Rangsiman Rome MP pays tribute to ‘Bung,’ a key member of the Talu Wang protest group, who died after over 108 days on hunger strike. Netiporn Sanesangkhom died of a heart attack in prison. He emphasised that no one should be imprisoned for expressing political opinions in a free society.

Thai authorities are being ultra-cautious after the sudden death of a hunger striker in prison on Tuesday morning. An autopsy was underway on Wednesday following peaceful candlelight vigils throughout the country. Twenty-eight-year-old Netiporn Sanesangkhom, known as ‘Bung,’ was a key member of the hardcore Talu Wang protest group, which staunchly called for judicial reform, freedom of expression and LGBT rights, often in a provocative way. The young woman came from a legal family, with her father being a judge. On Tuesday night, outside the Criminal Court in Bangkok, Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome paid tribute to her and others imprisoned for their beliefs. The MP said that in a truly free society, no one should be imprisoned for expressing political opinions and differing points of view.

rangsiman-rome-mp-pays-tribute-to-bung-netiporn-sanesangkhom- who-died-on-hunger-strike
Rangsiman Rome MP attended the vigil on Tuesday evening outside the Criminal Court in Bangkok. The Move Forward Party MP read out the names of people currently imprisoned for their political opinions. At the same time, he called for a truly free society where all political expression was allowed without legal restraint.

An autopsy was underway on Wednesday, May 15th, following the death of political activist Netiporn Sanesangkhom, known as ‘Bung,’ at Thammasat University Hospital on Tuesday morning.

The autopsy was ordered by Minister of Justice Thawee Sodsong, who has adopted a cautious approach to the death. Mr Thawee insisted that such steps were necessary as the deceased had died in custody.

‘Bung’ was a key player and activist in the hardcore Talu Wang protest group calling for judicial reform and freedom of political expression in Thailand

Ms Netiporn, or Bung, was a virulent political activist in the movement that sprang up after the July 2020 student-led protests. In particular, the 28-year-old campaigned for reform of the justice system, freedom of political expression and more inclusive LGBT rights.

She came from a middle-class family and was an extremely able student. Her father was a member of the judiciary and her older sister was a lawyer.

On Tuesday night, her death led to peaceful candle-burning expressions of solidarity across the country. These included gatherings in Bangkok, Ubon Ratchathani, and Chiang Mai.

In Bangkok, the event was held outside the Criminal Court in the centre of the city. It was addressed by Mr Rangsiman Rome, MP.

In an emotional atmosphere, Rangsiman made a poignant and powerful speech about the basis of a free society. He underlined freedom of political expression

In an emotional atmosphere, Mr Rangsiman referred to the number of people currently jailed on charges relating to political activities. He noted that as of Tuesday, the number had dropped from 45 to 44. It comes as 1,954 people have faced criminal prosecution before the Thai courts for political activities since the student-led protest movement emerged in July 2020.

Mr Rangsiman, on Tuesday evening, read out the names of all those currently imprisoned. The list included Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabud and Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon, who are, also, at this time engaged in long-running hunger strikes.

Nonetheless, it is understood that both Frank and Tawan are taking vitamins and dietary supplements. Certainly, this has emerged as a key issue in the death of ‘Bung’ also known as ‘Bung Talu Wang’.

Talu Wang group touched a nerve with Thai authorities

This is because the 28-year-old activist was at the forefront of the creation of the Talu Wang protest group.

This movement was known for its aggressive activities, particularly its ability to touch a nerve with authorities and generate a reaction.

For instance, the group actively took part in protests against the Pheu Thai Party in August 2023 as it prepared to deal with political parties linked to the government of General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Ms Netiporn was also charged with lèse-majesté after conducting a poll at the Siam Paragon Shopping Centre in February 2022. The questions related to royal motorcades.

A similar poll at a nearby location in 2024 led to violence between royalist groups and those calling for political reform.

Father warns lives of activists including his daughter are in peril as extreme hunger strike continues
Violent clashes between royalists and activists in central Bangkok lead to injuries and concern
Hunger striker ordered released from prison as court intervenes due to real threat to the young woman’s life

Days previously, Ms Tantawan ‘Tawan’ Tuatulanon and Natthanon ‘Frank’ Chaimahabud had caused a disturbance as they protested a royal motorcade ferrying Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

Move Forward Party MP told the Tuesday night gathering that bail was a right but that no one should be before the Criminal Court based on their opinions

On Tuesday, a sombre Mr Rangsiman Rome referred to Bung’s causes. In short, he said that bail should be available to all while no one should be prosecuted for their political opinions.

