Thai protest leader hospitalised after 46-day hunger strike

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A Thai anti-government protest leader held in pre-trial detention on charges of insulting the country’s monarchy has been hospitalised following 46 days of a hunger strike, the corrections department said on Friday (Apr 30).

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak has lost more than 12kg and now weighs 94.5kg, the department said in a statement, adding that he was admitted over concerns that he could go into shock if his condition worsened and require specialised care.

His hospitalisation comes a day after the department had said his condition was normal.

Parit’s mother, Sureerat Chiwarak, had on Thursday said that his condition was worsening. His health was a top trending issue on Thailand’s social media.

She sought bail for her son on Friday, the 10th such request, and shaved her head in front of the court to protest what she said was injustice. On Thursday, the court rejected a bail request, saying its previous reasons still applied.

Each perceived insult of Thailand’s monarchy can be punishable by up to 15 years in prison under its lese majeste law.

“I am just a mother who loves her child. My son did not do anything wrong, he only has a different opinion. He has not received justice,” Sureerat said.

The court set a bail hearing for May 6, which Parit’s lawyer Krisadang Nutcharat said was a positive sign because the court previously did not set hearing dates.

Parit emerged as a leader in last year’s youth-led protests against the government of retired general Prayut Chan-o-cha, who seized power from an elected government in a 2014 coup and stayed on as prime minister after a 2019 election.

Protest leaders have also called for reform of the monarchy and the abolition of the lese majeste law. Legal action is being pursued against dozens of demonstrators over those calls.

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