Prison off hook over ‘Uncle SMS’ death

October 31, 2013

The 61-year-old grandfather, also known as ”Uncle SMS” because he was convicted of sending four short text messages deemed insulting to the monarchy to the then personal secretary of Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, died while in custody in May 2012.

He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for defaming the monarchy in 2010.
The court conducted an inquest into the death after the prosecution requested verification of the cause.

His relatives raised concerns that he died because of a lack of proper treatment at the prison’s hospital.

The court ruled yesterday that Ampon, who suffered from liver cancer, died because of blood circulation problems and heart failure.

The court rejected testimony by Thantawut Taweewarodomkul, a lese majeste prisoner who shared the same living quarters with Ampon, and Kittiphum Juthasamit, a Phusing Hospital director, that improper treatment at the prison hospital and inadequate equipment at the correctional facility contributed to his death.

During the inquest which began seven months ago, Mr Thantawut told the court the prison authorities did not give Ampon enough food and restricted his meetings with doctors. Prison officials also abused him verbally because he was a lese majeste prisoner.The court said yesterday the authorities did not discriminate against Ampon.

He was given meals of a similar standard to other inmates, the court said.

As for Dr Kittiphum’s comment that the prison hospital should have done more for Ampon, the court ruled the doctor’s opinion did not prove the prison’s hospital caused his death.

Doctors may have different approaches to treating patients, the court said.

Ratchanee Harnsomsakul, 59, a senior nurse who was working at the hospital on May 8, the day of Ampon’s death, said medical staff provided the inmate with the standard treatment.

However, she admitted the prison hospital was not properly equipped to treat cancer patients.

A police forensic team which conducted a post-mortem said Ampon had died as a result of lung cancer.

Ampon’s wife Rosalin filed a lawsuit seeking more than two million baht in compensation from the Corrections Department early this year.

”She does not actually want the money but she would like to make a point about what she believes are substandard medical services for prisoners,” Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, one of Ampon’s lawyers, said.

”There’s nothing personal here.”

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