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Amnesty International demands immediate release of student hunger strikers 

Following reports of visits to detained student activists Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and reports that Parit has been on a hunger strike to demand the right to temporary release or the right to bail since 15 March 2021, and his health has become so frail that he is pale and blood was found in his stools, Amnesty International calls for the Thai authorities to release and drop charges against the activists.

Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Piyanut Kotsan, Director of Amnesty International Thailand, said

“Amnesty International Thailand is gravely concerned about the fatal risk and harm that may claim the lives of the two activists, particularly Parit, who has been on a hunger strike to demand the right to temporary release for 45 days successively. 

“By denying the activists bail without legitimate grounds, it simply reiterates how the Thai authorities do not respect the right to a fair trial. The act also constitutes a breach of the presumption of innocence. According to domestic and international laws, the right to temporary release is such basic right to which all accused in a criminal suit should be entitled.”

“Amnesty International Thailand asserts that the Thai government must release the activists and give them a chance to fight the charges against them fairly. All the prosecutions against activists merely as a result of their exercising freedom of expression and participating in the political assemblies since last year must end.”

Background

Protest leaders and participants in the anti-government assemblies since 2020 are facing prosecution. According to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), as of March 2021, at least 581 individuals have been charged for participating in such assemblies and expressing themselves politically in 268 cases. 

At least 88 of them are also accused of violating the Penal Code’s Section 112 in 81 cases. Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul are among protest leaders who have been charged for such offence in at least 20 and nine cases, respectively. The Penal Code’s Section 112 carries up to 15 years of imprisonment and Parit and Panusaya may also face life imprisonment. 

The Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court has dismissed bail application of Parit and Panusaya at least eight and four times, respectively, since they have been indicted and first denied bail on 9 February 2021 for Parit and 8 March for Panusaya. Both have been detained pretrial for 79 and 52 days, respectively even before the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court begins the trial and the witness examination in such cases. It is the most prolonged pretrial detention since the mass demonstration first happened in July 2020. The state has resumed the use of Section 112 against the protesters since November the same year. 

Parit began his hunger strike since 15 March 2021, while Panusaya since 30 March 2021. The hunger strike is their last resort to demand the right to temporary release. At present, at least 12 individuals charged for violating Section 112 are denied such right. They have been remanded during the investigation, detained pending the trial and the appeal of their cases. 

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