PEN International has condemned the slaying of Thai poet Mainueng K. Kunthee, the pen name of activist Kamol Duangphasuk. The 45-year-old writer was in a car in a parking lot when he was shot by an assailant who fled on a motorcycle; the poet and activist died at a hospital.
Mainueng was killed on April 23 during a time of public debate and protest in the run-up to the Thai elections. The government has since been ousted in a military coup.
Why speak out now?
"Six weeks after the murder of prominent ‘red-shirt’ poet Mainueng K. Kunthee, who was shot dead on 23 April 2014 by unknown assailants, freedom of expression is severely suppressed and a climate of fear prevails," PEN explained.
The organization continued, "PEN International is deeply concerned for the safety of writers, academics and activists in Thailand, who are increasingly at risk of attack and imprisonment solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions, and reminds the authorities of their obligations to protect freedom of expression .... "
Mainueng began writing poetry in the 1980s and took part in "Red Shirt" rallies of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). His poetry spoke of social justice, the rights of the poor, and in protest of laws against free expression. He ran a small restaurant, the Duck Poet Society.
Human Rights Watch has also condemned the killing and called for an investigation into his death. “The brutal and outrageous killing of poet and Red Shirt activist Kamol can only worsen the already tense political situation in Thailand,” Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director said in April. “The Thai authorities need to quickly investigate this murder and bring whoever is responsible to justice — wherever that investigation leads.”
PEN International asked supporters of freedom of expression to write to the current Thai leaders, asking for a full and impartial investigation into the killing of Mainueng.
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