Activist Accused Of Insulting Monarchy In Thailand Dies After Hunger Strike In Detention

Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, 28, was part of a small anti-monarchy group called "Thaluwang," a name that translates to "shattering the palace".

Activist Accused Of Insulting Monarchy In Thailand Dies After Hunger Strike In Detention

Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom (centre), with members of the "Bad Student" group.

Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, a 28-year-old activist affiliated with the anti-monarchy group Thaluwang, passed away in custody on Tuesday. Thaluwang, which translates to "shattering the palace," has been vocal in its criticism of the monarchy through actions like opinion polls and small gatherings.

Sanesangkhom had been detained since January on various charges, including contempt of court and insulting the monarchy, according to the news agency Reuters. Legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that she initially faced a one-month detention for a scuffle with court guards in 2023. However, bail in a separate royal insult case stemming from a 2022 protest was revoked, extending her pre-trial detention.

In protest of the denied bail for political activists, Sanesangkhom embarked on a hunger strike. While she initially refused all food and water for a month, TLHR states that she began consuming water again in late February and started eating in April after being hospitalized due to declining health.

The Department of Corrections announced that Sanesangkhom's heart "stopped suddenly" on Tuesday. Medical personnel attempted resuscitation before transferring her to Thammasat University Hospital where she was pronounced dead. An autopsy will be conducted by the university hospital to determine the official cause of death.

Sanesangkhom faced seven court cases related to her activism, two of which were lese majeste charges. Thailand's lese majeste law, known for its severity, shields the monarchy from criticism and carries a potential 15-year sentence per violation.

TLHR reports that over 272 individuals have been charged with royal insult since 2020, with 17 currently in pre-trial detention. Sanesangkhom's death has reignited discussions surrounding freedom of expression and the use of lese majeste laws in Thailand.Two other activists from the Thaluwang group who have been held in pre-trail detention since February are also on hunger strikes.

Another two other members of the group have fled the country, and remaining members could not be reach for comment.