Two young Thai activists in serious condition after staging hunger strike over lèse-majesté law

Two Thai activists are reportedly in serious condition after staging a hunger strike over Thailand’s lèse-majesté law.

The young women activists, 21 year old Tantawan Tuatulanon “Tawan,” and 23 year old Orawan Phupong “Bam,” were accused of insulting the monarchy after holding up a poster in a mall that allegedly defamed the monarchy. The poster’s writing asked whether people thought the royal motorcade created trouble for the country’s residents since it created road blockages and traffic jams.

According to The Guardian, Tawan and Bam are on strike to demand the lese majeste law be repealed, along with other changes that include the courts allowing activists to be released on bail.

Both of them started refusing water and food on Saturday, January 18, 2023 and were both hospitalised two days later.

Their lawyer, Kunthika Nutcharut, says they are now very tired, weak and thin. She says one of the girls’ lips has dead skin falling off.

Thammasat University Hospital, where the girls are staying, issued a statement that said Tawan was sipping water and had not eaten. It says she cannot sleep and has only a small amount of urine due to being dehydrated. She is also experiencing bleeding gums, and nosebleeds and had gas pain in her stomach and chest pains.

Bam is also reported to be weak, with headaches, dry lips, gas in her stomach and chest pain. The hospital says she is receiving potassium replacements and is sipping water but has also not eaten.

A doctor has assessed each person and has stated that they both understand the risks attached to their hunger strike. Their lawyer also issued a statement regarding their awareness.

“[It found] these girls, they know perfectly well the risk of losing their life.”

She added that both were willing to risk their lives if it led to legal and democratic reform. She says they are motivated by a desire to help other political prisoners.

“They are simple, humble people…They’re not pretentious. It’s very simple for them.”

In response, the Thai justice ministry issued a statement yesterday. It says it would consider issues relating to the release of prisoners, such as the use of house arrest in cases where a person was awaiting trial. It was offering support for those who needed to pay bail money through its justice fund.

The National Human Rights Commission would also produce a report about human rights issues relating to the current legal system.

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Ann Carter

Ann Carter is an award-winning journalist from the United States with over 12 years experience in print and broadcast news. Her work has been featured in America, China and Thailand as she has worked internationally at major news stations as a writer and producer. Carter graduated from the Walter Williams Missouri School of Journalism in the USA.

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