Saudi Press

Saudi Arabia and the world
Tuesday, May 21, 2024



A 28-year-old Thai activist named Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, who was a member of the activist group Thaluwang and had been jailed for advocating monarchy reform, died in a prison hospital after going on an 110-day hunger strike.
Bung was part of a group known for their bold campaigns demanding monarchy reform and the abolition of the law against defaming royal family members.

Her death has renewed calls for reviewing the judicial process that allows political offenders to be held for extended periods before trial.

Bung is believed to be the first political activist in Thailand to die after carrying out a hunger strike.

Amnesty International's Thailand branch expressed concern over the death of activist Netiporn, describing it as a "shocking reminder" of the Thai authorities' denial of bail to activists and use of detention to suppress dissent.

The group condemned the severe judicial harassment and the justice system's failure to uphold human rights.

The opposition Move Forward party also issued a statement, calling for an end to jailing individuals for political opinions and the granting of bail to those accused of political offenses.

Foreign diplomats and ambassadors from several countries offered condolences following Netiporn's death.

German Ambassador Ernest Reichel expressed his hope that political disagreements do not lead to bitter and extreme consequences.

In Thailand, criticism of the monarchy was once considered taboo, and insulting or defaming royal family members was punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

However, student-led pro-democracy protests in 2020 openly criticized the monarchy, resulting in increased prosecutions under this law.

Critics argue that it is used to suppress political dissent.

The protest movement declined due to government harassment and the pandemic, but over 270 activists, including Netiporn, were charged with royal defamation since the protests.

Netiporn, a political activist, experienced cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead on Tuesday despite efforts from medical teams.

She had two pending charges of lese majeste, or insulting the royal family, from conducting polls in public spaces in 2022.

Her bail was revoked in January due to her participation in a political rally, leading her to begin a hunger strike in January.

The Corrections Department stated she began eating and drinking water again on April 4, but the human rights lawyer group reported on April 25 that she was still fasting.

Two other jailed activists are also on hunger strike.

Two Thaluwang members, who were also charged with lese majeste and had been on hunger strike for a month, raised concerns about unequal treatment in the Thai justice system.

Netiporn, one of the hunger strikers, had requested to be transferred from Central Corrections Hospital to Thammasat University Hospital for medical treatment but was denied.

The authorities promised to investigate the cause of her death.

Kritsadang Nutcharas, Netiporn's lawyer, compared the situation to that of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who served prison time for corruption-related cases but never spent a night in jail due to health reasons.

At a candlelight vigil outside Bangkok's Criminal Court, activist Panusaya "Rung" Sitthijirawattanakul criticized the Thai government for not addressing the plight of political prisoners.

She questioned if more deaths were necessary before action is taken and called herself and fellow activists "ordinary people" seeking change.

Thaluwang, the group she is a part of, has advocated for monarchy reform, justice system changes, and an end to political persecution.

The group also opposes Thailand's application to join the UN Human Rights Council.

Thailand submitted its bid for a seat on the council after the current government took office last year, aiming to demonstrate its commitment to human rights protection.

The text highlights criticisms against the Thai government's image as a human rights defender on the international stage.

Human Rights Watch has expressed concerns over the Thai government's use of arbitrary arrests and pretrial detention to suppress critics of the monarchy, which is considered a violation of their human rights under international law.

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