Tantawan Tuatulanon and Orawan Phuphong, two Thai anti-monarchist activists aged 21 and 23, are fearless. Referred to, like most Thais, by their nicknames, “Tawan” and “Bam” have been on hunger strike since January 18. Hospitalized onJanuary 24in a civilian hospital on the outskirts of Bangkok, they have agreed to receive mineral salts and water in recent days but have had their lawyer say on Wednesday February 8 that they will resume a dry diet within three days , without water nor of course food, if their requests were not satisfied.
These are three in number: a commitment by political parties to amend or abolish the very strict lèse-majesté law, under which they were both charged last year; the release on bail of a dozen pro-democracy activists awaiting trial for various so-called “political” crimes (sedition, lèse-majesté or “computer” offences), but to whom the judges stubbornly refuse conditional freedom as provided for in the law ; and finally, nothing less than the establishment of a justice “truly independent”.
“Save the lives of the two activists”
These claims embarrass the government of Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the former putschist general who became prime minister and candidate for re-election in the next legislative elections, expected by May. The latter announced on February 6, through one of his ministers, that he had instructed the police and members of the administration to“pay the utmost attention” to the fate of the two strikers.
The two main opposition parties, the powerful Pheu Thai, linked to the clan of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Move Forward party, the progressive formation of urban and educated youth, submitted a motion to urgency in the House of Representatives to “discuss measures to save the lives of the two activists”. Move Forward has already proposed several times to reform the lèse-majesté law, whose party wishes to limit the penalties incurred in the event of violation to one year in prison and a fine when it comes to the king, and six months for the queen or crown prince.
“That the two activists had the courage to challenge the legitimacy of the judicial system, it touched many Thais”, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, scholar and activist in exile
The current article 112 of the Penal Code governing lèse-majesté punishes “whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir apparent or regent” imprisonment for three to fifteen years. But each penalty is cumulative: thus, at the end of January,Mongkhon Thirakot, a 29-year-old Thai man who owns an online clothing sales site in Chiang Rai, was sentenced to 28 years in prison for 14 acts of defamation of the monarchy, mainly on Facebook.