Both opponents and supporters of Thailand’s controversial lese majeste law voiced strong reactions to the death of a frail 62-year-old man who had been convicted of sending defamatory SMS messages.
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AmponTangnoppakul’s wife Rosmalin and her eldest grandchild Sitang, 12, weep as they wait to collect his body at the Corrections Department Hospital yesterday. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
Sadness, outrage after Uncle SMS dies
The sudden death of lese majeste jail convict Ampon Tangnoppakul, or Ah Kong, yesterday reignited heated criticism of the lese majeste law and the way it has been used by the authorities against suspected offenders.
Ampon, 62, also known as "Uncle SMS", collapsed and died yesterday morning after being admitted to the Corrections Department Hospital near the Bangkok Remand Prison on Friday for vomiting and severe stomach pains.
While the cause of his death has yet to be verified by forensic experts, the news yesterday drew dozens of red shirt activists to the hospital and the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road to condemn the lese majeste law.
"I am speechless. It happened so suddenly. Why did this happen to Ah Kong?" asked Rosmalin, 60, Ampon's wife.
Mrs Rosmalin and two of her daughters went to see Ampon's body after she was notified by the authorities about his death.
At the Corrections Hospital, red shirt members brought funeral wreaths, red roses and lilies to pay respect to Ampon. At the Criminal Court, they tied black ribbons on fences to protest against the verdict sentencing him to jail.
Various banners condemning the lese majeste law, or Section 112 of the Criminal Code, were also flown.
Some of those at the gathering complained of the reluctance of the Pheu Thai-led government and the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leadership to help imprisoned red shirt members, especially those who have been convicted under Section 112.
From a makeshift stage, a group representing the red shirt community radio 104.1 condemned Section 112.
They said the people who were responsible for Ah Kong's death should "rot in hell for seven generations".
"Ah Kong died too soon. This is a sad thing," Tida Thawornset, the UDD chairwoman, said.
"The people must learn of this case. What were the amataya [ruling elite] in Thailand so afraid of that they wouldn't allow Ah Kong to be bailed out?
"Now that this has happened, who will take the responsibility for his death?"
Meanwhile, reactions to Ampon's death are still as polarised as during his trial last year.
In cyberspace, Facebook status updates and online forums of fervent supporters of the lese majeste law posted messages rejoicing at Ampon's death.
On Nov 23 last year, Ampon was found guilty on four counts of violating the lese majeste law and the Computer Crime Act for sending four SMS messages deemed by the court as defamatory to the King and the Queen.
The messages were sent to Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, secretary to then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, in May 2010. Ampon was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In February this year, his lawyers appealed for bail release on the ground of his ill health.
However, the Appeal Court rejected the bail appeal, saying the charges against him were serious, that his ailments were not life-threatening and that the Corrections Department has a hospital to take care of him.
Ampon was denied bail eight times.
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eldest – oldest
weep – to cry because you feel unhappy or have some other strong emotion ร้องไห้
Corrections Department – the government department in charge of running prisons กรมราชทัณฑ์
outrage – extreme anger ความโกรธอย่างรุนแรง
lese majeste – the crime of offending, threatening or showing disrespect for a member of the royal family หมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ
convict – someone who is or has been in prison because they have committed a crime นักโทษ, ผู้ที่ถูกตัดสินว่ามีความผิด
reignite – to cause something bad to begin again ทำให้ (ปัญหา) ลุกลามอีกครั้ง
heated – angry โกรธ, ฉุนเฉียว
criticism – comments that show that you think something is wrong or bad การวิจารณ์
authorities – people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
suspected – thought to have done something wrong เป็นที่สงสัย
offender – a person who is guilty of a crime ผู้กระทำความผิด
collapse – to suddenly fall down ล้มลง
admit – to put someone into hospital for medical treatment เปิดรับ
remand prison – a place where people are kept while they wait for the date of their trial สถานที่ขังระหว่างรอการพิจารณาคดี
vomit – to empty the contents of the stomach through the mouth อาเจียน
severe – very serious and unpleasant รุนแรง
