Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day - Free All Political Prisoners

Valentine's day is next Monday, February 14th so this is an early Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. You can also consider this post as an early reminder to get your "Sweety" something special and also to remember the political prisoners currently held in Thailand.

So what does Valentine's Day have to do with remembering the plight of political prisoners in Thailand?

According to one legend, there was a third century Christian who lived in Rome named Valentine. He was imprisoned during one of the periodic persecutions against Christians and was sentenced to death. While in prison, Valentine was able to gather violets outside his cell window. He sent them to his loved ones with the message, "Remember your Valentine." After his death he was canonized by the Catholic Church. So now we have "St. Valentine's Day," a day when we send cards to our loved ones asking them to remember us.

Although Valentine was actually a religious prisoner, I ask everyone to remember the political prisoners in Thailand. Their imprisonment is just as egregious.

Since the Thai military installed Abhisit Vejjajiva as Prime Minister,  there have been numerous cases of politically motivated arrests, jailings and murders. Arrests and imprisonments through accusations of lèse majesté and acts against “national security” have become increasingly common under this fascist regime. Lèse majesté and the Computer Crimes Actare used by this regime to denounce opponents and to protect privileges and positions. We should all be deeply concerned and alarmed regarding the political uses of lèse majesté and other repressive laws in Thailand.

Lèse majesté is defined as: “anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the crown prince or the regent” (Article 112 of the Thai penal code). While the lèse majesté law has been criticized for many years as “draconian,” the current Thai regime vigorously pursues investigations and prosecutions of those accused of lèse majesté.

The Democrat-led Thai puppet government has expanded its vigilance, blocked hundreds of thousands of web pages it considers offensive to the monarchy and presided over new charges and arrests. All of this in the defense of some ill-defined notion of “national security.” There are no accurate figures on how many have been charged under these draconian laws. Recent (2010) estimates are that there have been more than 300 cases since the 2006 palace-military coup.

The persons involved – accused, charged and sentenced – are journalists, bloggers, academics, authors and political and social activists, both Thai and foreign. Often those charged are denied bail and remain in prison for several months awaiting sometimes closed trials.

Even though the current Thai regime, pronounces that it favors a free press, political reconciliation and liberalism, its words are hollow. Their actions, however, show that they are determined to crack down on those they consider are, in its terms, threatening “national security” by criticizing the monarchy. Their actions also suggest a further politicization of the lèse majesté law and the computer crimes laws.

International scrutiny of these cases is urgently required to ensure the protection of human rights and freedom of expression. We should all deplore the political uses of lèse majesté and the Computer Crimes Act in Thailand and the climate of fear that these uses and the threat of their use engenders there.

We urge all friends of Thailand to take action.  There are things we all can do.

Contact your local Representative, Senator and the State Department to express your concern, dismay, and outrage at the political use of lèse majesté. This should, at the very least, draw their attention to the lèse-majesté law in Thailand. It is critical that foreign governments understand that Thailand's government is using repressive laws to restrict human rights and freedom.

Contact human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Asia and urge them to take up all cases of lèse-majesté in Thailand.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help make these cases highly visible in the media and on the internet.

There is even an on-line petition related to lèse-majesté in Thailand that can be signed: “Stop the use of lese majeste and defend the freedom of speech in Thailand”

So I am appealing to everyone during this holiday of love we know as Valentine's Day to not only "Remember your Valentine" but to also to: 

"Remember Darunee Charnchoensilpakul" who is currently serving an 18 year sentence under cruel conditions for lèse-majesté in Thailand.

"Remember Chiranuch Premchaiporn" who has been jailed since September without bail and is currently on trial in a Thai kangaroo Court for lèse-majesté and Computer Crimes Act "violations." She faces up to 82 years.

"Remember All Political Prisoners in Thailand." They are charged with expressing their ideas and this should never be a crime. Their persecution by the Thai regime causes a climate of fear which suppresses civil liberties and freedom of expression for us all.

Free All Political Prisoners!

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