CHIANGRAI TIMES – A group seeking amendment to the lese majeste law is stepping up its campaign following the death of an elderly man detained in a case in which he was found guilty of sending text messages deemed offensive to the monarchy.
The Campaign Committee for the Amendment of Article 112 plans to hold activities aimed at “stopping more loss and damage” stemming from Article 112 of the Penal Code regarding lese majeste, academic Suthachai Yimprasert, a member of the group, said yesterday.
He said the group’s members would later discuss their campaign activities in detail.
His remarks came after Ampon Tangnoppakul, 61, died from cancer on Tuesday at a prison hospital.
Suthachai, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Arts, said his group would hold its campaign activities before submitting a draft amendment to the House of Representatives on June 27.
He added that over the prior 112 days of its campaign, the group had by May 5 managed to collect sufficient signatures to support its draft law. The Constitution allows a minimum of 10,000 eligible voters to seek law amendment through Parliament.
However, the charter permits people-sponsored bills only in regard to matters of basic rights, in its Chapter 3, and of state policy, in Chapter 5.
Article 112 of the Penal Code contains criminal law concerning matters of state security.
In a highly publicised case, Ampon – also known as “Akong” (Granddad) – was convicted last year and sentenced to 20 years in jail for lese majeste, although it remained a mystery whether he had actually sent the four SMS messages in question.
Some members of his family are reportedly linked to the red shirts.
Ampon’s defence team withdrew their bail application in March after he decided to seek a royal pardon.
Meanwhile, Suriyasai Katasila, a coordinator of the Green Politics Group, yesterday said he believed the red-shirt movement was using Ampon’s death in a one-sided attack against the monarchy and the justice system.
“One question is whether Akong’s lawyers had raised all the available legal aspects in his defence. Was there any intention to use him as a political tool?” said Suriyasai, who is a key figure among the yellow shirts.
He also said the “the progressives” among the red shirts should have raised the question of who is benefiting from the “untiring fight” of the movement.
“They have to dare to raise questions when the situation has changed. The [leading] red shirts have now taken over state power at almost all levels. What progress has been made regarding the rhetoric about class war and the fight for social equality? What has your government done about those issues?” Suriyasai said. The activist added that there were always politicians ready take advantage of the deaths of supporters who had sincerely fought for their ideology.
He also noted that the government had made it clear that it would not support amendment of Article 112.
“The red shirts who support amendment of Article 112 should be aware that it is the government they support that opposes amendment of the article,” Suriyasai said.
Also yesterday, Opposition Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he did not want Ampon’s death to be used for political gain.
“There are attempts to use Ampon’s issue for political purposes. Some people advised his family not to seek a royal pardon, and that explains why the process was slow [when Ampon later decided to follow such a path],” Abhisit said.
The Democrat Party leader said the government should ensure that all the questions about Ampon’s death are answered. “It’s the government’s duty to explain what happened and to ensure justice,” he added.
The former prime minister also said the government should assure the public over its stance regarding Article 112.
He said the government had announced that it would not support amendment of the lese majeste law, but some people in the government were campaigning for changes to be made.