Conflicts & War

44 days into hunger strike, Thai student leader’s health worsens

Bangkok, Apr 29 (EFE).- The health of one of the main leaders of student protests in Thailand on hunger strike after being arrested for questioning the monarchy according to his lawyer.

Parit Chiwarak, or Penguin, has been on a hunger strike for 44 days to protest the authorities’ decision to deny him provisional release pending trial for lese majesty and other crimes.

“His situation is very worrying, he is deteriorating (…) and he already has digestive problems due to lack of food that could be fatal,” his lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharus said Wednesday night.

The hashtag “save Penguin” was trending Thursday on Thai Twitter with more than half a million mentions.

The lawyer for the Thammasat University student, who is facing up to 15 years in prison for the crime of royal defamation, will again ask Thursday that he be granted bail due to his serious health condition.

The Department of Prisons said Thursday in a statement that the activist “is not in critical condition” and “only suffers from exhaustion” while “the medical team is examining his condition on a regular basis.”

Penguin has been in prison since February along with at least seven other student leaders, after all of them were charged with royal defamation in addition to other crimes, and were denied provisional release pending trial.

Among those arrested is Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, or Rung, named among them 100 most inspiring and influential women in the world of 2020, according to the BBC, and who has also been on a hunger strike for 31 days.

All of them along with other activists led a wave of mass protests calling for democratic and monarchical reforms in the country last year.

The main protest leaders, the majority of young university students who dared to publicly ask that the king not have an active role in politics, have been charged with royal defamation and are in prison.

The protests broke the taboo of openly questioning the role of the monarchy and made the debate jump to social networks and the streets.

Thailand punishes defamation, insult or threats against the king, queen, crown prince, heir apparent or regent with penalties of up to 15 years in prison, through article 112 of the penal code.

At least 382 people, including 13 minors, have been charged since July for participating in demonstrations and expressing their political opinions, while at least 88 have been charged with lese majesty, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights organization. EFE


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