Labour activists in South Korea, Indonesia campaign for release of Somyot

Labour activists in South Korea and Indonesia have displayed banners to campaign for the release of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk.  

On 1 May 2017, International Labour Day, many labour activists and others in South Korea and Indonesia displayed banners at labour rallies in support of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a long-time labour activist imprisoned for lèse majesté.

After almost six years in prison, the Supreme Court sentenced Somyot to 6 years in jail for publishing two articles in the now-defunct Voice of Taksin magazine written by a contributor with the penname Jitr Pollachan in the February and March 2010 issues of the magazine.  

In 2013, the Court of First Instance sentenced Somyot to 11 years imprisonment for both the lèse majesté charge and a suspended criminal defamation charge. In 2014, the Appeal Court upheld the sentence.

Somyot was arrested in 2011 and has been detained in Bangkok Remand Prison since. Despite 16 applications, the courts have consistently denied him bail, citing the severity of the charge and flight risk.  

Unlike many other lèse majesté suspects who choose to plead guilty or request a royal pardon to end their trial and have their jail sentence reduced, Somyot has always stood firm and maintained his innocence.

In November 2016, the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions awarded Somyot the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize in recognition of his dedication to labour rights.  

Kang Yeon-bae, Head of Education and Information for the Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union, told the Bangkok Post that he hoped that the award will support an international campaign to free Somyot.