Activists won't stop hunger strike

Activists won't stop hunger strike

19 people remain detained over political cases

Tantawan: Gesture of solidarity
Tantawan: Gesture of solidarity

Pro-democracy activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong have vowed to press on with their hunger strike despite the release of two young colleagues detained on royal defamation charges.

Lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharat relayed his clients' decision yesterday outside Thammasat University Hospital, where the two young women and Sitthichok Sethasavet, another activist on a hunger strike, were being treated.

It drew a crowd of reporters amid speculation that Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan were preparing to end their fast, which has left them severely weak.

The parents of the two activists were in attendance but were not allowed to visit their daughters during weekends, Mr Kritsadang said, adding the order came from Pongsawat Kaiarunsut, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice.

Aukit Santiprasitkul, 24, a law student at Ramkhamhaeng University, was granted bail yesterday. He had been in detention pending an appeal since Dec 21 after the Criminal Court found him guilty of royal defamation for sharing Facebook posts. He was sentenced to seven years and six months in prison.

On Friday, the court granted bail to a 28-year-old bar employee identified only as "Ake".

He had been detained since Dec 22 pending a trial on a charge under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law, for sharing a Facebook post commenting on the royal institution.

With the release of the men, 19 people remain detained in politically-related cases, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), with 13 awaiting trial and six having been convicted and some appealing.

The three activists, meanwhile, are now in their third hunger strike week. They had gone without food and water for the first 10 days but were persuaded to drink small amounts of water amid growing health concerns.

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.

Orawan: Activism takes toll

Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 for conducting a public poll last year on 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 on Jan 18 and have been in Thammasat University Hospital for the past 11 days. Authorities occasionally provide updates on their condition.

As of the end of last month, TLHR said it had recorded 1,890 people prosecuted for political participation and expression since the beginning of the Free Youth pro-democracy protests in July 2020.

At least 228 are facing lese majeste (royal defamation) charges and 128 have been charged with sedition. Of all the people charged, 284 are aged 15 to 18 years and 41 are under 15 years old.

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