Red shirts at each other’s throats over ‘Uncle SMS’ saga – Bangkok Post, May 19, 2012
[2015 note: Should an article on such an important issue to Thailand’s history and current affairs be hidden behind a paywall? Below is the complete text of the original article.]
Red shirts at each other’s throats over ‘Uncle SMS’ saga
Published: 19/05/2012 at 10:07 AM
The death in prison of Ampol Tangnoppakul or “Uncle SMS” from cancer ignited a fierce debate between red shirt academics and red shirt politicians who work for the Pheu Thai Party, noted Post Today.
A group of red shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship followers take the body of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died in prison after being convicted of lese majeste, to a temple in Samut Prakan. (Inset) Bongkoj Kongmalai
The red shirt academics accused the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders of neglecting to help those red shirt political prisoners who are languishing in jail, especially those facing lese majeste charges under Criminal Code Section 112. The UDD leaders working for Pheu Thai were accused of reconciling with the amataya, or elite, to protect their political interests rather than working for the benefit of the grass roots.
Somsak Jiamthirasakul, a Thammasat University academic, ridiculed UDD politicians now in power.
“The death of Ah Kong may open the eyes of those leaders whose hearts are black but think of themselves as democracy fighters,” he said. “Section 112 is problematic and must be amended. This will not lead to the toppling of the government. Don’t cite any excuse. It is not fair to ask the grass roots to risk losing their lives while those claiming to love democracy, having been elected, do nothing. You are elected to serve the people, not to enjoy political power and cling to your posts.”
Another Thammasat academic, Sudsa-nguan Suthisorn, noted that several red shirt groups are angry that the Pheu Thai-led government is not taking care of red shirt prisoners.
“Even though the government cannot order the court to release Section 112 prisoners, at least the government should work hard to secure bail for those still languishing in jail so that the Ah Kong case is not repeated.”
Suda Rangkupan of Chulalongkorn University voiced a similar opinion. She said the grass roots were now beginning to move independently from the UDD and that the ruling party’s insistence on not amending Section 112 revealed its true colours, that it has chosen to side with a dictator.
“If a government elected by the people fails to solve the people’s problems, its legitimacy will diminish day by day. We are beginning to see that this government has adopted a different goal. The people must be brave and come out to fight for their rights themselves,” she said.
Post Today quoted several UDD leaders including Kwanchai Praipana from Udon Thani who criticised certain red shirts who brought out Ah Kong’s dead body to perform a bathing rite in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road as creating distress for Ah Kong’s family.
This was akin to not respecting the dead. The red shirts should have held a traditional Buddhist funeral service with a mass of red shirts attending to show Thai society that his death was caused by the previous government’s substandard administration.
“Ah Kong is like a puppet being used to benefit someone. Ah Kong’s case involves only a few individuals.
“In fact, I used to visit Ah Kong when he was arrested and confined. He was a pitiful old man and seemed not to be harmful to anyone. When he was charged with lese majeste, it warranted reform of the judicial system,” he said.
Korkaew Pikulthong, a Pheu Thai list MP and UDD core leader, said UDD leaders have yet to hold a meeting to discuss how to help Ah Kong’s family. He insisted not all UDD core leaders have abandoned the imprisoned red shirts as they have been accused of.
“We tried several times before his death to bail him out but we could do nothing as it was the prerogative of the court. I would like all sides to learn a lesson from Ah Kong’s death in prison,” he said.
Post Today concluded that the “UDD leaders abandoning the red shirt grassroots” issue will not go away, but will intensify as time goes on.
Ah Kong verdict revisited
Here is an excerpt of the criminal case verdict No. 4726/2554 between the state attorney (prosecutor) and Ampol Tangnoppakul (defendant) on his lese majeste and Computer Crime Act offences given on 23 Nov 2011 as reported by Post Today.
The prosecutor stated that Ampol, 61, had sent four SMS messages to the mobile phone of Somkiat Krongwattanasuk, personal secretary of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The messages were stored at the Short Message Service Centre computer system before being transmitted. Every message expressed libel and harmful intent towards the King, the Queen and the heir apparent.
The police found all four messages were sent on a mobile phone with IMEI (International Mobile Station Equipment Identity) 3589060000230110. It was found that this mobile phone made calls to mobile phones belonging to Parawan Tangnoppakul and Piyamas Tangnoppakul, Ampol’s daughters. It was found that the mobile phone was owned by Ampol.
Ampol claimed the number, 08-1349-3615, allegedly used to send the messages, was not his. In April 2011, the defendant had his mobile phone repaired and did not use another SIM card on the phone.
The defence stated it was possible to change a mobile phone’s IMEI and that about 10% of IMEIs in circulation are not unique. The defendant loved His Majesty the King and was loyal to the monarchy.
The prosecutor stated the SIM card 08-1349-3615 was a Dtac pre-paid card and was used with Ampol’s mobile phone as well as another True Move pre-paid SIM card 08-5838-4627. Prosecution witnesses stated that a mobile phone’s IMEI is unique and there is no duplicate.
The staff of the two mobile phone operators stated that a user’s mobile phone traffic is stored in a computer database as required under the Computer Crime Act 2007. Thus the mobile traffic information from the two mobile phone operators is valid as well as the witnesses’ statements that a mobile phone’s IMEI cannot be altered.
The defence stated that an IMEI could be altered, but when considering the place and time that SMSs were sent by the SIM card number 08-5838-4627 and SIM card number 08-1349-3615 at sub-station Soi Dan Samrong 12, it was the same area of the defendant’s residence and the two SIM card numbers were interchanged 12 times that day.
The defendant admitted the mobile was used solely by him. The phone was used to send four SMS messages with each number interchanging for about 10 minutes, time enough to change a SIM card.
The defence stated the phone was damaged and sent for repair and it was possible that someone else used it during the time of the offences or the repair shop changed or stole the phone’s IMEI. However, the police stated that the defendant could not remember where the repair shop was. If the defendant had actually taken the phone in for repairs, he should have remembered the shop, otherwise how could he have retrieved it?
The defendant stated he did not know how to send an SMS and did not know the mobile phone number of Mr Somkiat and he had never used any other SIM card on his phone. The court deemed that only the defendant could verify these claims. Furthermore, witnesses showed the defendant’s mobile was used to send a lot of messages and thus the defendant’s claim was not credible.
Even though no witness could prove the defendant sent the messages, it was within reason as anyone who committed such a serious crime would try to hide the actions. For this reason, circumstantial evidence must be used and the prosecutor’s evidence was strong…