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One month after the death of activist Netiporn Sanesangkhom, who died in prison following a long hunger strike, activists marched to the Supreme Court to demand the release of political prisoners and amnesty for those prosecuted for political expression. Meanwhile, the Corrections Hospital continues to refuse to hand over CCTV footage of Netiporn’s resuscitation to her family.

Protesters marching through Ratchadamnoen Road. Two people are holding a banner calling for bail for political prisoners and amnesty for those charged with royal defamation.

Last Thursday (13 June), members of several activist groups and student organisations marched from the 14 October 1973 Memorial on Ratchadamnoen Road to the Supreme Court to file a petition with the President of the Supreme Court demanding bail for political prisoners and amnesty for those prosecuted for political expression, including those charged with royal defamation.

The groups issued a statement noting that 44 political prisoners, including 26 people who are held pending trial or appeal, are now in detention. These people, says the statement, are only advocating that the monarchy align itself with democratic values and for equality in Thai society. It also states that many have been detained under the royal defamation law, which stifles freedom of expression, reflecting injustice and the deterioration of human rights in Thailand.

The statement declared that detaining someone without bail deprives them of the right to a fair trial and amounts to treating them as if they have already been found guilty, going against human rights principles and the Thai Constitution.

Activists also staged a protest on Friday (14 June) in front of the Criminal Court. Dressed in white, they stood in front of the court for 1 hour and 12 minutes, conducting a religious ceremony in memory of Netiporn.

Protesters in front of the Criminal Court on 14 June. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Netiporn died on 14 May after suffering cardiac arrest while on a hunger strike to call for judicial system reform and the release of political dissidents. Her death certificate said that she died from heart failure and asphyxiation, while her autopsy concluded that the cause of death was acute heart failure, electrolyte imbalance, and cardiomegaly (enlarged heart).

The 28-year-old activist was held in pre-trial detention on a royal defamation charge since her bail was revoked on 26 January.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

Netiporn’s medical records from the Corrections Hospital, where she was held before her death, diagnosed Netiporn with Re-feeding Syndrome, a condition caused by severe shift in electrolytes when a person who is malnourished begins feeding again. It also stated that she was sent for a chest x-ray and a brain CT scan while CPR was being performed, leading her family to question why these tests were conducted since it would mean that CPR was interrupted. The family also questioned why the time at which resuscitation began after Netiporn went into cardiac arrest was not the same in different documents.

Meanwhile, the Corrections Hospital continues to refuse to hand over CCTV footage from Netiporn’s ward to her family. Netiporn’s lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharus, was initially told that releasing the footage would “affect security” and that nurses were included in the footage.

Activist Noppasin Treelayapiwat said during a memorial event for Netiporn at Kinjai Contemporary last Friday (14 June) that the family has not received or seen the footage. The Corrections Hospital has been citing documentation, regulation, and personal data protection issues in order to withhold the footage. Despite the hospital stating that the family could view the footage, they have still not been allowed to.

According to Noppasin, to assess whether Netiporn’s treatment was adequate, a doctor must be allowed to see the footage as her family members are not medical experts. He added that it would be difficult to ensure that the footage has not been tampered with if they were the only ones allowed to see it. He insisted that the footage would not be released to the public, and suggested that the hospital could blur the faces of nurses and doctors caught in the footage.

Noppasin also questioned why the Corrections Hospital chose to refer her to Thammasat University Hospital instead of the closer Vibhavadi Hospital or Kasemrad Hospital, and why the hospital did not transfer her immediately if its personnel knew they could not care for her. He said that neither the Corrections Hospital nor the Ministry of Justice is willing to provide information. Instead, the family has been receiving information from Thammasat University Hospital. The Corrections Hospital has also not apologized to the family.

“It’s been a month… we want to know how our friend died,” he said. “It’s basic for us to know how she died. Why is the Corrections Hospital doing this? We haven’t said we’re going to press charges. We are only asking what happened. We have to pressure them into releasing information.”

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