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Activist lawyer contracts Covid-19 in prison

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Activiets lawyer Arnon Nampa has been infected with Covid-19 in prison. (via Wikimedia)

Arnon Nampa, an activist lawyer in jail without bail since February on lese majeste charges has been infected with Covid-19, according to his Facebook page. An anonymous source at the Corrections Department confirmed with Reuters that Arnon had tested positive yesterday and has been sent to the prison hospital for treatment. The department later released a press statement confirming the activist he had Covid-19.

Held without bail for more than 3 months, Arnon has been a leader in the pro-democracy demonstration calling for the resignation of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, along with a revision of power for the Thai royal family. The protests had gained momentum last summer and still maintain widespread support though the government has cracked down on marches and demonstrations. They have discouraged political dissent by using the lese majeste law, which carries harsh penalties of up to 15 years in jail for anyone who insults royalty in Thailand.

Arnon, who is 36 years old, confirmed this morning he was being taken to the Medical Correctional Hospital in the Chatuchak District of Bangkok. He has been a key legal advisor who helped activists voice a push for reform that was previously unspeakable in Thailand. Once only whispered in private conversations, the call for reform has now been thrust into the spotlight by student protests.

Thailand has seen several outbreaks of Covid-19 within the prison system throughout the country. Clusters in Narathiwat that later spread to Surat Thani prisons as well, and outbreaks in larger prisons in Chiang Mai and Bangkok have recorded about 475 coronavirus infections within prison walls.

The jailed attorney is one of many protesters and activist leaders who have been held for weeks or months without bail on lese majeste charges. 22 year olds Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul are both on a hunger strike to protest being denied bail multiple times. Penguin was hospitalized last week after his health condition worsened, and there are reports that his trial may be delayed after the activist was exposed to Covid-19 by being held in a cell with a prisoner later confirmed to be infected.

SOURCE: Reuters and Coconuts

 

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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