Human Interest

Imprisoned Thai activists’ hunger strike continues 50 days on

Bangkok, Mar 8 (EFE).- Two Thai women, accused of royal defamation and who withdrew their bail to return to prison, were marking 50 days Wednesday since they began a hunger strike demanding a justice system reform in Thailand, where activists calling for change are routinely imprisoned.

Orawan Phuphong, 23, and Tantawan Tuatulanon, 21, were admitted to a hospital north of Bangkok that has not reported on the health condition of the activists for days after they stopped eating and drinking on Jan. 18, two days after returning to jail.

Both, charged with the crime of lese majeste – punishable by up to 15 years in prison – for carrying out a street survey in 2022 on traffic cuts caused by royal convoys, demand that the draconian conditions courts impose on activists be reformed under provisional release.

They also demand the release on bail for a handful of young people imprisoned on a preventive basis for different crimes related to demonstrations that since 2020 have been demanding a democratic reform of the country, and includes the Royal House.

“They do not want people to focus on their health situation, but on their goal: to pressure (justice) to achieve changes,” lawyer Krisadang Nutcharut said Wednesday during a seminar at the Bangkok Correspondents Club.

The lawyer, who represents both before the courts, said “many prisoners go on hunger strike to free themselves. While Tantawan and Orawan do it for other people, they fight for other people. They do not earn anything. They wanted to go back (to prison) when they were already out.”

Despite the protest, which has attracted the attention of local and international media, Thai courts continue to crack down on members of reformist groups.

A Bangkok court sentenced a man Tuesday accused of parodying Thai King Vajiralongkorn by likening him to a duck in a calendar with veiled references to the monarchy to two years in prison.

This conviction “shows that the Thai authorities seek to punish any activity they deem insulting to the monarchy. This case sends a message (…) that Thailand is moving further and further away from becoming a rights-respecting democracy,” said Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch Asia director, in a Wednesday statement.

The law, included in Article 112 of the country’s criminal code, carries penalties of between three and 15 years in prison for those who defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, crown prince or heir apparent, one of the most draconian laws on the planet.

NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights denounces the increase in royal defamation cases in Thailand since November 2020, when the government resumed the application of the regulations to stifle the pro-democracy movement led by university students in court.

At least 228 people, including minors, have been charged with the law since November 2020, according to the organization, while another 1,890 – including 284 minors – have been charged with crimes related to protests or their political expressions. EFE


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