Govt offers leniency for political prisoners as hunger-strikers hospitalised
Bail release or non-prison detention will be considered for political prisoners who show no sign of fleeing, the justice minister told Parliament on Wednesday.
Minister Somsak Thepsutin was responding to opposition questions about the deteriorating health of two young jailed female activists.
Twenty-year-old Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong, 23, launched a hunger strike last month to demand the release of all political prisoners and the repeal of lese majeste and sedition laws.
At least 1,888 people have been prosecuted for political activity since the latest wave of youth-led pro-democracy protests began in 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.
Tantawan and Orawan were charged with defaming the royal family after they conducted a public opinion poll on royal motorcades. They revoked their own bail on January 16 and began a hunger strike. On January 20 they were sent to the Department of Corrections hospital after their conditions deteriorated.
Somsak said the two were recently transferred to Thammasat University Hospital suffering critical symptoms after each losing over 10 kilos in body weight.
“It touched me deeply that young persons are so determined to risk their lives,” he said on Wednesday, thanking the opposition for bringing the issue to the attention of the House.
“I believe we have made the right decision, and the two activists have agreed to the transfer,” he said.
“I am happy that they have now agreed to drink water, which will help prolong their lives and give us time to solve the problem.”
Somsak said his ministry will hold talks with the National Human Rights Commission and related agencies to address problems in justice system, especially when it comes to granting bail to those awaiting trial. The ministry will also set up a fund to help those who cannot afford bail, he added.