Somyot's kin receives Korean award

Somyot's kin receives Korean award

Prakaidao Prueksakasemsuk, daughter of lese majeste prisoner and former labour activist Somyot, travelled to Korea to receive the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize. (Photo by Korean Health and Medical Union)
Prakaidao Prueksakasemsuk, daughter of lese majeste prisoner and former labour activist Somyot, travelled to Korea to receive the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize. (Photo by Korean Health and Medical Union)

SEOUL - The daughter of labour activist and lese majeste prisoner Somyot Prueksakasemsuk has received a solidarity Korean trade union award on behalf of her father for his unwavering support and engagement to the course of regional labour solidarity.

Ms Prakaidao, 21, left for Seoul last week and made an hour-long drive up to Masuk, north of Seoul, to receive the Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize Sunday at an event attended by about 300 people including a current opposition leader from South Korea's Justice Party, members of various NGOs, unionists and former lawmakers.

The prize is named after Jeon Tae-il, a 22-year-old worker, who set himself on fire on Nov 13, 1970 to protest against poor working conditions in Korea's sweatshop factories. His younger brother and sister attended the prize-giving ceremony. Jeon's death brought public attention to substandard labour conditions and helped set the stage for the Korean labour movement. The Jeon Tae-il Labour Prize was initiated 22 years after Jeon's death, as a show of support for labour activists in Korea.

While the award is normally given to one person, this year the award went to three people -- a railway unionist, Somyot and another jailed labour unionist Han Sang-Kyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Union -- according to Kang Yeon-bae, Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union head of education and information.

Ms Prakaidao said she was touched by the show of solidarity towards her father. "They see how my father has strived for the betterment of workers and joined hands with workers in other countries, especially here. But some Thais still see only one thing in him -- committing a lese majeste offence," said Ms Prakaidao.

"These people were standing side by side my father in campaigning for regional and international issues long before my father was imprisoned. So it's quite a great honour to the family -- like a big thank-you. They have also called for the release of other political prisoners in Thailand," she said. Her father thought about others so much, he didn't have much time for personal or family matters.

The awarding of the Korean Jeon Tae-il prize to Somyot represents the first time it has gone to a non-Korean unionist.

Kyung-Tak Lee, former chairman of the Jeon Tae-il Foundation, gave the prize to Ms Prakaidao, who will return to Bangkok this week and show Somyot the prize at Bangkok Remand Prison where her father is being held.

Somyot was arrested on April 30, 2011 while crossing the Cambodian border days after he launched a petition seeking a review of Section 112 of the Criminal Code, otherwise known as the lese majeste law.

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