THAILAND’s ambassador in Seoul has written a letter of “concern” to the South Korean human rights foundation which awarded a prize to activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, who is currently being held in prison on lese majeste charges.
Ambassador Sarun Charoensuwan wrote to the Memorial F oundation over its decision to award the activist the US$50,000 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights 2017, wanting to “take this opportunity to point out” that Jatupat stands accused of violating lese majeste and cybercrime laws.
Jatupat had hoped to make bail so that he could attend the award ceremony but his request was denied, so his mother will receive the prize on his behalf, reports the Bangkok Post.
The letter claims he had been granted bail soon after his arrest, but violated his bail conditions by reoffending.
Jatupat is the head of a student activist group called Dao Din at Khon Kaen University in north eastern Thailand, which advocates for democracy, social justice and human rights.
He was arrested in August last year while campaigning with the anti-junta New Democracy Movement against the drafting of a new Thai constitution.
Since the military staged a coup in 2014, the so-called National Council for Peace and Order has been accused of using lese-majeste, sedition and cybercrime laws arbitrarily to crack down on activists.
Jatupat was re-arrested in December 2016 for sharing the Facebook page of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, two days after the monarch’s ascendancy to the throne after the death of his father.
The kingdom’s strict lese-majeste laws have long criminalised defaming or insulting the royal family, with those charged facing imprisonment of up to 15 years.
“I would also like to stress that Thailand supports and highly values freedom of expression, association and assembly and believes that these are the basis of a democratic society,” said Charoensuwan’s letter.
“However, these rights are not absolute and should be exercised within the boundary of the law in order to maintain public order and social harmony.”
Thailand’s national human rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit won the Gwangju Award in 2006.