Jailed activist weakened by hunger strike dies
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Jailed activist weakened by hunger strike dies

Netiporn ‘Bung’ Sanesangkhom had been seeking right to bail for people accused of political offences

Netiporn ‘Boong’ Sanesangkhom, a judge's daughter and tutor turned political activist, died on Tuesday at Thammasat University Hospital, Bangkok, from the effects of a prolonged hunger strike. (Photo: Talu Wang Facebook Page)
Netiporn ‘Boong’ Sanesangkhom, a judge's daughter and tutor turned political activist, died on Tuesday at Thammasat University Hospital, Bangkok, from the effects of a prolonged hunger strike. (Photo: Talu Wang Facebook Page)

Jailed activist Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, 28, was pronounced dead at Thammasat University Hospital late Tuesday morning, over three months after she had started a dry hunger strike.

Netiporn, a core leader of the Thalu Wang protest group, had been imprisoned at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Chatuchak district since Jan 26, having had her bail revoked in connection with a charge of lese-majeste.

She had been sentenced on the same day to one month behind bars 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 royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code.

The lese-majeste charge the former tutor was facing stemmed from her participation in an opinion survey on royal motorcades in February 2022. Her bail revocation was connected to a protest she staged at the Ministry of Culture on Aug 6, 2023. 

The day after she was sent to prison, Netiporn began a hunger strike to demand reform of the justice system and an end to the imprisonment of people prosecuted for political cases.

As she refused food and water, as well as most medication and medical intervention, her condition gradually deteriorated and she was moved from the prison to the Central Correctional Hospital in early February. She was subsequently sent to Thammasat University Hospital for more treatment before being transferred back to the prison hospital.

In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Corrections said that after Netiporn returned to the prison hospital, she started taking food and water normally.

According to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Netiporn was taken back to the prison hospital in early April. The department did not specify when she began consuming food and water again.

However, she was suffering from weakness and slightly swollen legs, anaemia and low minerals. She also refused to take minerals and medication for her blood, it said.

Netiporn had a heart attack at the Central Correctional Hospital just after 6am on Tuesday, the department said. Doctors immediately began resuscitation attempts and arranged for her to be taken to Thammasat University Hospital. She arrived there at 9.30am and was pronounced dead at 11.22am.

Move Forward Party MP Rukchanok Srinork, who is currently free on bail while she appeals a six-year sentence for lese majeste and computer crimes, was among the first public figures to comment on the activist’s passing.

“I would like to express my condolences on the passing of Boong,” she wrote on her X account. “To demand the right to bail is a basic right that people should have while still fighting their case.”

Nattawut Saikuar, a former co-leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, called for the release of other detained youth activists.

“No one should die because they think differently,” he said.

Lawmakers for many months have been debating whether to grant an amnesty for people convicted of political offences dating back nearly two decades. While they are in general agreement on amnesty for those in the yellow- and red-shirt movements, there is considerable resistance to including people convicted under Section 112.

“Deaths like this wouldn’t have happened if the government had tried to do more and be more sincere,” said Lisa Nunarnan, a Move Forward MP and deputy spokesperson.

Two colleagues of Netiporn — Natthanon "Frank" Chaimahabud, and Tantawan "Tawan" Tuatulanon — are also continuing with their hunger strikes, though they reportedly have been accepting some liquids and medications.

They face a charge of sedition arising from an incident on Feb 4 during a motorcade carrying Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

According to data from TLHR to April 30 this year, 1,954 people have been prosecuted for political participation and expression since the beginning of the Free Youth protests in July 2020. At least 272 are facing lese-majeste charges under Section 112 and 152 have been charged with sedition under Section 116.

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