A third hunger striker pressing for judicial reform has been admitted to hospital, while the opposition Move Forward Party is seeking an urgent parliamentary debate on the issues raised by the political activists.
Sitthichok Sethasavet was admitted to Thammasat University Hospital after being taken from prison to the Corrections Department Hospital on Tuesday.
Sitthichok is in the 16h day of a hunger strike that he began in Bangkok Remand Prison, and has gone without water for the past seven days. A lawyer who visited him said he was experiencing abdominal pain and had lost nearly seven kilogrammes.
Also in Thammasat University Hospital are Tantawan Tuatulanon, 20, and Orawan Phuphong, 23. They have been refusing food, almost all water and most medical intervention since Jan 18.
A lawyer who visited the two women on Wednesday said they were increasingly weak, and that medical staff had expressed concern about their low potassium levels, which can increase risk of heart failure. The two have agreed to take small amounts of water but are still refusing all food.
They remain alert, however, and the lawyer reported that Ms Orawan even commented on the case of accused celebrity fraudster Savika “Pinky” Chaiyadej, who received court approval this week to remove an electronic monitoring device she was required to wear after her release from jail.
The hunger strikers are demanding the right to bail, the release of all political prisoners and the abolition of the lese majeste and sedition laws.
Sitthichok was found guilty on Jan 17 of defaming the royal family, arson, destruction of property and violation of the Emergency Decree, and sentenced to two years and four months in prison. He was found to have set fire to a portrait at a royal ceremonial arch in Bangkok during a protest on July 18, 2021. He has been detained pending an appeal.
Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code for taking a public poll last year about royal motorcades. They went to court on Jan 16 to request the revocation of their bail as a gesture of solidarity with other detained colleagues. They began their hunger strike two days later.
Over the past two years, 228 people have been charged under lese majeste and 10 are currently in detention, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), which has represented many of those accused of royal insults.
In the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat lodged a motion requesting a debate on what he described as the urgent need for Thailand to strictly follow the international principle of the presumption of innocence.
The proposed debate would also focus on how political detainees should be treated just like other detainees when it comes to considering their bail application, he said.
The debate would also cover how those prosecuted in political cases since 2014 should be granted amnesty, including those facing legal action for allegedly violating lese majeste and sedition laws.
Move Forward supports amending Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, but has been unable to get it onto the House agenda. Political activists on Tuesday pressed Pheu Thai, the largest opposition party, to take a stand on the law but the party said it was a very complicated issue.
The Cross Cultural Foundation plans to submit a letter today to the president of the Supreme Court asking for a review of court regulations pertaining to bail applications. It is also calling for the release of the hunger strikers as well as other detainees who should be freed so they can prepare to fight their political cases in court.
Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin, who visited Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan on Tuesday, said the ministry would consider reforming the court’s bail application consideration system and liaise with the National Human Rights Commission to ensure that any amendments to the law are made appropriately.
Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat says Thailand needs to strictly follow the international principle of the presumption of innocence. (Photo: Parliament)