Surachai freed on royal pardon

Surachai freed on royal pardon

Surachai Danwattananusorn was freed on Friday after being granted a royal pardon on his lese majeste conviction.

The 72-year-old leader of the Red Siam group walked out of the Bangkok Remand Prison half an hour after Corrections Department officials took the release order to the jail.

Surachai, whose former last name was Sae Dan, was sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison in 2011 for violating Section 112 of the Penal Code in a series of speeches deemed insulting to the monarchy.

``I feel very happy and extremely appreciative for the mercy of the king,'' Surachai told AFP after his release.

``Without the royal pardon, I would have been there until I'm 80,'' the activist added.

His wife Pranee, 56, said Surachai had experienced ``many difficult incidents'' while in prison.

The ailing Surachai decided to seek a royal pardon and his application reached the Office of the His Majesty's Principal Secretary in August last year.

His release was expected on Thursday with about 200 rights activists and red-shirt supporters converged on the prison to greet him only to find that the department had not yet received the order to free him.

Mrs Pranee said on Thursday that her husband wanted to return to his home province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

He would like to take care of his health and his home, which had been deserted since his incarceration, she added.

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