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Magazine editor charged with lese majeste

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has been charged with lese majeste after being detained for 84 days, the maximum period allowed for detention without bail under Thailand's Criminal Procedure Code.

The "Bangkok Post" reported on 26 July that Somyot was formally charged with two offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code on the crime of lese majeste, one each for two articles he published in the now-banned magazine "Voice of Thaksin".

According to "The Nation", Somyot was charged after refusing to reveal the identity of the writer, Jit Polachan, who had written articles deemed defamatory to the King. "The Nation" quoted Somyot's lawyer as alleging that the editor of the magazine is a former Thai Rak Thai MP, Prasaeng Mongkolsiri, who was not charged.

Somyot, former editor of "Red Power" magazine, was arrested and detained on 30 April at the Thailand-Cambodia immigration checkpoint. He is expected to appeal for release on bail at the next hearing.

Lese majeste is a criminal offense in Thailand. Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code allows anyone to file a complaint with the police against anyone he or she deems to have defamed the monarch and members of the royal family. If convicted, Somyot faces a maximum 15-year jail sentence for each charge.

Arrests and charges under lese majeste have continued since Somyot's detention, involving Red Shirt leaders, also known as the United Front for Democracy (UDD) movement, or pro Red Shirt individuals.

The "Bangkok Post" 12 May editorial named nine UDD leaders arrested for speeches made on 10 April, in addition to their earlier lese majeste charges. In March, Eakachai Hongkangwan was charged for selling a documentary produced by ABC TV Australia, about the Thai royal family, and on 26 May, Thai-born Joe Gordon, who has an American citizenship, was arrested for allegedly posting a link in his blog four years ago to a book banned in Thailand. The law was also used against an academic and historian at Thammasat University, Dr. Somsak Jeamteerasakul, after he called for a press conference on 24 April in which he spoke about harassment he faced for his criticism on the role of the monarchy.

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