Spare a few thoughts for Da Torpedo

Spare a few thoughts for Da Torpedo

One of the first things that came to my mind after learning about the death of Ah Kong was the condition of Da Torpedo.

Ah Kong, whose real name is Ampon Tangnoppakul, and Daranee Charnchoensilpakul, better known as Da Torpedo, were both jailed for lese majeste offences.

Ampon was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for sending text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy. Daranee is serving a 15-year jail term for her lese majeste speeches at a red shirt rally.

It has been a long time since I visited her at Klongprem prison. She was very sick then and her requests for temporary release to have medical treatment outside the prison were repeatedly rejected _ just as Ampon's requests for care outside prison were rejected while he was ill with cancer.

Ampon, 62, suffered from oral cancer while Daranee, 49, suffered from a molar abscess.

Ampon died in prison on Tuesday morning. An investigation into the cause of death determined it was liver cancer.

Over the past few days, social media have been flooded with reactions to Ampon's death.

Some expressed condolences and frustrations, while others said a man as disloyal to the monarchy as he deserved to die in jail.

After days of sadness, outrage, and emotional debates, I think it's time to look beyond the death of Ampon.

We should start thinking about the plight of other inmates, especially lese majeste convicts, who tend to face more prejudice than other prisoners.

Daranee, now under detention at the Central Women's Correctional Institution, is among the lese majeste convicts we should be focusing our attention on. I have been thinking about Daranee from time to time after I met her at Klongprem prison three years ago. We talked via a small microphone inside the prison's visiting room.

At that time, she looked frail and weak. Her voice was hoarse and it was hard to understand her words because she could hardly open her mouth to speak due to a severe jaw dysfunction.

She told me her jaw problem hurt her badly. She had lost 15kg over a matter of months because the condition made it difficult for her to eat.

In December 2010, the Prachatai online news website reported that Daranee's condition was getting worse.

She could not open her mouth or chew her food.

Daranee's lawyer repeatedly asked the court for a temporary release so she could undergo proper treatment. The requests were rejected again and again.

Lawyers for Ampon also tried in vain to convince the court that he was very sick and needed medical care outside prison. And due to his serious health problem, it was impossible for him to flee or commit an offence while on bail.

Other similarities between the cases are worth noting. The two convicts also faced the same prejudice from right-wing and pro-lese majeste groups.

Some of them said Ampon was stricken by his oral disease because he spoke badly of the monarchy, while Daranee's molar abscess was a result of her "bad mouth".

One dentist even voiced support for the court's rejections of Daranee's bail requests because her ailment was incurable. The dentist said Daranee's molar abscess was a result of "bad karma for speaking ill of the monarchy".

Daranee recently received outside medical treatment for her jaw problem at the Police General Hospital and the Prison General Hospital, thanks to the help of Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha, who has been working to promote the rights of women inmates.

Although Daranee's ailment has now improved, there is no guarantee that lese majeste convicts in general will receive proper medical treatment and the right to bail due to the highly sensitive nature of their offences.

The death of Ampon and the suffering of Daranee should serve as a reminder to state agencies that every inmate enjoys the right to receive proper medical care and be considered for bail. These rights must be respected no matter what charges they are facing or what crimes they have committed.

Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.

Kultida Samabuddhi


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