Under the watchful gaze of Abraham Lincoln, the UW-Madison Students for Thai Democracy braved the elements to demand the immediate release of political prisoners in Thailand. They also called upon the Thai government to meet the demands of activists Tantawan “Tawan” Tuatulanon and Orawan “Bam” Phuphong.
The newly formed organisation read their statements, written in both Thai and English, live on Facebook at 13.37 on 25 January, 2023. They began by saying that the Criminal Court, in denying and revoking the bail of twenty-two activists whose trials are ongoing, violated Article 11 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”
They continued by tallying the number of people charged under Section 112 and 116 of the criminal code, Thailand’s lese majeste and anti-sedition statutes respectively, and then cited Article 19 of the UDHR, which states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference.” They concluded by listing the three demands made by Tantawan and Orawan when their bail was revoked on 16 January:
- The courts must take into account human rights and the right to freedom of expression before other matters.
- The end to prosecution of people who came out to exercise their freedom of expression, to protest, or to express themselves politically.
- That every party in Thai parliament should discuss the abolition of Articles 112 and 116 of the Thai Criminal Code to ensure the rights and liberty of Thai people.”
After their demands received no response within a three-day time limit, Tantawan and Orawan announced on 18 January that they would be going on a hunger strike and would not request bail again until their demands are met. They were taken to the Department of Corrections Hospital on 20 January and are now in the 10th day of their hunger strike.
Tantawan and Orawan were transferred to Thammasat University Hospital on 24 January. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) noted that, although they have been transferred to a hospital that is not run by the Department of Corrections, they are still in detention.
“Time is running thin as Tawan and Bam are growing weaker after almost a week without food or water. We, the UW-Madison Students for Thai Democracy, once again demand the release of the twenty-two detained activists, AND we demand the Thai government to adhere to the three demands of Tawan and Bam immediately”, concluded the students before standing in silence for twenty-two minutes in solidarity with the twenty-two detained political activists.
Prachatai English reached out to the group for comment. They asked to be referred to only as UW-Madison students for safety.
“We wrote this statement to show our support for political prisoners like Tawan and Bam, and to let them all know that they are not alone in this fight and that they most definitely are not forgotten. We also wanted to bring this issue to light for other UW-Madison students and educate anyone willing to learn about the current violations of human rights in Thailand. We wanted to show that we stand with the movement in Thailand that asks simply for basic human rights.”