The Nation



Bail hopes rise for woman in forest case

48-year-old jailed for 15 years for picking mushrooms

A BAIL release application for Daeng Sirisorn, a 48-year-old Kalasin woman sentenced to 15 years in prison for forest-reserve encroachment after she went mushrooming with her husband, would be submitted tomorrow, according to her lawyer.

It would be known by Wednesday whether her release would be approved, he said. The story of Daeng and her 51-year-old husband Udom was circulated over Thai social media, after they were arrested in Kalasin's Huai Mek district on July 12, 2010 for allegedly collecting mushrooms. They were later charged with forest encroachment and illegal logging.

The couple was sentenced to 30 years in prison, a penalty which was halved due to their claimed "useful confession"

When the case went before the Supreme Court, the ailing Udom was released on Bt500,000 bail. Lawyer Songkran Atchariyasap, chairman of the Network Against Acts that Destroy Kingdom, Religion and Monarchy, said his group found suspicious circumstances in the case. He urged the Supreme Court to probe all state officials involved - including forestry officials, police investigators and a public prosecutor.

Songkran repeated that neither Udom nor Daeng had made confessions during the police and public prosecutor's phases of the case. He also claimed that the public prosecutor's handling of the indictment, by not studying police investigation reports thoroughly, was careless. He cited forestry officials as saying that they didn't find the couple at the scene but their motorcycle - so official inquiries about the motorbike were met by the couple's admission of collecting mushrooms, an action upon which the police investigation was based.

Asking if the couple was being scapegoated by some officials trying to help a forest-encroaching investor, he said the group would apply for Daeng's bail release tomorrow. He urged the Supreme Court to look at the case details and approve Daeng's bail so she could take care of her husband and urged the attorney general to probe the case.

"Udom has a hearing problem and is unable to walk properly. He's also sick and needs treatment from an accident in which he was hit by a truck and sustained brain haemorrhage. After being in jail for one year and eight months, he was bailed pending the Supreme Court's ruling," Songkran said. Claiming the forest encroachment charge came out of nowhere, Songkran said the investigation was conducted without a lawyer present and continued until the couple filed a complaint to Songkran's group while the case was going to the Supreme Court.

Udom insisted that they went to the woods to collect mushrooms, not logging or encroaching, but they were later wrongfully jailed. Saying he felt disheartened by his fate, he said he sympathised with his wife who remained in jail because she wasn't yet bailed. He recalled that during the time he was in jail, he wrote to her in a separate facility, telling her he was okay and able to eat.

"Actually I still can't get over it, I still cry almost everyday. [But] today I feel hopeful that now many people are trying to help us," he added.

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