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HOME // National News // Young Thai pro-democracy activist ‘Bung’ dies in custody

Young Thai pro-democracy activist ‘Bung’ dies in custody

“How many times will the courts allow deaths like these to happen…?”

A young Thai pro-democracy activist, accused of insulting the Thai monarchy, has died in detention after a prolonged hunger strike. 28 year old Netiporn “Bung” Sanesangkhom passed away yesterday morning after her heart “stopped suddenly,” according to officials.

‘Bung’, a member of a youth movement advocating for royal reforms and changes to the Thai Constitution , had been in detention since January 26, facing seven charges, including two for lese-majeste, a law that criminalises criticism of the royal family.

She began her hunger strike the day after her detention, initially accepting only water and resuming food intake in April.

Attending medics, first in the Correctional Centre where she was detained, and then at the Thammasart University Medical Centre where she was transferred, confirm that doctors tried CPR for five hours to revive the 28 year old. They also confirmed that ‘Bung’ went into cardiac arrest at 6.20am yesterday morning.

Bung’s demands, since 2020, included reforming Thailand’s justice system and revising the lese-majeste law. Initially detained for contempt of court, Bung had her bail revoked in a separate lese-majeste case. She faced up to 15 years in prison for each lese-majeste charge, one of which involved seeking public opinions on royal motorcade disruptions.

Thailand’s lese-majeste laws are among the strictest globally. Since 2020, around 260 charges have been filed under this law, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. Earlier this year, a man received a 50-year sentence under these laws, the longest ever recorded.

Sanesangkhom, a judge’s daughter and former tutor, had previously gone on a 64-day hunger strike in 2022, leading to her release along with a fellow activist from the Thaluwang group.

Her health deteriorated during her latest hunger strike, leading to her transfer to a prison hospital. Despite suffering from anemia, she refused vitamins and electrolytes offered by the prison. Her heart stopped early on Tuesday, and after several hours of attempts to revive her, she was declared dead at a nearby hospital.

The Move Forward Party posted yesterday that it “firmly believes that rights, liberty and freedom of expression should be granted to all people in a democracy”.

Another MP Rukchanok Srinork, and currently on bail for a lese-majeste conviction herself, highlighted that other detained activists are also on hunger strike, demanding their rights.

“How many times will the courts allow deaths like these to happen until they’re satisfied?”

David Daly, the EU ambassador to Thailand, along with the Embassies of the US, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden posted that they were “saddened by the passing” of ‘Bung’.

Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome attended a spontaneous candlelight vigil in Bangkok that attracted several hundred people. He raised a three-finger salute in a tribute to the young activist.

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