Two young Thai political activists end hunger strike

BANGKOK: Two young Thai protesters charged with royal defamation announced on Saturday they would end their marathon hunger strike after doctors feared they could suffer organ failure.

Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon, 21, and Orawan “Bam” Phupong, 23, began their hunger strike on January 18 to urge political parties to support the scrapping of the kingdom’s royal libel laws – one of the toughest in the world.

Wednesday marked the 50th day of the young women’s protest. They were released from custody last month due to deteriorating health.

“Tawan and Bam would like to inform the public that we have ended the hunger strike to save our lives and continue the fight,” Tawan said in a Facebook post on Saturday.

“Medical staff are concerned that our kidneys and other organs will be affected by being without food and water for a long time.”

The Post confirmed they were conscious and able to communicate.

“Even though we passed the danger zone, we still need care from Thammasat Hospital,” Tawan said, adding the couple have urged authorities to release other political activists from custody.

The duo faced royal defamation charges over two separate protests in Bangkok in 2022.

Those convicted face up to 15 years in prison for each charge under a law human rights groups say is used to stifle political dissent.

More than 200 people have been charged with lese-majeste since pro-democracy protests in 2020, including at least 17 minors, according to Thai human rights lawyers.

Bangkok was rocked by these mass protests led by youth, who made unprecedented demands for reform of the Thai monarchy.

Thailand is expected to go to the polls in May.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who came to power in a coup in 2014, has asked the women’s families to monitor their behavior.

Pheu Thai, the country’s main opposition party, has not backed Tantawan and Orawan’s calls for reform and seems reluctant to get tangled up in the highly sensitive issue of the monarchy so close to an election.

A man was sentenced to two years in prison on Tuesday for selling a satirical calendar featuring yellow rubber ducks, which a court said an insult to the king. -AFP Two young Thai political activists end hunger strike

Russell Falcon

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