verify – to prove that something is true, or to make certain that something is correct พิสูจน์ว่าเป็นความจริง
forensic – relating to the use of scientific methods to solve crimes or to find out why something happened เกี่ยวกับนิติวิทยาศาสตร์
activist – someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve political or social change, especially someone who is a member of an organisation นักกิจกรรม
condemn – to criticise something or someone strongly ประนาม
speechless – not able to speak, especially because you are extremely angry or surprised ไม่สามารถพูดได้
notify – to tell someone officially about something แจ้ง
funeral – a ceremony that takes place after someone dies งานศพ
wreath – a circle of flowers or leaves that you put on a grave to show that you are remembering the dead person พวงหรีด
lily – a large white or brightly coloured flower with petals that curl back from the centre. There are many types of lily ดอกลิลลี่
pay respect to – to show deep admiration for someone แสดงความเคารพ
verdict – a decision by a court of law คำพิพากษา
sentence – (of a court of law) to give a punishment ลงโทษ
banner – a wide piece of cloth with a message on it แถบผ้า ป้าย
Criminal Code – the systems of laws dealing with crimes and their punishment ประมวลกฎหมายอาญา
gathering – an occasion when many people come together as a group การรวมตัว, การประชุม
reluctance – unwillingness to do something ความไม่เต็มใจ,ความไม่สมัครใจ
United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) – the group originally formed to demonstrate against the 2006 coup and which supported the Somchai Wongsawat government against the PAD and which led the fight against the Abhisit government. They are known for wearing red shirts แนวร่วมประชาธิปไตยต่อต้านเผด็จการแห่งชาต
imprisoned – in a prison or another place from which a person cannot escape ถูกขัง
convicted – having been proven guilty of a crime by a court of law ได้รับการพิสูจน์ว่ามีความผิดจริง
makeshift – using whatever is available and therefore not very good สำหรับใช้ชั่วคราว, ใช้ประทังไปก่อน
responsible – deserving to be blamed for something that has happened มีความรับผิดชอบ
rot – to spoil; to decay เน่า
hell – in some religions, the place where some people are believed to go after death to be punished forever for the bad things they have done during their lives นรก
generation – a group of people in society who are born and live around the same time รุ่น (คนรุ่นต่างๆ)
ruling – having control over a particular group, country, etc ซึ่งมีอำนาจ, ซึ่งปกครอง
elite – the richest, most powerful, best educated or most highly trained group in a society คนที่มีอภิสิทธิ์ที่สุด
bail – money that is given to a court when someone is allowed to stay out of prison until their trial. If they do not return for the trial, the court keeps the money เงินประกัน; การประกันตัว (deny bail – (of a court) to refuse to allow someone to go free on bail ไม่ให้ประกันตัว)
bail out – to pay somebody's bail for them ประกันตัวออกไป
take responsibility – to say or admit you are the cause of something, usually something bad (and, often, to do what needs to be done to correct the situation) แสดงความรับผิดชอบ
reaction – the way you behave or respond as a result of something that happens ปฏิกิริยาตอบโต้
polarise – to separate or make people separate into two groups with completely opposite opinions แบ่งเป็นฝ่าย
trial – the process of examining a case in a court of law and deciding whether someone has or has not committed a crime การพิจารณาคดี
cyberspace – tvirtual space, theoretical place in which one is located when connected to a computer network such as the Internet โลกบนอินเตอร์เนท
fervent – having or showing very strong and sincere feelings about something ซึ่งแสดงความรู้สึกอย่างมาก, รุนแรง, เร่าร้อน
rejoice – to feel very happy about something, or to celebrate something in a happy way ดีใจ, ปลื้มใจ, มีความสุข
find guilty – to prove in a court of law that someone has committed a crime พิสูจน์ว่ามีความผิด
count – each crime someone is accused of คดี
violate – to do something that is against a law, rule or agreement ฝ่าฝืน, ละเมิด
Act – a law passed by a country’s government พ.ร.บ. พระราชบัญญัติ
deemed – considered เห็นว่า ถือว่า
defamation (adjective form: defamatory; verb form: defame) – the offence of writing or saying something bad about someone that is not true and makes people have a bad opinion of them การใส่ร้าย
appeal – a request to a court to change a decision by a lower court อุทธรณ์
Appeal Court (Court of Appeal) – a court that decides requests that a decision made by a lower court be changed ศาลอุทธรณ์
reject – to not agree with a request, offer or proposal ปฏิเสธ ไม่ยอมรับ
charge – an official statement accusing someone of committing a crime ข้อหา
ailment – an illness อาการป่วย, โรคทางกาย
life-threatening – serious enough to possibly cause death
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