By Pravit Rojanaphruk
With her husband Somyos Prueksakasemsuk languishing behind bars for three years now as a lese majeste detainee, Sukanya has emerged as a key campaigner for the release of all prisoners of conscience - including her husband.
She has come to terms with the fact that Somyos will most likely stay in prison for another eight years, but is hopeful that the controversial and lese majeste law will eventually be amended.
Sukanya, 47, said that though her work was in the field of science – she still works full-time at a medical research firm – the fact that her husband was arrested three years ago this day has changed her life and turned her into a part-time activist.
“We cannot determine everything in life, but we can make the most out of the situation,” she said referring to her current role as an accidental anti-lese majeste activist.
She said Somyos, who was editor of the Voice of Taksin magazine, has recovered from the court ruling, which sentenced him to 11 years in prison for publishing two articles deemed as insulting to the monarchy. The articles appeared in the magazine under a pen name that Somyos insisted had been written by someone else.
Somyos has since decided not to plead guilty or to seek a royal pardon, and is currently fighting the case at the Appeals Court while under detention. This, Sukanya said, means he will most likely be spending another eight years behind bars because he believes he is innocent. As Somyos has not acknowledged his “crime”, he is not entitled to parole even if he behaves well, Sukanya stressed.
“He said he cannot accept it [acknowledge his ‘crime’] because it is severely contradictory to his conscience,” said Sukanya, who allowed to visit her 53-year-old husband once a week for 20 minutes.
“He will probably be in for the long haul,” she said, adding that Somyos was writing and hopes to publish a book from prison. He is also growing vegetables and sharing the produce with his fellow inmates. Sukanya hopes that one day the law will be repealed by Parliament, despise failed attempts so far.
Sukanya has been contacted by the new high-profile Commoner Party of Thailand to run as a parliamentary candidate, but she turned down the offer, saying she would rather be an adviser or a member of the party’s executive committee instead. The party is expected to make an announcement soon.
Somyos and Sukanya’s son, Panithan Prueksaksemsuk, 23, has just graduated from Thammasat University with a degree in law. After a stint as an anti-lese majeste law campaigner, calling for the release of his father and other detainees, Panithan said he would now seek employment as an attorney.
Panithan acknowledged that as Somyos’s son, society expects a lot from him, but he told The Nation that eventually this issue was a matter for all Thai citizens to pay attention to. On the other hand, being Somyos’s son and sharing his family name also carries a stigma amongst royalists, he acknowledged. Panithan, like his mother, hopes that society will pay more attention to the lese majeste law in the future.
“It’s not just an issue for families of the detainees. Others must pitch in too,” he said.