In Thailand, Netiporn Sanehsankhom, a pro-democracy activist on hunger strike, has died

A Thai democracy activist, detained on lese majeste charges while awaiting trial, died following a hunger strike, the prison administration said on Tuesday (May 14)

In Thailand, Netiporn Sanehsankhom, a pro-democracy activist on hunger strike, has died

A Thai democracy activist, detained on lese majeste charges while awaiting trial, died following a hunger strike, the prison administration said on Tuesday (May 14).

Netiporn Sanehsankhom, 28, “suffered cardiac arrest on Tuesday morning and did not respond to treatment,” announced the public agency in charge of detentions. “She died peacefully at 11:22 a.m. [local time, 6:22 a.m. Paris],” the statement said.

The young activist, known in Thailand as “Bung” (“caterpillar”), belonged to the ThaluWang protest group, which emerged in 2020 at the height of demonstrations demanding a sweeping overhaul of the monarchy.

Since then, the leaders of the movement have suffered repression from the authorities, in the name of the contested law on lèse-majesté which punishes up to fifteen years in prison for any defamation targeting the king or his family.

Human rights associations have denounced the misuse of this text for political purposes, in order to gag any voice of opposition to a system still dominated by the military-royalist establishment.

“A shocking reminder”

Netiporn Sanehsankhom was detained in January as part of lèse-majesté proceedings launched following a public poll she organized in 2022 on the importance of the royal procession.

She began a hunger strike shortly afterward, demanding justice reform and the release of political detainees, and was then transferred to a hospital. Two Thai political prisoners are currently on hunger strike, according to a collective of lawyers for human rights (TLHR).

The Thai branch of human rights group Amnesty International described Netiporn Sanehsankhom's death as "a shocking reminder that Thai authorities are denying activists their right to temporary release on bail and using detention to silence peaceful expression of their dissidence. »

The popular opposition party Move Forward, which has also campaigned for reform of the monarchy, issued a statement saying people should not be imprisoned for their political views and that people accused of political offenses should be released on bail.

Between the outbreak of pro-democracy protests in July 2020 and February 2024, more than 270 people were accused of violating the lèse-majesté law, TLHR said.