Thai Political Activist Dies in Prison After Month-Long Hunger Strike

Officials in Thailand have confirmed the death of a political activist who, after being imprisoned for calling for changes to the country’s monarchy, embarked on a month-long hunger strike.

In 2020, during the height of the kingdom’s youth-led pro-democracy movement, Netiporn Sanae-Sangkhom was arrested and imprisoned under Thailand’s strict royal insult laws. She had been in jail since January.

Protecting King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his immediate family are some of the world’s harshest lese-majeste laws, with possible 15-year sentences for each offense.

The current monarch of Thailand is Vajiralongkorn, of the Chakri dynasty, the tenth king. His father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, appointed him crown prince in 1972 when he was twenty years old. He is the only son of Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The 28-year-old  Sanae-Sangkhom was transported to the prison hospital due to health concerns soon after going on hunger strike to protest the Thai judicial system. Her protest came shortly after she was detained.

The Department of Corrections issued a statement claiming that Netiporn, affectionately known as “Boong,” had anemia, weakness, and other health problems.

Last Tuesday, when she rejected the hospital’s vitamins and minerals, she reportedly fell into cardiac arrest, according to the authorities.

The statement added that she passed away before noon on Tuesday due to a cardiac arrest that she experienced because she had not responded to treatment.  It went on to say that an autopsy would be performed by the hospital to determine the exact cause of death.

Following Netiporn’s death, the United Nations Human Rights Office’s Southeast Asian regional division expressed its most profound sorrow. They demanded an open and unbiased inquiry into her treatment and death. The government agency expressed its belief in the inherent value of free speech and peaceful assembly in a post on X.

At least two political prisoners in Thailand have gone on hunger strike, based on reports from the Human Rights Lawyer Association.
Two hunger strikers were granted temporary parole in 2023 due to health concerns.  They had been detained under the royal insult statute.