FACTorial: Death for text messages

May 8, 2012

Akong dead in Thai prison

We have often said long prison terms for older accused amounts to a death sentence. We meant this not as exaggeration but as sad reality. We feel terrible today to have been proven right.

Think about this for yourself, your family, someone you love: “He died in prison.” Is there anyone for whom you’d want such an epitaph?

Amphon Tangnoppakul, aged 62, died today in prison. He was a loving grandfather and husband. Campaigns for his freedom honoured his status as elder, calling him Akong, though in the press he was more often called Uncle SMS.

Akong’s 20-year sentence for four SMS messages was a true travesty of justice. It was not proved by the prosecution in court he sent the text messages or even knew how to. However, the judge remarked that the defence failed to prove that he did not.

What kind of twisted logic is this? Yet this is the standard by which Thai jurisprudence operates.

The only acid test, proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the gold standard for justice in every democracy, was not met and not demanded. This judge should be barred from the bench for negligence and incompetence.

To the Prime Minister, we say: Is this the human rights record you want for your administration?

To Thai politicians, we say: You are nothing but greedy, self-serving cowards.

To Amphon’s judge: You obviously slept through His Majesty’s instructions to new judges. I doubt you have the decency or conscience to feel ashamed. You have dishonoured your human birth and are not fit for the bench. Your karma will judge you for murdering this old man.

History will footnote you all in infamy for destroying Thailand’s monarchy.

I hope the vision of one kindly old grandfather who you all condemned to death will mean your sleepless nights and restless days. Akong is free…no thanks to you.

In a handwritten note to his lawyer from prison last month, Mr. Amphon said he was “often disheartened,” and missed his wife and grandchildren.“I’m trying to be patient,” he said. “I have high hopes that I will get freedom soon.”

His wife, Rosmalin Tangnoppakul, learned of his death while trying to visit him Tuesday at the Bangkok prison where he was held. How heartless is that! Friends later consoled her at a prison reception area while she burned an incense stick and prayed.

“Amphon Tangnoppakul, you can come home now,” she said. “You’re free now. Come home!”

A professor notes, “This is the biggest tragedy of the law. The more it is enforced, the less merciful it becomes. He wouldn’t have died if he had been granted bail and given the opportunity to get proper medical care.”

I’ve spent today filled with tears. I fought so hard to free Akong, he felt like my own grandfather. And I am filled with outrage.

Does our King think Akong deserved to die by the hand of those “defending” him?

Will one man’s death finally open Thai people’s eyes to the injustice of lèse majesté laws?

We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Akong’s widow, Rosmalin, his children and grandchildren.

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

The four text messages alleged to be lèse majesté may be found in Thai and English for the first time here: http://www.zenjournalist.com/2012/05/a-tale-of-two-grandfathers/#more-20330 and in the official charge sheets here: http://www.zenjournalist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/akong.pdf.

We are reposting the Prachatai article with initial details below.

Amphon dies in prison hospital

Pipob Udomittipong

Prachatai: May 8, 2012

http://www.prachatai3.info/english/node/3200

Amphon Tangnoppakul, 62 years, died while being imprisoned in Thailand today.

After being convicted to 20 years in jail for allegedly sending four offensive text messages to the secretary of former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva in November 2011, his lawyers applied for his temporary release several times citing his medical need as he had been suffering from cancer among other illnesses. The latest request was made in February 2012 and it was rejected by the Appeals Court who claimed that “The illness which the defendant claims [as one of the reasons for the bail] does not appear to be life-threatening.”

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