrary laws to crack down on political opposition, including partisan media outlets, according to CPJ research.
On April 26, security officials raided and closed 13 UDD-aligned community radio stations in Bangkok and surrounding provinces on charges they lacked proper operating licenses and broadcasted live speeches by UDD leaders deemed by authorities as critical of the monarchy. CPJ highlighted Thailand’s harassment of partisan media in the 2010 edition of Attacks on the Press.