Hunger-striking Thai democracy protest leader granted bail

Parit Chiwarak had been remanded in custody since March 2021.
Parit Chiwarak had been remanded in custody since March 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (AFP) - A prominent Thai democracy protest leader facing royal defamation charges was granted bail Tuesday (May 11) amid deteriorating health following a hunger strike that lasted more than 50 days.

Parit Chiwarak, who goes by the nickname "Penguin", had been remanded in custody since March when authorities indicted him under Thailand's strict lese-majeste laws.

In late April he was transferred to hospital after losing 12 kilograms.

The university student faces 20 lese-majeste charges for his role in last year's demonstrations against the Thai government, which called for reforms to Thailand's monarchy.

On Tuesday a criminal court granted Parit bail.

"Parit has made a statement with free will that if he gets bail he will not carry out any action to dishonour the monarchy and will not attend any activity causing unrest. He will not leave the country unless the court gives permission," the court said.

Musician Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan was also granted bail over two royal defamation charges he faces.

A bail hearing Tuesday for a third activist - Panupong "Mike" Jadnok, who is facing eight royal defamation charges - has been postponed because he is at risk of developing a coronavirus infection after coming in close contact with a positive case.

Eighty-six people from the democracy movement have fallen foul of Thailand's strict royal defamation laws since July last year and are awaiting trial.

Those convicted can be sentenced to up to 15 years in jail per charge.

Student-led protests in Bangkok last year drew tens of thousands of people at their peak but the near daily rallies have petered out as Thailand grapples with a third wave of coronavirus infections and tighter restrictions on public gatherings.

Another student leader, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, more commonly known by her nickname Rung, was freed from custody last week.

She faces nine charges of insulting the monarchy but was also granted bail.

Another high-profile protest leader, human rights lawyer Anon Numpa, who is facing 12 charges, has been unable to apply for bail while he recovers from a coronavirus infection in hospital.