Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, a co-leader of the Ratsadon group, has told the court he will be on a hunger strike until all people accused of royal insult and other political charges are allowed bail during the dramatic first meeting of parties to the cases at the Criminal Court in Bangkok.
The court ordered another meeting in camera in the afternoon.
The meeting on Monday was for two merged cases indicted separately. Both involved the youth-led demonstration on Sept 19-20 last year at Sanam Luang, where the Ratsadon plaque had been embedded.
Of the 22 defendants, nine have already been detained. Seven of the detainees were charged with lese majeste and their bail requests have been repeatedly denied.
They are Arnon Nampa, Mr Parit, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem who are held at Bangkok Remand Prison. Jatupat “Pai” Boontararaksa, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Piyarat "Toto" Chongthep are detained at Thon Buri Prison. Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul is held at the Central Women Correctional Institution.
Around 50-60 people, including staff from embassies and international organisations, observed the meeting.
According to Pathomporn Kaewnoo from the Thai Lawyers for Human rights who was there, Mr Parit read a statement he had prepared, which in part criticised court roles in the conflict.
The judge interrupted him and said if he insisted on giving a statement, the court would order a meeting in camera alone with the defendant.
The judge then ordered the defendants out of the courtroom and suspended the meeting.
But before anyone left, Mr Parit got on a chair and continued to read his statement, which urged that “truths” be proven instead of being imprisoned.
He said he would be on a hunger strike and would consume only water, sweet drinks and milk until the court comes to its senses and return the right to bail to the accused in all lese majeste and political cases.
As bailiffs and guards rushed to take him out, Ms Panusaya walked up to embrace her friend. Their supporters then encircled them with locked arms, enabling him to finish his statement amid the applause of some. (continued below)
Arrested anti-government protester Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul reacts upon arrival at the Criminal Court. (Reuters photo)
Mr Somyot, another defendant, also told his lawyer the trial could not go on because he and other co-defendants could not fight it. He claimed he could not even read the charges in peace and urged everyone should be allowed bail so they could fight the case fairly.
Earlier, the lawyers of some of the detainees questioned the legitimacy of their places of detention.
The Corrections Department took Mr Piyarat, Mr Jatupat and Mr Panupong to be detained at Thon Buri Remand Prison although the court ordered them kept at Bangkok Remand Prison.
Their lawyers claimed it affected their right to fight the case and other rights since it is not convenient for their lawyers and relatives to visit.
Their lawyers petitioned the Criminal Court which on Thursday ordered that they be sent to Bangkok Remand Prison.
Those already detained at Bangkok Remand Prison were kept in separate wings, but it was later found Mr Parit was kept in the wing of convicts, which is unconstitutional since his case has yet to begin.
Corrections officials later explained Mr Parit was in the convicts wing due to congestion problems.space
Arrested anti-government protest leader Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa shows a three-finger salute as he arrives at the Criminal Court. (Reuters photo)