Rally over 'political prisoners'
A political group calling itself the "29 January United Front for the Release of Political Prisoners" (UFRPP) will today launch a campaign at the Royal Plaza to demand "political prisoners" from every political group be released.
The group, previously named "The Declaration Outside the Court", is led by Suda Rankupan, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University.
Members of the group, which claims to have 10,000 supporters, comprise political activists from the September 2006 coup and those who joined rallies in 2010.
But leaders of red-shirt groups, Thida Thavornseth and Kwanchai Praipana, said their organisations would not join in the rally.
Thida said the UFRPP supported the amnesty law drafted by the academic Nitirat Group, which was different from her group's version. Kwanchai, meanwhile, said a powerful person had asked him not to join the rally at the moment as it might hurt the ruling Pheu Thai Party's popularity during the run-up to the Bangkok governor's poll.
The group will gather to first lay a wreath to pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives for democracy in 1932 at the Royal Plaza before moving to the Government House.
They will carry out activities on Phitsanulok Road all day, starting with the reading of a statement that calls for the release of all political prisoners. Seminars will be held to discuss Thai political history, the principles of human rights of political prisoners and political economy and governance, to be conducted by noted academics such as Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Suthachai Yimprasert and Pichit Likhitkitsomboon.
The group has actively campaigned in support of several political prisoners such as the late Ampol Tangnopakul, a 62-year-old man known as "Uncle SMS" who died while serving a jail term after he was convicted of defaming the Royal Family in text messages.
"The death of Ampol in prison demonstrates the cruelty of the country's justice system," Suda said.
The group, which claims to be politically neutral, has also campaigned continuously via the Internet to demand the release of political prisoners of all colours and in every case, totalling 1,857 people from 3,000 families across the country.
"Although these people committed offences, their motivation derived from different political ideologies of state officials,'' Suda said.
She cited the example of a prisoner convicted of theft and resisting authority in 2010 - his motivation was a need to protect people from being assaulted with weapons.
She said the red-shirt cases had been prosecuted in a speedy manner while those against the yellow shirts were few, adding that Sondhi Limthongkul was released on bail even though he was charged with serious cases.
The group also moved in support of Panithan Prueksakasemsuk who went on a 112-hour hunger strike to seek justice for his father, Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, Voice of Taksin magazine editor and key red-shirt member.
After spending 21 months in detention - with 12 bail requests denied - Somyos was last week sentenced to 10 years jail for publishing two articles deemed offensive to HM the King and King Rama I.
Suda said the group supported the Nitirat group's move to amend the charter and issue an amnesty law and would submit their demands to the government and wait three months to see how it responds in the next parliamentary session.
While she understands that her group is pushing the government to take a political risk, she said it had the responsibility to help people who support it.
In a separate development, the government whip has agreed to ask the Council of State to consider an amnesty law draft proposed by the Independent National Rule of Law Commission (NRLC) led by former Parliament president Ukrit Mongkolnavin, an adviser to Whip Udomdej Rattanasathien said yesterday.
The Council of State would be asked to see who would get an amnesty according to the draft and how different it was from the amnesty law for political incidents in 1973, he said.