Demonstrator dies during march for political detainees

Demonstrator dies during march for political detainees

Third detainee starts hunger strike, two others in critical condition in hospital

Pairote Chotesriphanphorn collapsed and died during a political demonstration at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo: Oil Sitthichai Facebook account)
Pairote Chotesriphanphorn collapsed and died during a political demonstration at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo: Oil Sitthichai Facebook account)

A demonstrator on Sunday passed out and was later pronounced dead after joining a march to the Criminal Court in Bangkok to demand the temporary release of political detainees and suspects imprisoned for lese majeste charges.

The dead man was identified as Pairote Chotesriphanphorn. He was marching with other demonstrators from the Ratchayothin intersection to the nearby Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road to demand the right of political and lese majeste detainees to temporary release.

Eyewitnesses said that after reaching the court, the man sat down to rest at a bus stop in front of the building and then collapsed onto the ground. He was rushed to Rajavithi Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Leading the rally, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa said the group had come out to support two young women who have been on a hunger strike for 11 days to press for their temporary release.

Tantawan Tuatulanon, 20, and Orawan Phuphong, 23, have been refusing food, water and most medical intervention and are in critical condition in Thammasat University Hospital.

Mr Jatupat, a veteran activist also known as Pai Dao Din, said a third detainee had also begun to refuse food on Sunday to demand his release on bail.

Food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet was found guilty on Jan 17 of defaming the royal family, arson, destruction of property and violation of the Emergency Decree. He was sentenced to two years and four months in prison. Sitthichok was found to have set fire to a portrait at a royal ceremonial arch in Bangkok during a protest on July 18, 2021. He has been detained pending an appeal.

The three hunger strikers are demanding reform of the justice system and the right to bail for suspects and defendants in cases concerning politics and freedom of expression. Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan are also pressing for abolition of the lese majeste and sedition laws.

A lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said 12 political detainees were seeking temporary release, while another four have declined to do so. The four included Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan.

Ms Tantawan and Ms Orawan are facing royal defamation charges under Section 112 of the Criminal Code for taking a public poll last year about 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 two days later.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed concern about the hunger strike and called on all sides to urgently find a resolution to prevent possible loss of life.

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