Hunger-striking motorcade protesters in hospital

Hunger-striking motorcade protesters in hospital

Third activist sent back to prison despite severe symptoms after 25 days without food

Attendants transfer detainee Tantawan Tuatulanon to Thammasat University Hospital on Thursday for treatment of symptoms resulting from her hunger strike. (Photo: Tawan Tantawan Facebook page)
Attendants transfer detainee Tantawan Tuatulanon to Thammasat University Hospital on Thursday for treatment of symptoms resulting from her hunger strike. (Photo: Tawan Tantawan Facebook page)

Activist Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, detained on sedition charges arising from a protest against a royal motorcade, was admitted to Thammasat University Hospital on Thursday, the ninth day of her hunger strike.

Her colleague from the Thalu Wang protest group, Natthanon “Frank” Chaimahabud, remains in the Department of Corrections Hospital. He has also gone without food since the pair were remanded in custody on Feb 14.

Both face charges arising from an incident on Feb 4 during a motorcade carrying Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. Mr Natthanon, 23, honked his horn repeatedly and tried to pass a police car and Ms Tantawan argued with an officer when they were stopped.

A few days later, Ms Tantawan, 22, attempted to conduct a public opinion survey about motorcades outside Siam Paragon shopping centre. She had publicised the event in advance and it drew a crowd of royalist protesters who started a brawl with Ms Tantawan’s supporters.

With emotions running high on both sides of the debate, police arrested Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon on Feb 13. A day later they were denied bail and ordered detained pending further police investigations.

Ms Tantawan has listed three goals for her latest hunger strike: reform of the justice process; no imprisonment for people because of political differences; and for Thailand’s bid for UN Human Rights Council membership from 2025-27 to be rejected.

A lawyer who visited Ms Tantawan on Thursday morning said she looked very weak and tired. She reported feeling bloated and feverish. She said she would refuse all but basic medical treatment and would not stop her current protest until her three demands have been met.

Ms Tantawan and fellow activist Orawan Phuphong staged a 52-day hunger strike early last year to demand the release of 16 people detained pending trial on charges that stemmed from the anti-government protests that began in mid-2020.

She is still facing trial on two charges of lese-majeste in connection with opinion polls she took about royal motorcades in 2022.

In a related development, activist Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom has been taken back to prison after two weeks in the Department of Corrections Hospital, despite worrying symptoms related to her 25-day hunger strike, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)

A lawyer who visited Netiporn on Thursday said she had vomited blood many times, was jaundiced and was very tired.

Netiporn, 28, has been detained since Jan 26. She has said she too is protesting to call for reform of the justice process and an end to imprisoning people because of political differences.

She was sentenced to one month in the Central Women’s Correctional Institution for contempt of court in connection with a protest that turned into a scuffle with guards outside the Bangkok South Criminal Court on Oct 19, 2023. She and others had gone there to show support for another activist sentenced to jail for lese-majeste.

Netiporn, who is also facing a charge of lese-majeste under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, had her bail revoked in a separate ruling arising from a protest she staged at the Ministry of Culture on Aug 6, 2023.

According to data from TLHR to Jan 31 this year, 1,947 people have been prosecuted for political participation and expression since the beginning of the Free Youth protests in July 2020. At least 263 are facing lese-majeste charges under Section 112 and 147 have been charged with sedition under Section 116.

A total of 26 people are now behind bars in connection with political cases that are still making their way through the system, according to TLHR.

Nine cases under Section 116 came before the courts in December and all were dismissed.

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