Thai Pro-Democracy Activist on Hunger Strike Hospitalized

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Bangkok
2021-04-30
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Thai Pro-Democracy Activist on Hunger Strike Hospitalized Sureerat Chiwarak, mother of jailed Thai protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak who has been on a weeks-long hunger strike, attends a demonstration outside the Criminal Court building in Bangkok, April 30, 2021.
Reuters

Parit Chiwarak, a jailed student leader of the Thai pro-democracy movement who has been on a weeks-long hunger strike, was sent to a hospital late Friday where he was being force fed through a tube, the corrections department said.

His mother, Sureerat Chiwarak, shaved her head in front of the Criminal Court building in Bangkok after judges again turned down her request that Parit, who is known as “Penguin,” be released on bail on humanitarian grounds. The court turned down a similar request on Thursday.

“Doctors and nurses were concerned that he could go into shock so they agreed that he should be admitted to a hospital outside prison to receive treatment from an expert doctor,” Thawatchai Chaiyawat, deputy director-general of the Department of Corrections, said in a Facebook post.

Thawatchai’s post noted that Parit, who started his hunger strike 46 days ago, has seen his weight drop from 107 kg (236 lbs.) to 94.5 kg (208 lbs.).

“His body could not recover because he has not been eating and could not drink enough electrolyte drinks,” Thawatchai said.

“Parit was sent for a treatment at Ramathibodi Hospital and he was fed through a tube.”

Parit’s transfer to the hospital came nearly two weeks after Sureerat, on April 19, asked the court to free her son from jail so he could be hospitalized.

Parit, who appeared at that hearing in a wheelchair, told the court that his inability to be released on bail hurt his efforts to gather evidence for his defense.

At the hearing, attorneys with Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a legal aid group, said Sureerat offered to produce 200,000 baht (U.S. $6,400) if her son were granted bail on what was then his 11th application, so he could get hospital treatment. The court rejected the offer as it has done for all requests.

After appearing in court on Friday to ask that her son be granted temporary release, Sureerat said she was making a symbolic gesture by shaving her head in front of the courthouse.

“My son is sacrificing what he loves and I am letting go of something that I love as well. I will start with shaving my hair,” told reporters. “When the people see me walking around with a bald head, which may be ugly, please know that this injustice is happening in Thailand and it is even uglier than this.”

TLHR lawyer Noraset Nanongtoom told reporters that another attorney visited Parit and said he was in bad shape – leading his group to apply for an urgent hearing on a bail request.

Hearing scheduled

TLHR announced the court scheduled a bail hearing on May 6 for Parit and fellow activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, who began her own hunger strike on March 31. The lawyers said both activists would be present for the hearing.

The court previously did not announce dates for bail hearings.

“We are comparing this case to the reasoning behind the release of Pai and Somyot who were released on bail, Noraset said, referring to Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa and Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, who were released on bail on April 23.

While Pai and Somyot were freed after the court ruled there was no sufficient reason to deny their request, Parit and 16 other pro-democracy activists remain behind bars. One other protester was released on bail as well.

The 20 activists have been charged under Article 112, Thailand’s strict royal defamation law, which is known as Lese-Majeste. Parit and six other activists were charged in February over a November protest at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Authorities have filed at least 86 charges of violating Lese-Majeste, including 79 against those activists linked to the protests. Each conviction carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

Since their first rally in mid-July 2020, thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have protested for three demands to be addressed – for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to step down, for the Constitution to be amended and for the monarchy to be reformed. Their three-fingered salute, borrowed from The Hunger Games movies, is a symbol for these demands.

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