By Allison Richina, Intern, International Labor Rights Forum
How many times throughout your life have you felt misrepresented or that other people were not being
treated in the way that they should? Whether it has been more than once or not so much, we definitely have the privilege of the freedom of expression, press, and speech. Which entitles us as Americans to voice our concerns and begin a conversation for change.
Now imagine workers, activists, people who never have that opportunity to express their concerns and when they do, they are punished in the worst ways. Hard to imagine right? How can concerned individuals be punished for their active voice in creating healthier environments for their society? Well, this is the case for one too many human rights activists around the world.
Recently there have been egregious labor rights violations carried out by Thai authorities against Somyot Pruksakasemsuk. Somyot has been jailed without prior warning by the Thai authorities for voicing the cry for public dialogue and fundamental change in his country. Somyot is an independent journalist producing the 'Voice of Taksim' newsletter supporting the democratic movement in Thailand.
The International Labor Rights Forum remains very concerned for the injustice that many of these human rights activist face. Recently covering Charles Hector , and now Somyot, we have written an urgent action letter to the Thai Prime Minister Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva as well as the Thai Embassy here in DC, demanding the immediate release of Somyot Pruksakasemsuk who was arrested on the 30th April 2011 and is currently being held at Klong Prem Central Prison, in Bangkok.
Somyot is a loyal Thai citizen who is strongly committed to human rights in his role as an independent journalist and academic promoting freedom of speech.
Somyot was arrested on a charge of defaming, insulting and threatening the King, Queen and heir apparent (Section112 of the Penal Code) a charge which he fully denies. He also was not aware that any arrest warrant had previously been issued and strongly denies any claim that he resisted arrest. Even more disturbing is the Criminal Court, who has agreed with the Department of Special Investigation to extend the detention of Somyot for another twelve days. This is an unacceptable abuse against Somyot’s human rights.
ILRF is dedicated to the justice and safety for those who are actively voicing their concern for their rights. Not only are we pushing governments to be aware of violations that have taken place against human rights activist, but we have pushed governments to take responsibility and change their system. Somyot is no traitor to his country. He is loyal to his country and has enough courage to tell its leaders when they lead his country down the wrong road. Unfortunately, many international political and labor organizations seem caught between whether there is longer-term political gain from supporting the 'red shirts' or the 'yellow shirts' in Thailand's heightening democratic awakening. While they dither, Somyot languishes in jail.
One year ago, as President of the Alliance of Democratic Trade Unions of Thailand, Somyot was also incarcerated for his efforts. At that time he wrote the following words:
"I do not subscribe myself to any violent means. I hope that there is still some hope, conscience, love and loving kindness. As a Buddhist who looks forward to kind treatment, I am ready to sacrifice my liberty and to live a difficult life in the prison in this Dark Age. But certainly, I shall not disavow my conscience, humanity and my love toward fellow human beings.
I wish that all Red Shirts will stay strong and determined. You should hold on to your struggle and fight with wisdom, love and loving kindness. We shall fight together bravely until a new and beautiful society is attained where all people are treated equally and genuine freedom and democracy is abound."
The all-enduring strength Somyot has for the justice of his country is so powerful and should not be forgotten. We can not continue to let the leaders that promote justice for their people be undermined and falsely accused by their authorities. It is their human right to be represented as an equal citizen.