A food delivery rider accused on a royal defamation charge of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida and detained pending appeal has gone on a hunger strike to protest his own detention.
Sitthichok Sethasavet (Photo from iLaw)
On 17 January, 26-year-old food delivery rider Sitthichok Sethasavet was found guilty of royal defamation, arson, destruction of property, and violation of the Emergency Decree and sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison. He was accused of setting fire to a portrait of King Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida at a royal ceremonial arch on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue during a protest on 18 July 2021, but he said he passed by the protest on his way to deliver an order and was trying to put out the fire.
After he was sentenced, his lawyer requested bail. However, the Criminal Court forwarded his bail request to the Appeal Court, which then denied the request. He has been detained at Bangkok Remand Prison since 17 January.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported yesterday (24 January) that Sitthichok’s lawyer learned during their visit with him earlier that day that he has been on a hunger strike since his first day in prison, and has been drinking only milk.
His lawyer said that he seemed normal during the visit, but finally told his lawyer that he is on a hunger strike after he told the lawyer that he vomited blood, making the lawyer press him about his health and wellbeing.
Sitthichok has lost 4 KG in weight and suffers from stomach pain while lying down, while a test found that he has low blood sugar. He also said that he was being reprimanded by the prison warden, who is trying to pressure him to end his hunger strike.
Sitthichok told his lawyer that he intends to also stop drinking milk and will only be drinking water, and that he decided to go on a hunger strike because he felt that it was unfair and unreasonable for him to be detained.
“I wanted to protest against the court for the injustice that they have perpetrated against political prisoners. We are the only ones being accused, and we are denied bail,” he said.
Now detained pending appeal, Sitthichok intends to fight the charges, and has told his lawyer that he wants to prove his own innocence to the court. He also said he wanted to be released because he likes helping others and there is no life inside the prison.
“If I have to die because I expose the court’s injustice, it’s still more honourable than staying in here,” he said.
Sitthichok is one of 16 people currently detained pending trial or appeal on charges relating to their participation in the pro-democracy movement, 8 of whom are detained on royal defamation charges.