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A network of civil society organisations and activist groups has called on the government to investigate the death of detained activist Netiporn Sanesangkhom, and to release all political prisoners held in pre-trial detention.

Activists submitting their petition to government representatives. Behind them, other activists are holding posters of the Pheu Thai Party’s past proposals to ensure bail for political prisoners. (Photo from iLaw)

The Network for People’s Amnesty filed a petition on Thursday (16 May) with government representatives to call for an urgent and transparent investigation into Netiporn’s death.  They have also demanded that political prisoners held in pre-trial detention be granted bail, and that the government postpone the prosecution and detention of individuals charged for political expression until an amnesty bill has been passed and all cases not in the public interest have been dismissed.

They further demanded that the government expedite the passage of an amnesty bill covering everyone being prosecuted for political expression. Earlier this year, the network proposed a bill, known colloquially as the People’s Amnesty bill, to parliament. It was backed by over 30,000 voters and is now up for public consultation.

When filing their petition, activists displayed posters of the Pheu Thai Party’s past proposals to ensure bail for political prisoners. They also showed video clips of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, now Pheu Thai party leader, speaking about releasing political prisoners.

The petition was received by Somkid Chuakong, the Prime Minister’s deputy secretary-general. Somkid told The Active that, as a government representative, he is saddened by Netiporn’s death and that the government is aware of the reason why her bail was revoked. He insisted that the “higher-ups” in the government are “uncomfortable” about what happened, adding that a decision has not been made about whether to grant amnesty to those charged with royal defamation. He also promised that the government will pass an amnesty bill within the year.

Netiporn was pronounced dead at 11.22 on Tuesday (14 May) after suffering a cardiac arrest while she was on a hunger strike to call for judicial system reform and the release of political dissidents.

The 28-year-old activist had been held in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge since her bail was revoked on 26 January and had been on a hunger strike since 27 January.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that an autopsy was performed on Netiporn’s body on the morning of 15 May. It will likely take at least a month for an autopsy report to be completed, after which a court inquest will be conducted.

TLHR also said on Thursday night (16 May) that the Corrections Hospital refused to provide Netiporn’s lawyer with her medical records and the CCTV footage from the time she went into cardiac arrest.  In contrast, Thammasat University Hospital gave Netiporn’s medical records to her family and lawyer on Wednesday (15 May). 

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