Lawyer: “If Ampon was granted bail, he would not have died.”-Prachatai
May 8, 2012
Prachatai: May 8, 2012
61-year-old Ampon Tangnopponkul or “Uncle SMS” who was sentenced to 20 years on lese majesté offence last November passed away this morning. He was suffering from stomach pain and sent to prison hospital last Friday, according to his lawyer, Ms. Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen. Bail request has been applied eight times and all denied. “If Ampon’s right to temporary release was upheld, he could’ve gone to see the doctor and such a tragedy might not have happened” said Poonsuk.
Ampon, aka “Ah Kong”, was sent to jail last November after his being convicted to 20 years in prison for sending four offensive text messages to the phone belonging to personal secretary of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. His case has drawn flas from international human rights organizations which criticize the use of Section 112 of Thailand’s Penal Code for its harsh and unjustified punishment.
According to the lawyer, Ampon has been suffering from stomach-ache for months, but he was first transferred to hospital around noon last Friday and was admitted around 3.40 pm. He did not immediately receive diagnosis as the hospital lab was closed on weekend. His blood was taken for testing on Monday, but before the results were made known, he passed away around 9.10 am today.
“If Ampon was granted bail and could go see doctor regularly, such incident might not have happened” said the lawyer. Prior to this, Ampon has just had operation for oral cancer.
In early April, after being turned down almost ten times in bail request, he decided to withdraw his appeals motion and seek a royal pardon.
Corrections Department’s Director-general, Pol. Col. Suchart Wong-anantachai told Prachatai that the investigation committee will be conduct autopsy on Ampon’s death, consisting of officers from Corrections Department, Attorney-General office, local inquiry officials and forensic medicine from the Police Hospital.
“I simply have no idea about the cause of his death. But I wonder why an old man like Ah Kong has to endure such an ordeal in jail like this” said Ms. Rosmalin Tangnopponkul, Ampon’s wife, as she was retrieving Ampon’s body at Bangkok Remand Prison early today.
Those who are accused or convicted of lese majeste in Thailand are often denied of rights to bail. Most recent cases such as Red Siam leader Surachai Danwattananusorn, Thai-American Joe Gordon and red-shirt magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk were denied bail at least five times, while the court reasoned that lese majeste cases are risky to the national security and carry high punishment.