Rome said that in a country which had freedom, there should be no such thing as political prisoners. Before asking the audience to spend one minute in silence, he sent his condolences to Ms Netiporn’s grief-stricken family.

Ms Netiporn was an English tutor and studied at the Faculty of Business Administration, at Kasetsart University. She had been described as extremely bright and voraciously took to extracurricular activities.

Killing of a homeless man in 2010 changed Bun’s political path. Previously she had been a People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) supporter in 2014

Subsequently, this led to her taking part in the 2014 People’s Democratic Reform Committee protests against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

However, later after learning that a homeless man was among the 99 people killed in the Red Shirt crackdown in 2010, she began to alter her political outlook. The man was shot by a sniper.

On January 26th last, she was imprisoned by the Bangkok South Municipal Court for one month. At length, this was due to an October 2023 encounter with guards at the court. The charge was contempt of court. However, at the same time, her bail was revoked.

The bail had been granted in August 2022. It came 64 days after a previous hunger strike with Ms Nattanich Duangmusit or Baipor, another activist. Previously, Bung had been imprisoned on the lèse-majesté charge.

Her hunger strike this year began on January 27th. A day after she was sent back to prison for contempt of court and breaching her August 2022 bail terms

Afterwards, on January 27th, Ms Netiporn began her severe dry hunger strike. By February 2024, she had been removed to Thammasat University for treatment.

However, she was reportedly transferred back to the Correctional Hospital at the Klong Prem Central Prison in April. In particular, the women’s wing of the facility which is the Central Women’s Correctional Institution.

Prison sources suggest that Ms Netiporn or Bung began eating or drinking at that point.

However, lawyers working on her behalf have not confirmed this. Certainly, what is known is that the prisoner had developed swollen legs. In addition, blood tests showed she was anaemic and had low electrolytes.

At 6:23 am on Tuesday morning, Bung went into severe cardiac shock. She became unresponsive with no vital signs. Intensive efforts were undertaken at the prison hospital to revive her.

Medics and prison staff spent nearly 5 hours trying to revive the young woman. She died in prison after a heart attack but was pronounced dead in hospital

Finally, orders were given for her removal to Thammasat University Hospital. At 9:30 am, she was admitted to the Accident and Emergency ward of the hospital on the first floor of the Kittiwattana Building.

Despite intensive efforts to revive the 28-year-old woman, doctors finally relented and certified her death at 11:22 am.

The tragedy comes at a time when political parties in Thailand are discussing a possible amnesty law.

In short, this is aimed at those convicted related to both the Red Shirt and Yellow Shirt movements over the last two decades or so. Nonetheless, there is significant resistance to including those charged under the lèse-majesté provision.

The law, part of Thailand’s Criminal Code, was initially designed to protect the Thai monarch and his family.

However, it has been interpreted in recent times to include a wide variety of acts which may impinge on the institution.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Father warns lives of activists including his daughter are in peril as extreme hunger strike continues

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

Move Forward faces dissolution after Constitutional Court rules it tried to subvert the monarchy

Pita lives to fight another day. Next week, the court decides the future of the Move Forward Party

Public has not forgotten the backroom deals in August. Move Forward Party is even more popular

Chalermchai Sri-on is new Democrat Party leader after a day of stunning political drama in Bangkok

‘Madame Dear’ throws her hat in the ring for the Democrat Party leadership with the party at war

Democrat Party top leader warns of voices of hate toppling the ‘spirit of democracy’ in Thailand

Pita shares cast a pall over historic May 14th Election, fears that the results may be nullified by a court

Compromise mooted between Pheu Thai and Move Forward on House Speaker job before key meeting

Kooky Palang Pracharat reports rejected on Tuesday by Prawit as Pheu Thai stands by Pita for PM

Move Forward’s ‘Government of Hope’ coalition delivers a programme promising a new charter

Pita, Move Forward and eight other parties meet in Bangkok and come out smiling, ready to govern