Father’s desperate plea for daughter’s life amid ongoing hunger strike. Court denies bail for Tantawan and Natthanon despite deteriorating health. Tensions rise as case fuels division. Royalists demand justice as outrage still boils over the pair’s February 4th royal motorcade stunt.

The father of activist Tantawan Tuatulanon is warning that time is running out to save his daughter’s life. On Monday, an increasingly emotional and distraught Sommai Tuatulanon lodged a written submission with the Criminal Court. In it, he warned the court may be held responsible for the life of his daughter and her co-accused Mr Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabut. The pair have been on hunger strike for a week refusing water and food now for 13 days.

The father of political activist Tantawan Tuatulanon, Mr Sommai Tuatulanon, lodged a letter with the Criminal Court on Monday. On Saturday, he explained to the media the deteriorating health picture for both 22-year-old Ms Tantatwan or Tawan (inset left) and her co-accused, 23-year-old Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabut (inset right).

Both activists have been consistently refused bail. At the same time, their case has the potential to ignite strife and is seen as highly sensitive.

A Thai court hearing, on Sunday, denied bail to 22-year-old Ms Tantawan Tuatulanon and co-accused 23-year-old Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabut. 

Both were arrested on February 13th and face a charge of sedition under Article 116 of the Criminal Code. They also face additional charges including one under the Computer Crime Act.

Pair were involved in a provocative stunt on February 4th when they disrupted a royal motorcade in Bangkok by honking at it and remonstrating with police

The case is linked to the activities of Ms Tantawan or Tawan who with her friends tried to interrupt a Royal motorcade on February 4th.

Six days later, there was an outbreak of serious violence at a BTS train station in Bangkok adjacent to the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre. Ms Tawan attempted to carry out an opinion poll on the issue.

This caused an outcry from an assembled royalist group. The conflagration between two crowds of supporters was a disturbing reminder of the tensions at play. 

During that incident, several policemen were injured including a senior officer with a fractured jaw.

Both Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and the police chief, General Torsak Sukwimol, later called for calm.

Violent clashes between royalists and activists in central Bangkok leads to injuries and concern

Both activists have been on hunger strike since being imprisoned a week after the Siam Paragon incident.

At length, doctors report their medical conditions are becoming critical.

On Saturday, Tawan’s father promised to keep his daughter out of politics if her life was spared by granting her bail. Sunday saw that request rejected

The distraught father of Tawan, on Saturday, after seeing his daughter said she was just ‘skin and bones’.

He revealed she is refusing to eat or drink. Sommai Tuatulanon begged the court to save her and her fellow activist by granting them bail.

At the same time, Sommai also promised on Saturday to keep Tantawan ‘out of political matters’ if she is granted temporary release.

Tantawan, 22, has become a notorious figure for royalists in Thailand not only on account of her campaign against royal motorcades. She also still faces a previous criminal charge of lèse-majesté.

The Thai woman and fellow activist Natthanon Chaimahabud were thrown behind bars on February 13.

It came as public anger among conservatives, aghast at her treatment of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, grew.

The Princess is the younger sister of the monarch. She is affectionately known in Thailand as ‘Phra Thep’ meaning ‘princess angel’.

Political leaders, conservatives and significantly the Royal Thai Army, as well as mainstream Thais, rallied behind the princess. This prompted the government and key ministries to call for a public show of support for the monarchy and national unity. 

The royal institution is recognised as playing a key role in the country, at the centre of the Thai nation.

King called for limits on royal motorcades

However, at the same time, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn, in the past, has asked that motorcades be limited.

Previously, the King made it clear to officials that he did not wish to see royal motorcades inconveniencing the public. In short, he asked for certain measures to be taken.

That was in January 2020.

At that time, the King ordered the police to cease the practice of halting traffic in Bangkok to facilitate such operations.

However, in July that year, radical student-led pro-democracy protests broke out. This took the establishment by surprise.

By August 2020, this activism began to impinge on the monarchy. 

At length, this led then Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha, months later, to reintroduce the enforcement of the lèse-majesté provisions. His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn had previously asked that the law not be enforced.

In Thailand, the monarchy is considered sacrosanct.

Polls consistently show an overwhelming majority of Thais consider it above and beyond politics.

Father pleaded with the Criminal Court on Saturday for temporary release on the basis of his 22-year-old daughter and co- accused’s deteriorating health

On Saturday, Sommai Tuatulanon pleaded with the Criminal Court to grant temporary release for the imprisoned duo.

He said they both showed signs of deteriorating health. He had come from visiting his daughter and consulting with medical experts at Thammasat University Hospital.

