After a conspiracy of silence Thai political prisoner, Ah Kong, is dead-Prachatai

May 8, 2012

Andrew Spooner

Prachatai: May 8, 2012

I woke up this morning to terrible news. The 62 year old Thai political prisoner  Ampon “Ah Kong” Tangnoppakul is dead. Three days ago, on the 5th of May, it was his 44th wedding anniversary and he leaves behind his wife, Pa Ou, and a large loving family.

We had had reports over the last couple of days that he had a bad stomach and wasn’t feeling well. Apparently he has had this condition for a month and was trying to secure bail to get it treated but bail was continually refused.  We’re being told now his sickness got increasingly worse and that no doctor was available to see him. Ah Kong was likely left to die in a filthy prison hospital, alone. At the moment our information is that an autopsy is being performed on his body. This could point to some other causes, rather than natural, that led to his death. Many people in the Red Shirt community we have spoken to today are deeply suspicious as to the cause of his death.

 Ah Kong and his wife, Pa Ou, on their wedding day.

Ah Kong was arrested after the intervention of an aide to the former Democrat Party Prime Minister, Mark Abhisit, decided to press charges after this aide received a number of private and personal SMS messages defaming the Thai queen. A court decided, despite very flimsy and weak evidence, that the SMS messages could be traced back to Ah Kong and he received a 20year prison sentence. Why Abhisit’s toadying lickspittle aide couldn’t just delete the messages and forget them is beyond my understanding. I am also convinced that the aide would not have proceeded with such a prosecution without Abhisit’s blessing. I have also seen some evidence that Ah Kong was badly treated whilst awaiting trial and that his mistreatment was directly ordered by the Abhisit government.

I met Ah Kong three times. Each time these meetings took place in the Bangkok Remand Prison. He was obviously frail yet, despite his terrible ordeal, his eyes shone and his smile was broad. He also looked tearful. At that point almost no foreigners had ever been to meet him – not Bangkok’s huge foreign media corps and not the so-called human rights’ NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty. A foreigner visiting him was a surprise. Likely it let him know at least someone in the wider world knew of his ordeal I asked him about how he was being treated. “Things are getting better now,” he said, with a quiet smile.

I was also lucky enough to meet Ah Kong’s wife, Pa Ou, on a couple of occasions. The last time I saw her we had lunch at MK in Big C in Samrong, just outside Bangkok. There was something indomitable, charismatic and bright about her. She combined this with an easy beauty and an obvious intelligence. Another thing that was very obvious was her love for her husband. Today my thoughts are with her and the rest of Ah Kong’s family

The international community have been pathetically lacking in response to dealing with lese majeste. The USA Embassy continually claim there are no political prisoners in Thailand. The British Embassy – a mission whose foreign minister made recent pronouncements about human rights being at the centre of its policy – gave interviews about flood preventions, yet has remained resolutely quiet on Thai human rights, its former Ambassador taking up work with a huge Thai conglomerate after years of abject silence. Human Rights Watch refused to visit any lese majeste prisoners for years and refused to take up lese majeste cases, their supine Thai researcher once stating that dealing with lese majeste would “damage his ability to work as a human rights defender“. When I met Ah Kong in February of this year I asked him if he had any visits from either Amnesty or HRW. “Who and what are Amnesty and HRW,” he responded, quizzically. Of course Amnesty International previously stated their tacit support for lese majeste saying “we can see why” such a law needs to exist. As far as I’m aware Western journalists in Bangkok never go to the prison to visit lese majeste prisoners, their silence part of a conspiracy that can only be described as evil.

This evil and the conspiracy of silence that surrounds it led to the death of Ah Kong.  His death can be laid at the door of those who participated and the door of the wretched and malicious Thai elite and the present Thai government who perpetuate the malignant lese majeste law.

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