Hunger-striker's father presses for her release

Hunger-striker's father presses for her release

Pledges to persuade activist ‘Tawan’ to steer clear of political activity if bail is approved

Student activist Tantawan Tuatulanon, facing charges linked to an incident during a royal motorcade on Feb 4, is taken to the Criminal Court on Feb 14. (Photo supplied)
Student activist Tantawan Tuatulanon, facing charges linked to an incident during a royal motorcade on Feb 4, is taken to the Criminal Court on Feb 14. (Photo supplied)

The father of hunger-striking activist Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon has promised he will persuade her to steer clear of any political activities if she is granted bail.

Sommai Tuatulanon made the comment as he filed a third bail request with the Criminal Court on Saturday for his 22-year-old daughter, who has been remanded in custody on charges linked to an incident during a royal motorcade on Feb 4.

Mr Sommai said his bail request also extended to his daughter’s 23-year-old co-accused Natthanon “Frank” Chaimahabut. The pair face charges of sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, computer crime, a Traffic Act violation for honking their car horn, and insulting officers.

The initial 12-day detention period for the duo is scheduled to end on Sunday, and the court will decide whether to extend it, as requested by the police, or grant them bail as requested by Ms Tantawan’s father.

Mr Sommai said that if the court approved the bail request, he would see to it that Ms Tantawan steers clear of any political campaigns and resumes her university studies.

Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon have been on a hunger strike since they were ordered detained on Feb 14, and their conditions have deteriorated.

Mr Sommai said he visited his daughter at Thammasat University Hospital on Friday and found she was thin and limited to whispering hoarsely. Mr Natthanon was also in a bad shape, suffering from severe dehydration and malnutrition.

Both were too weak to even pass on a message to their supporters, he said.

On Feb 4, Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon, with the latter behind the wheel, were on their way back from the funeral of a fellow member of the Thalu Wang activist group when they came across the royal motorcade on an expressway.

Their encounter with the motorcade was coincidental, Mr Sommai said, adding the pair had no intention to cause any disturbance since there was no way they could have known the motorcade was passing that way.

Also, Mr Sommai said a motorcade would typically drive at a high speed, and the pair’s car would not have been able to keep up.

Although he admitted the pair exhibited aggressive behaviour and were verbally hostile towards security officers, he said they would not have been capable of doing harm to anyone under the circumstances.

If the two had been violent, officers at the scene would have been able to take measures to control the situation, Mr Sommai added.

A few days after the motorcade incident, Ms Tantawan attempted to conduct a public opinion survey about motorcades outside Siam Paragon shopping centre. The event attracted 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.

Arjaree Srisunakrua, acting director of the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, said Ms Tantawan’s current condition was not critical. Her blood sugar level, pulse and blood pressure were normal.

She is under close observation at Thammasat University Hospital and will be returned to detention once her condition improves, said Ms Arjaree.

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.

She 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. (Story continues below)

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)

A third Thalu Wang (through the palace) activist, Netiporn “Bung” Saneysangkhom, has been on a hunger strike for 29 days to seek the release of people held on political charges. She is now in the Department of Corrections Hospital. Ms Arjaree said she was lethargic but could still perform simple tasks by herself.

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

Netiporn, 28, has been detained since Jan 26. 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, had her bail revoked in a separate ruling arising from another protest she staged at the Ministry of Culture on Aug 6, 2023.

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