Thai political activist, 28, detained on royal defamation charge dies in custody while on hunger strike

Netiporn was detained on a royal defamation charge since January.

Keyla Supharta | May 16, 2024, 02:54 PM



A 28-year-old political activist from Thailand detained on a charge of royal defamation died while on hunger strike on Tuesday (May 14) in a prison hospital, Khaosod reported.

According to Khaosod, Netiporn appears to be the first political activist in Thailand to have died while on a hunger strike.

Detained since Jan. 26, 2024

"Bung" Netiporn Sanesangkhom was a key member of an antimonarchical activist group named Talu Wang, which translates to "shattering the palace".

The group consist of mostly young people in their 20s and are known for their bold campaigns demanding reforms of the monarchy and the removal of the Lese Majeste law, which makes it illegal to defame members of the royal family.

The Lese Majeste law penalises any criticism of the monarchy and carries a maximum of 15 years in prison for each charge.

Netiporn herself was detained since Jan. 26, 2024, on Lese Majeste charges for conducting an opinion survey on public's inconvenience caused by royal motorcades, Khaosod English, Bangkok Post and Aljazeera reported.

The opinion survey was conducted at Paragon Mall, where Netiporn and another activist held up a poll sign asking the public if the royal procession caused trouble, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Stickers were distributed to people passing by to encourage them to participate in the poll.

Netiporn's request for bail was rejected due to concerns that she would flee.

According to the Bangkok Post, Nepitone is one of the 262 people facing Lese Majeste charges.

The court sometimes denies bail for individuals deemed likely to re-offend or challenge the system when released from custody.

Began hunger strike after she was detained

Netiporn began a hunger strike to protest against individuals prosecuted for political cases after she was detained in January.

The Department of Corrections reported that she started eating and drinking again after Apr. 4, but the human rights lawyer group alleged that as of Apr. 25, Netiporn was still fasting.

Netiporn's lawyers reportedly requested for the 28-year-old activist to be transferred from the Central Corrections Hospital to Thammasat University Hospital. However, she was never granted a prolonged stay at the Thammasat University Hospital for treatment, Khaosod reported, citing Netiporn's lawyer, Kritsadang Nutcharas.

Netiporn passed away at 11:22am on May 14 from cardiac arrest.

Renewed calls for reforms to judicial system

Netiporn's death has raised questions concerning the practices of the Department of Corrections, and demands for an investigation into her death for transparency.

It also raises renewed calls for reforms to the judicial system.

Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Chaithawat Tulathon told Nikkei Asia that his party will be prioritising amnesty for imprisoned political activists.

Chaithawat said it is working with a committee to put forward recommendations for amnesty by the end of the year to the parliament.

MFP won the most number of seats in parliament and garnered over 14 million votes in the country's 2023 General Elections.

The MFP, formerly led by Pita Limjaroenrat, had proposed to amend the Lese Majeste law during the election.

Calls to disband MFP

On Jan. 31, 2024, the Constitutional Court ordered the MFP to cease all attempts of amending or abolishment of the law.

On Mar. 12, 2024, the Thailand's election commission said that it would ask the Thailand Constitutional Court to disband MFP, following the party's efforts to push for the amendment or abolishment of the "Lese Majeste" monarchy law, or the royal defamation law.

Speaking to Nikkei Asia, Chaithawat said the party has established an alternative party that is prepared to accommodate its 151 members of parliament should the court issue a ruling to dissolve the party in the upcoming weeks.

"Boong passed away from hunger strike because of the injustice that political prisoners charged with 112 (Lese Majeste law) have no right to bail," Chaithawat told Nikkei Asia.

"What we can do is to change the process so that bail can be granted at the police and prosecutor level without going to the courts."

Top image via @prachatai_en/X and @TOPXNews/X.