Not to die in vain
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Not to die in vain

A month has passed since political activist Netiporn Saneysangkhom died in a prison hospital, and yet we still haven't seen any progress regarding the probe into her tragic passing.

Netiporn, aka Boong Thalu Wang, was pronounced dead on May 14, 110 days after she started a hunger strike demanding bail rights for political prisoners and judicial reform. The prison hospital listed her cause of death as being a heart attack.

The 28-year-old activist faced several charges as a result of her political campaigns, despite them being largely peaceful. Among them was a lese majeste charge for conducting a survey on royal motorcades and another survey related to the monarchy's power. When she was thrown into jail without a trial on Jan 26, she began her hunger strike with Tantawan "Tawan" Tuatulanon and Natthanon "Frank" Chaimahabud, two young activists advocating for the reform of the monarchy.

On March 8 she was rushed to Thammasat University Hospital to be treated for acidosis and potassium depletion, as a result of being severely malnourished. She was transferred back to the prison hospital on March 27 as she was "deemed recovered''. Yet her sudden death less than two months later may indicate that such a diagnosis -- if one was even made in the first place -- was wrong.

Some detained political activists even countered the Department of Corrections' statement, saying her health had never improved in the slightest.

If that's not bad enough, a human rights lawyer accused the prison hospital of mishandling her when she fell into a coma on the morning of May 14. According to the lawyer, an endotracheal tube was allegedly misplaced. He cited the autopsy reports by Thammasat University Hospital, which showed that her digestive tract was full of air.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin expressed deep sorrow for her death and ordered the Justice Ministry to investigate the circumstances surrounding her passing. But the fact is that his government and the ruling Pheu Thai Party, despite their pre-election promises, have treated Netiporn's demands for judicial reform as a non-issue since day one. They were effectively indifferent.

It's time Mr Srettha realised the probe he ordered has dragged on for far too long. Or is this just time wasting?

It has been reported that the prison hospital was reluctant to give the late activist's medical records to her family from the start. The activist's sister told the media the family had struggled to gain access to these. The sibling said the department had delayed handing them over at least seven times.

The department also came under heavy criticism for refusing to release CCTV footage from the morning Netiporn died, allegedly due to concern over "national security" and also the privacy of the medical workers who were taking care of the activist in her last hours.

Later, the department said it would hand over the footage, but only if Netiporn's mother made a formal request. What a heartless attitude!

Now that the government is riddled with political crises, Netiporn's death and her quest for justice may seem to have faded from public memory, but this does not give the government an excuse to bypass it.

Instead, Mr Srettha must see to it that the truth behind Netiporn's medical treatment, or maltreatment, is released. In the longer term, he must prove that his government remains committed to reforming the justice system. Such an act would require courage and sincerity, and the PM needs to prove he has both.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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