Thai student protest leader granted bail after 50-day hunger strike


A court in Thailand granted bail on Tuesday to a prominent democracy protest leader facing royal defamation charges amid his deteriorating health following a hunger strike that lasted more than 50 days.

The court agreed to the release of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, on the conditions that he remain in Thailand, attend court hearings when summoned, refrain from damaging the monarchy and activities that create unrest.

Parit had been remanded in custody since March when authorities indicted him under Thailand’s strict lèse majesté laws and in late April he was transferred to a hospital after losing 12 kilograms.

The university student faces 20 lese majeste charges for his role in last year’s demonstrations against the Thai government, which called for reforms to the country’s monarchy.

On granting him bail on Tuesday, a criminal court statement said: “Parit has made a statement with free will that if he gets bail he will not carry out any action to dishonour the monarchy and will not attend any activity causing unrest. He will not leave the country unless the court gives permission”.

Late on Tuesday night Parit left the Klong Prem maximum security prison in an ambulance, accompanied by his mother, and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “monarchy reform”.

He gave a three-fingered salute – a symbol of resistance – out the window of the vehicle, which was expected to take him to a Bangkok hospital for further medical treatment.

Before his release he was hit with a further arrest warrant for a separate criminal charge, but was granted bail.

Musician Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan was also granted bail over two royal defamation charges he faces. He also gave a three-finger salute as he was driven away from the prison.

A bail hearing Tuesday for a third activist – Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who is facing eight royal defamation charges – has been postponed because he is at risk of developing a coronavirus infection after coming in close contact with a positive case.

Eighty-six people from the democracy movement have fallen foul of Thailand’s royal defamation laws since July last year and are awaiting trial. Those convicted can be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail per charge.

Student-led protests in Bangkok last year drew tens of thousands of people at their peak but the near daily rallies have petered out as Thailand grapples with a third wave of coronavirus infections and tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

Another student leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, more commonly known by her nickname Rung, was freed from custody last week. She faces nine charges of insulting the monarchy.

Another high-profile protest leader, human rights lawyer Anon Numpa, who is facing 12 charges, has been unable to apply for bail while he recovers from a coronavirus infection in a hospital. (Source: CNA)