Southern families dream of freedom from prison
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Southern families dream of freedom from prison

The sweetest wish for those whose loved ones are in prison is nothing other than their freedom. Many have have been granted it in time to celebrate the New Year; many others still cling to hope.

For more than three years and seven months, Romlah Saeyae has visited her husband Anwar Hajiteh at Pattani prison almost every day.

Anwar, now 33, is scheduled for release under a royal pardon within days.

Even on the final day of the year his family, particularly Ms Romlah, waits anxiously.

Only a year after their marriage, the Supreme Court found Anwar guilty of "joining the revolution" -- being part of the outlawed separatist movement Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN).

On May 1, 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the Appeal Court's previous 12-year prison sentence.

Anwar's sentence was reduced by one-fifth on HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's 60th birthday last year. Then, this year he was granted a royal pardon following His Majesty the King's accession to the throne and is now waiting to be released.

"For me, any day -- not just the New Year -- is meaningful," said Ms Romlah, 35. "His freedom is of the utmost importance to our family."

Anwar, she said, was even more restless about the news of his release.

"Our family is longing for this precious moment to reunite happily," said Ms Romlah, a Narathiwat native who has been taking care of Anwar's frail parents who are aged 74 and 64.

"It's been almost four years since his liberty was taken. I can't work or live like other people on a salary.

"I can only do freelance [for meetings and research] and sell snacks and drinks as I have to visit him every week. But I'll see what I can do after his release."

The couple is well-known not only in Thailand's far South but also internationally for the "Free Anwar Campaign."

Activists were dismayed at Anwar's long jail term, mainly for the fact he had been working in the spotlight, not underground, as a social activist for many years before the sentence was handed down.

Meanwhile, Wiboon Boonpattararaksa, father of 25-year-old anti-coup student activist Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, better known as Pai Dao Din, said he would like to throw the question back to society as to why freedom of expression has diminished in this country.

Mr Jatupat's petition to overturn the provincial court's revocation of his bail in a lese majeste case on Dec 22 was rejected by the Appeal Court on Tuesday.

Mr Jatupat hopes to sit an exam on Jan 16, before he graduates from Khon Kaen University's faculty of law.

If he's still in jail, his chances will also be affected.

Some may wonder why his parents allowed their only son to be imprisoned so often.

The latest charge came early this month when Mr Jatupat was accused of defaming the monarchy for sharing a BBC Thai report concerning the new King. "I normally do not bother about New Year festive seasons," Mr Jatupat said.

"But recent procedures which denied me bail have made me concerned and agitated."

Mr Jatupat said he was confident of winning his fight for justice, particularly on the issue that the court used video-conferencing to talk to him at the prison while his lawyer was still waiting at the court.

"We will not just sit idly but will make noises in these proceedings," he said.

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