Be thankful for small mercies

In November of 2004 I visited Bangkwang Prison and wrote about what I saw there. One of the most heartbreaking stories was that of Michael Connell, a Brit with learning difficulties who was 19 years of age when he was arrested for drug smuggling in 2003 and given a life sentence.

A small but significant piece of good news has come the way of Michael's family:

To: Mr. Derek J. Connell
Re: Michael Connell

Dear Mr. Connell,

We are pleased to inform you that yesterday Michael went to the Criminal Court and the judgement of the Appeals Court was read to him. The said court reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 30 years imprisonment.

We understand that Michael does not wish to further appeal his case to the Dika Court (Supreme Court) shall have to see him in Bangkwnag Central Prison to have his confirmation.

Yours faithfully,

Bangkok Legal Associates Law Office
Puttri Kuvanonda

Michael Connell
Michael Connell

This may be the first of many pieces of good news this year for prisoners held in Thailand. June of this year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the corronation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and it is traditional in Thailand (and many other parts of the world) for significant anniversaries such as this one to lead to pardons and sentence reductions. Of course, all this is contingent upon peace and stability remaining in Thailand, an outcome which is anything but certain given the recent upheaval. If the climate changes, pardoning prisoners is unlikely to be high on King Bhumibol's priority list.

The potential for sentence reductions is yet another good reason to ensure that one of South East Asia's most successful democracies remains so.

A hat tip goes to the tireless Kay Danes of the Foreign Prisoner Support Service for letting me know about the latest update.


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