Protest leader and co-founder of the Ratsadon pro-democracy group, Parit Chiwarak, has threatened to go on hunger strike if fellow activists charged with lèse majesté offences are not released. Thailand’s lèse majesté law, officially known as section 112 of the Criminal Code, prohibits criticising, insulting, or otherwise defaming the monarchy. A number of activists have been hit with the charge for their roles in anti-government protests that have been taking place – primarily in Bangkok – since July last year.
Parit, also known by his nickname, “Penguin”, was speaking at the end of a hearing at the Criminal Court in Bangkok yesterday. The hearing concerned the protests of September 19 and 20 at Sanam Luang, in the capital. 7 activists have been charged with lèse majesté and have had multiple bail requests turned down.
The Bangkok Post reports that activist and human rights lawyer, Anon Nampa, is being held alongside Parit at Bangkok Remand Prison, as are fellow activists Somyot Pruksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem. Jatupat “Pai” Boontararaksa, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep are in custody at Thon Buri Prison, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka, “Rung”, is detained at the Central Women Correctional Institution. If convicted of lèse majesté offences, they could face up to 15 years in prison.
There were around 50 to 60 people in attendance at yesterday’s hearing, including staff from various international organisations and embassies. Also in attendance was Pathomporn Kaewnoo from the organisation, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. Chaos erupted in the courtroom following Parit’s hunger strike threat, which was part of a wider address criticising the court’s role in the conflict.
As Parit attempted to continue speaking, the judge adjourned the hearing, ordering a private session for later that day. Before anyone could leave however, Parit stood on a chair to continue his address, calling for the truth to be told. He then threatened to go on hunger strike unless the activists were granted bail, as is usually the case with those facing lèse majesté charges.
His fellow activist, Panusaya, hugged him and he was then surrounded by supporters who locked arms around him, allowing him to finish his speech to applause.
SOURCE: Bangkok Post
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