Activists in pre-trial detention for criticizing Thai royals on hunger strike

Bangkok, May 24 (EFE).- Several civil organizations are concerned about the health of two youth Thai activists who have been on hunger strike for weeks to protest their pre-trial detention and repeated denials of bail requests.

The pro-democracy activists were arrested on lèse majesté charges in Thailand, which carry a prison sentence of between three and 15 years.

The lèse-majesté law or Article 112, which the UN has criticized as excessively harsh, punishes anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, queen or crown prince.

Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, 20, a member of the pro-democracy group Draconis Revolution, was arrested for conducting a street survey in February on traffic disruptions caused by royal motorcades and for criticizing the monarchy in a video on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Sophon “Get” Surariddhidhamrong, 23, was arrested for a speech that criticized the monarchy on April 22.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said Tuesday that Tantawan is in poor health having been on hunger strike for more than a month since April 20, while Sophon has not eaten food for 19 days.

“(Tantawan’s) health is concerning,” TLHR lawyer Poonsuk Poonsookcharoen told Efe, adding that she would attend a hearing on Thursday, but the court is unlikely to release her on bail, in line with most lèse-majesté cases.

Poonsuk, who said he has not been able to visit her this week, said another prisoner activist told him that the young woman is very weak, needs help moving around and spends the day sleeping.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch said Tantawan needs urgent treatment in hospital.

“Thai authorities should drop the cases against Tantawan and others unjustly charged for their peaceful protests demanding reforms, or at least be immediately released on bail,” HRW Asia director Elaine Pearson said, calling the “lengthy” pre-trial detention “punitive and unjust.”

THLR said that the other hunger-striking activist, Sophon, complained that she was struggling with her mental health and wanted to see a psychiatrist.

After almost three years without using the lèse-majesté law, prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha ordered it to be applied again in November 2020 to quell the growing wave of criticism of the monarchy during student demonstrations calling for reforms in the country.

According to TLHR, 195 people have since been charged with lèse majesté. EFE


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