Key protest leader is now on hunger strike as a court heard on Tuesday that he is being held within the convict’s wing of Bangkok Remand Prison, an issue raised by his lawyers when the Criminal Court in Bangkok convened a hearing to review evidence in the cases brought against Mr Parit and others accused on a range of charges including sedition and lèse-majesté.

There were dramatic scenes of commotion and disturbance at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday as key protest leader Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak announced that he was going on hunger strike until those facing political charges in connection with the current street protests were released by the courts on bail.

Emotional and chaotic scenes at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday as key protest leader Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak announced he was going on hunger strike demanding bail for political prisoners who were defendants before the courts. Fellow protest leader Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul (inset top) became emotional in court when he made his announcement as judges ordered the courtroom cleared.

There were dramatic scenes at the Bangkok Criminal Court on Monday as Ratsadon leader Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak read out a speech at a hearing attended by supporters as well as international observers and representatives from foreign embassies.

In all, it is estimated that 50 to 60 key observers attended the hearing at which Mr Parit made an appearance as a defendant.

Details of the incident were given by Pathomporn Kaewnoo of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who told reporters that the student protest leader read from prepared notes when brought before the court. 

Mr Parit criticised the courts in his speech

He said that Mr Parit, who is also known by his nickname as ‘Penguin’, risking being held in contempt of court, took issue with the part being played by the judiciary in the ongoing struggle between authorities and the protest movement.

The protest leader argued that all those imprisoned on lèse-majesté and political charges should be released on bail pending the determination of the cases against them.

Hearing to review evidence in the case against protest leaders facing lèse-majesté and sedition charges

The hearing yesterday was to review the evidence before the court against the accused parties and focused on a number of rallies and protests including the July 18th 2020 demonstration at Democracy Monument in Bangkok, at the opening stage of this current wave of protests, and the large September 2020 protest at Sanam Luang where the group, calling itself Ratsadon, placed a commemorative plaque recalling the 1932 revolution in Thailand which helped usher in a constitutional monarchy.

Four key leaders, Arnon Nampa, Mr Parit, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyaem were denied bail by the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Tuesday the 9th February last and since then, nine of twenty-two charged activists or protesters have been detained.

Seven of these are facing criminal proceedings on the grounds of lèse-majesté.

Court ruled in February that defendants showed a tendency to re-offend and were a flight risk

In February, when it ordered the jailing of the four, the Criminal Court ruled that the protest leaders had shown a marked tendency to repeat the same offences and also deemed them a flight risk because of the severity of the potential sentences they are facing which could see them jailed for decades to come.

After Mr Parit began making his address on Monday, the judge interrupted him and warned if he continued, he would order the court cleared and would resume again with an in-camera hearing.

Jumped on a chair to continue his oration

After the judge’s reprimand and subsequent order, however, Mr Parit jumped on a chair and continued to make his oration.

He told his audience that he was going on a hunger strike until those held on political charges were granted bail by the courts.

He said this meant he would only consume water, sweet drinks and milk.

Chaotic scene in the courtroom as protest supporters erupted and key leader Ms Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul rushed to embrace Mr Parit

The announcement caused chaotic scenes of commotion in the courtroom as supporters of the Ratsadon movement who had arrived making the three-fingered salute as they entered the court building, suddenly erupted and began throwing paper cups and making their presence felt with wild interjections.

In the confusion, Ms Panusaya ‘Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul appeared to become emotional and rushed towards Mr Parit grasping him in an embrace. 

This was followed by supporters making a ring around the pair to protect them from court officials and prison guards which allowed Mr Parit to finish what he had to say to applause from his supporters. 

Incarceration conditions of the defendants including Mr Parit questioned by rights lawyers in court

Later, when court order and decorum resumed, lawyers for the protest leaders raised the issue of three protest leaders, Mr Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boontararaksa, Panupong ‘Mike’ Jadnok and Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep who are reported to be held at Thonburi Remand Prison in contravention of the original court order that they be incarcerated at Bangkok Remand Prison.

Another issue raised by lawyers working with the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, was the detention of Mr Parit in the convict wing of Bangkok Remand Prison even though he has not yet been convicted by the courts.

A spokesperson for the Corrections Department explained that this was a consequence of overcrowding at the facility and could not be avoided.

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