Activists demand probe into prison doctor’s alleged harassment of detained activist

The activist group 24 June Democracy has demanded that the Ministry of Justice investigate a prison doctor’s alleged harassment of Nutthanit (last name withheld), or “Baipor,” a monarchy reform activist currently detained pending trial on a royal defamation charge, while the Department of Corrections claims no harassment took place.

From left: Netiporn and Nutthanit

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said last week that Natthanit told her lawyer that she was threatened by a prison doctor named Chatri, who was performing a physical exam on her and Netiporn, another detained activist. She said that the doctor said to her “If I had a gun, I would…” and imitated a gun with his hand, pointing it at his chin while laughing, and that he told her that prison officials should separate her and Netiporn. She also said that Dr Chatri asked her about personal matters and criticized her on things unrelated to the physical exam he was performing.

On Wednesday (22 June), members of the 24 June Democracy group, led by activists Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, Jetsada Sripleng, and Shinawat Chankrajang, went to the Ministry of Justice to submit a petition calling for the Ministry to investigate Dr Chatri’s behaviour, to release the evidence related to the reported harassment, and for women doctors to be employed to treat inmates in the women’s prison.

The activists also demanded that legislation be amended to prevent judges from ordering the detention of defendants who should be considered innocent until the court has issued a verdict, and that the royal defamation law be amended as it is being used to restrict freedom of expression.

Their petition was received by Deputy Permanent Secretary Sahakarn Petchnarin, who said that the Ministry must make sure that prisons meet global standards, and that the Department of Corrections will not neglect inmates or allow them to die while in detention. He also met and spoke to representatives of the group about their demands.

Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections’ Public Relations Department issued a press release saying that Nutthanit went to see the prison doctor on 16 June for a physical exam and to receive medication for a stomach ache since she is on a hunger strike, and that the doctor on call at the time was Dr Chatri Chongsiriloet.

According to the press release, Dr Chatri spoke to Nutthanit and examine her symptoms, but Nutthanit told the doctor that she will not be receiving treatment and refused medication. The Department of Corrections also said that Dr Chatri claimed that he was testing Nutthanit’s intelligence and cognitive abilities and was asking her why she is on a hunger strike, and that he claimed he did not threaten or harass her. He also told the Department of Corrections that a nurse was present during the examination.

The Department also said that Dr Chatri has been working at the Women’s Central Correctional Institution for 15 years, during which there has never been a complaint against him.

Nutthanit and Netiporn are both monarchy reform activists from the activist group Thaluwang and have been held in pre-trial detention since 3 May when their bail was revoked by the South Bangkok Criminal Court, which claimed that they violated their bail conditions by causing public disorder by participating in another poll on land expropriation on 13 March 2022 at the Victory Monument, during which a small altercation took place between Thaluwang supporters and members of a royalist group gathering nearby.

Nutthanit and Netiporn have been charged with royal defamation, sedition, and refusing to comply with an officer’s order after they conducted a poll on royal motorcades at Siam Paragon shopping mall on 8 February 2022. They were arrested on 28 April 2022 along with activist Supitcha Chailom and charged with royal defamation for conducting a poll on whether people agree with the government allowing the King to use his powers as he pleases.

In addition to the above charges, Nutthanit was arrested on 22 April 2022 and charged with royal defamation and violation of the Computer Crimes Act for sharing a Facebook post about the monarchy budget.

To demand the right to bail for detained activists, Nutthanit and Netiporn have been on hunger strike for the past 22 days. TLHR reported on Wednesday (22 June) that Netiporn was taken to the prison infirmary on Tuesday night (21 June) after her conditions deteriorated. According to TLHR, Nutthanit told their lawyer during their Wednesday morning visit that Netiporn had a stomach ache, and that she was fainting and throwing up.

Nutthanit also told their lawyer that Netiporn has not eaten anything for over a week and has only been drinking water, and that she wanted Netiporn to be released to receive treatment since she has lost 11 – 12 kg in weight and her condition has deteriorated.

TLHR said lawyers requested bail for Nutthanit and Netiporn again today (23 June), but their request was denied. The South Bangkok Criminal Court said that there is still no reason to change existing court order and that, even though the two activists said they suffer from stomach ache and fatigue, the prison infirmary is capable of treating their symptoms. The order was signed by judge Netdao Manotamkij, Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.

TLHR notes that keeping Nutthanit in detention would affect her education. She is currently a student at Thammasat University’s Puey Ungphakorn School of Development Studies and has already missed her final examinations, but has filed a request with her department asking to take the exams at a later date after she has been released. Meanwhile, Netiporn was previously found to have a uterine cyst, and keeping her in detention would deny her medical treatment, possibly affecting her long-term health.

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