Hunger striking activists denied bail despite declining health

Monarchy reform activists Nutthanit and Netiporn, who are being held in pre-trial detention on royal defamation charges, have once again been denied bail despite being hospitalized after collapsing during a witness examination hearing from severe pain and fatigue from their hunger strike.

Nutthanit collapsed during a witness examination hearing from severe pain and fatigue and was taken to the nearby Lerdsin Hospital. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Nutthanit and Netiporn have been held in pre-trial detention since 3 May when their bail was revoked by the South Bangkok Criminal Court, which claimed that they violated their bail conditions by causing public disorder by participating in another poll on land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 gathered 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.

Nutthanit and Netiporn have been on a hunger strike for the past 48 days to demand the right to bail. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that they were taken to court on 18 July for a witness examination hearing. Nutthanit was severely fatigued and was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. Their lawyers were also told by corrections officers that no doctor or nurse came to court with the two activists, since the prison hospital does not have enough personnel.

TLHR also said that Nutthanit could not communicate and was leaning on Netiporn at all times, and that both are so severely fatigued that they could not sign their testimony. While their lawyers negotiated with the court to have the witness examination postponed, Netiporn said she had a severe stomach ache, while Nutthanit lost consciousness. Their lawyers therefore asked that they are taken to the nearest hospital, but correction officers insisted that they had to be taken to the Medical Correctional Institution.

After the activists’ lawyers told the court that the two activists need immediate medical attention, and therefore cannot wait to get to the Medical Correctional Institution, the judge summoned the court’s volunteer medic into the courtroom to examine them. The medic said that the activists should be seen by a doctor as soon as possible, so the judge had them taken to the nearby Lerdsin Hospital.

 

At Lerdsin Hospital, Nutthanit and Netiporn were taken to the emergency room, where Netiporn was diagnosed with an inflammation in the stomach or pancreas. However, doctors at the emergency room said that they do not need to be admitted to hospital, and that they should be examined by a forensic medicine specialist, which the hospital does not have. The correction officers then said that, if Nutthanit and Netiporn were taken to the Medical Correctional Institution, they would bring in a specialist from the Police Hospital to examine them. The two activists were then transferred to the Medical Correctional Institution in an ambulance.

Netiporn was taken to Lerdsin Hospital after she collapsed during the witness examination hearing from the effects of her hunger strike. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

TLHR reported that Netiporn told her lawyer during their visit on Tuesday morning (19 July) that, while at Lerdsin Hospital, she heard a corrections officer speaking on the phone and it sounded like they were being pressured to return to the prison hospital. She said that the officer told the person on the phone that they were on their way back, but that they were being blocked. She said that a doctor at the Medical Correctional Institution wanted to have her admitted, as the result of her blood test showed that she has low potassium levels, but when she asked if Nutthanit also had to be admitted, the doctor said no, although Nutthanit’s hands and legs were shaking and her nails were turning purple.

The two activists refused to be treated by the Medical Correctional Institution, so they were taken back to the Women Central Correctional Institution. Netiporn told her lawyer that Nutthanit had no energy, but they still had to undergo physical examination before going back to their cell. She said that four people were holding Nutthanit and taking off her clothes to examine her. Nutthanit also told her lawyer that she asked the prison officials not to take off her underwear because she was on her period, but they did anyway, causing blood stains all over her legs. She told the lawyer that she would like this to be reported as she does not wish to be repeatedly violated.

They spent Tuesday night at the prison infirmary. TLHR reported that other inmates working at the infirmary had to carry Nutthanit up to the second floor, and that her blood pressure was found to be lower than normal, even though doctors at Lerdsin Hospital said her blood pressure was normal.

While they were at Lerdsin Hospital, Nutthanit and Netiporn’s lawyers filed another bail request for them on the grounds that their condition is critical and that they need to receive immediate medical attention, otherwise their lives could be in danger. The court ordered the lawyers to return to court on Tuesday (19 July) for the ruling.

On Tuesday (19 July), the South Bangkok Criminal Court denied bail for Nutthanit and Netiporn, claiming that their physical examination report shows that their health is normal. The order denying them bail was signed by judge Santi Chukitsappaisan, Research Justice of the Supreme Court, temporarily acting as the Deputy Chief Justice of the South Bangkok Criminal Court.

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