Before this, the hospital had confirmed that Ms Tawan was severely malnourished. In addition, she had abnormal salt and mineral levels.

Both Tantawan and Natthanon went on a hunger strike right after their arrest.

Sommai told the media that Natthanon ‘looked blurred’. Similarly, his daughter Tantawan was reduced to ‘skin and bones’ due to a lack of food and water.

He said his daughter could only communicate in almost inaudible whispers.

‘If this continues, I’m not sure they will be alive in the next few days. I would like to ask the court to be merciful and grant them temporary release, so they can get treatment,’ the distressed father said.

Third application for court bail was refused. Tawan was already out on bail accused of lèse-majesté and had staged an extended hunger strike also in 2023

Sunday’s bail request, which was refused by the court, was the third application.

In short, two earlier requests were also rejected. One of the reasons given for Sunday’s refusal by the court was that Ms Tawan is already on bail related to another charge.

In January last year, then 21-year-old Tantawan or Tawan along with 23-year-old Orawan Phupong also went on a hunger strike. They were imprisoned on lèse-majesté charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, her father’s only concern was for the wellbeing and perhaps the life of his daughter.

‘If the court grants temporary release, I will ensure that my daughter is not involved in politics anymore. I will force her to spend her life as an ordinary youngster and continue her studies,’ Mr Sommai promised.

Court said it relied on medical care for the accused. The two face five charges in all including one for sedition under Article 116 of the Criminal Code

On Sunday, the court appeared to dismiss these concerns. It confidently denied bail requests for activist Tantawan Tuatulanon and her friend.

It opined that the health of both, although on a hunger strike, was being closely monitored by medics.

The 22-year-old activist, along with 23-year-old Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabut, are reported to be in police custody while receiving hospital treatment.

They have been charged relating to their protest during a royal motorcade procession in Bangkok on Feb 4.

In total, they face five charges, including sedition under Section 116 of the Criminal Code, violating the Computer Crimes Act and the Traffic Act, as well as insulting officers on duty.

Both bail requests were submitted by Ms Tantawan’s father, Mr Sommai on Saturday. At the hearing on Sunday, he begged the court to approve bail for his daughter.

He repeatedly emphasised that Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon’s health have seriously deteriorated since they were taken into custody on Feb 13.

Accused duo did not meet the criteria for bail

The court, however, judged that Ms Tantawan and Mr Natthanon did not meet the requirements for bail. It held the current circumstances don’t justify their immediate release.

Experts at Thammasat University Hospital, say Ms Tantawan is malnourished and her mineral levels are low. However, she has continued to reject all treatment since she was admitted on Feb 22.

Mr Natthanon, meanwhile, has been hospitalised at the Medical Correctional Hospital for stomach pains and fatigue since Feb 16.

Meanwhile, there are disturbing signs that the plight of the two activists continues to be highly divisive.

Strong support among conservatives and traditionalists for the prosecution following the unprecedented February 4th stunt which sparked outrage

At length, Sonthiya Sawasdee, a former adviser to the House committee on legal affairs, petitioned against both activists’ bail on Sunday.

He said that despite being a father himself, he wanted Mr Sommai to respect the court’s decision. He insisted activists respect the nation’s three pillars, nation, religion, and monarchy, for the rest of their lives.

On Sunday, February 25, 2024, reporters reported that The Center for Human Rights Lawyers issued a statement. It came at 1:50 p.m. and disclosed that the Criminal Court had refused bail for Tawan-Frank again.

The court, for instance, noted that it had previously ordered the temporary release of both suspects, with clearly stated reasons. As for the illness of the two accused, it declared the pair were under close supervision of doctors.

Therefore, there was an order refusing the temporary release of the two accused persons. The petition was dismissed.

Previously, the court specified February 25, 2024, as the due date for the second detention of the two accused.

In effect, on Sunday, it extended this.

Court to review the matter again on March 8th next when it signalled it was open to considering further medical opinion in relation to the two accused 

The court, on March 8th, will listen to the opinions of the investigating officers in the cases. In the meantime, it allowed the petitioner to bring forward additional medical information on the date.

Both accused were detained in Case #M116. This stemmed from the infamous February 4th altercation with road traffic police in Bangkok. The pair are accused of honking a car horn at a royal motorcade.

On Sunday, the court heard that Tawan and Frank were still abstaining from both water and food. The hunger strike on Sunday was on its 12th day. Tawan’s condition is reportedly rather serious. 

Friends and family insist she can hardly speak. Meanwhile, Frank’s condition is also very grave.

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