Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul is known in Thailand as Da Torpedo, for being outspoken. She was arrested on 22nd July, 2008, age 46, for speaking out against royalty - a serious crime in Thailand, called Lese Majeste.
Da Torpedo was held for a year without charge and then, in August 2008, she was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.
"The lese majeste law, as is currently applied in the last three years, has been used for the suppression of free speech for largely political purposes and not for the protection of the monarchy, for which the law was drafted,"
Benjamin Zawacki, South-east Asia researcher for Amnesty International is quoted as saying.
The AHRC is not aware of another case in recent times in which a defendant has been treated as such an extraordinary threat over a question of free expression. We believe that she was treated in this manner because she chose to fight the charges, rather than plead guilty and seek a royal pardon...
The Asian Human Right Committee wrote in an open letter on September 4th 2009:
The situation in Thailand is of sufficient importance not only because it has worsened considerably in recent years but also because the country has a strong influence on developments in the wider Southeast Asian region, being among the larger and more developed of its peers and a key member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. If nothing is done to arrest its continued decline on a range of human rights indicators then the effects will be damaging not only for Thailand but for the region as a whole.
Over the last 2 years, the Press Freedom Index rating of Thailand has declined from 124 to 153, fast approaching that of Burma, at 174.
This should be of concern to us all.
Da Torpedo is a symbol of an ever-growing suppression of human rights in parts of Asia.
We need to send a strong message to the government of Thailand that the world will not stand by while another 'Burma situation' develops.
Please sign this petition to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Independence of Judges and Lawyers to request their urgent intervention on behalf of Darunee Chanchoengsilapakul and also to raise concerns about the steadily declining freedom of expression and increasing politicization of the judiciary in Thailand.
Darunee, as you will be aware from an open letter written to you on 4th September 2009 from the Asian Human Rights Commission, was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison on 28th August 2009 on three counts of lese majesty.
The charges arose from one of many speeches that she made after the 2006 coup, in which she alluded to the links between the monarchy and the coup-makers, among other things. Darunee attempted three times to obtain bail but it was denied, although the court had no specific grounds upon which to refuse it under section 108 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Furthermore, she was tried in a closed court under section 117 of the code, which stipulates grounds for a closed trial as interests of public order or national security. Her lawyer submitted an application to the Constitution Court for the trial to be invalidated on the basis that it was in violation of her constitutional rights to try her in this manner, but it was refused.
The trial and conviction of Darunee brings together two key concerns regarding the human rights situation in Thailand in the last few years: the decline in freedom of expression and the rise in use of the courts for blatant political purposes.
The situation in Thailand is of utmost concern, not only because it has worsened considerably in recent years, but also because the country has a strong influence on developments in the wider Southeast Asian region, being among the larger and more developed of its peers and a key member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
If nothing is done to arrest its continued decline on a range of human rights indicators then the effects will be damaging not only for Thailand but for the region as a whole.
I implore you to do all within your power and remit to intervene on behalf of Darunee and also with regard to the wider issues relating to freedom of opinion and expression, and politicization of the judiciary, in Thailand.