Forty-seven red-shirt protesters who were sentenced in relation to the April-May 2010 political turmoil were moved to a special prison in Bangkok's Lak Si district yesterday - a move that was met with jubilation by some 50 relatives and friends.
Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who was at the Lak Si Special Detention Centre to witness the event, called it “a historic moment” for Thailand.
“Thailand is recognising political prisoners, and this is the first step in getting rid of the double standards that are besetting Thai society,” Amsterdam told The Nation.
Many red-shirt supporters were heard shouting “fight, fight, fight” as one prisoner after another stepped out of a bus shortly after 1pm to walk into the building that was described by Thida Tavornsaet Tojirakarn, chairwoman of the red-shirt Democrat Alliance against Dictatorship, as a poor person’s “condominium”.
Thida told the prisoners to help one another and let her know if there was anything she could do for them.
Lamun Jadee, 50, could not hold back her tears of joy as she watched her 21-year-old son Dej-adul being moved to the facility, where he will no longer share a cell with inmates sentenced for such crimes as murder and rape. She had travelled all the way from Maha Sarakham province to witness this event.
Dej-adul was sentenced of five years and eight months in jail for helping burn down the Maha Sarakham provincial hall in the aftermath of the crackdown on red shirts in May 2010 – a crime Lamun insists he did not commit.
Looking at the rejoicing red-shirt supporters, Amsterdam said “it was a shame on Thailand” that opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban, who were in charge of the government back in 2010 and “responsible” for 91 deaths, could continue being politicians. He added that he hoped prisoners charged or sentenced under the lese majeste law would also be transferred to the new prison.
Thida, meanwhile, called on the government to move all prisoners held over lese majeste charges to be moved to the new facility for “the sake of reconciliation”. The Yingluck Shinawatra government had earlier indicated that it would consult with the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand on how many of those detained under the lese majeste law should be moved to the special prison.
She said the reds had always pleaded for this as she cited the case of Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Red Power magazine, who has been in jail on lese majeste charges since mid-2011.
“May I plead [for the move to be made] as a solution, because no matter what, this place is still a prison,” she said.