Netiporn Sanesangkhom

Activist Campaigning for Lèse-majesté Law Reform Dies of Hunger Strike

112WATCH calls for immediate lèse-majesté law reform.

14 May, 2024

After being transferred from prison due to sudden cardiac arrest, 28-year-old political activist “Bung” Netiporn Sanesangkhom, who supported youth demands for monarchy reform under the group “Talu Wang” (meaning “breakthrough the palace”), passed away at Thammasat University Hospital in Pathum Thani province just before noon on 14 May 2024.

Throughout the morning, medical professionals from Thammasat University Hospital and the Medical Correctional Hospital made every effort to bring her back to consciousness but they failed. She died quietly at 11:22 a.m. The Department of Corrections issued a statement about the deceased's condition and condoled with her relatives.

"Ms. Netiporn resumed eating and drinking after being admitted to the Medical Correctional Institution Hospital on 4 April 2024, from Thammasat University Hospital. Despite the intensive care from the doctors, she continued to have weakness and swelling in her legs. Even then, she refused to take vitamins that replenished the blood and caused the aforementioned symptoms, which ultimately led to her death today, according to the statement.

Bung's most recent hunger strike occurred while she was being held for contempt of court and for running a survey on the public perception on the royal motorcades on 8 February 2022, in violation of the lèse-majesté law, or Article 112. Prior to being granted bail on 4 August 2022, Bung and another activist colleague, Nattanich Duangmusit, also known as Baipor, went on a hunger strike in 2022, lasting to 64 days.

After the Bangkok South Criminal Court revoked her bail in the Article 112 case and sentenced her to one month in prison for contempt of court, she was taken into custody once more on 26 January 2024. Bung did not ask for bail after learning the decisions in the two cases, and in that evening, she was taken to the Central Women's Correctional Institution. The next day, she started a dry hunger strike in protest, demanding that the legal system be changed and that no one should ever again be imprisoned for political opposition.

Article 112 of the criminal code is perceived as a political instrument that permits the targeting of persons and the imposition of harsh sanctions. A sentence of three to fifteen years in prison is the penalty for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarch, queen, heir to the throne, or regent, according to the law.

In 2022, Bung revealed in an interview with BBC Thai that she was raised in a family of judges. Her elder sister practiced law, while her father served as a judge. She excelled academically and participated actively in extracurricular activities. She was a gifted student. Bung participated in the student committee while attending Triam Udom Suksa Nomklao School. After that, she continued her education as an English tutor and attended Kasetsart University's Faculty of Business Administration.

Bung took part in the 2014 PDRC (People's Democratic Reform Committee) rallies to overthrow Yingluck Shinawatra's democratically elected government while she was still a high school student. Her political beliefs, however, progressively shifted as a result of fresh information she discovered via social media, particularly after discovering that a homeless person who was shot by a sniper in 2010 was among the 99 individuals who perished during the crackdown on Red Shirt protestors.

Midway through 2020, Bung shifted her advocacy focus to school concerns out of a sense of political shame. As a tutor, she believed that many components of the Thai educational system were out of date. Her early work included promoting the rights of LGBT+ students to express their gender identification and the freedom of pupils to wear their haircuts as they see fit. She then went on to assist the young people who turned out to demonstrate and participated in events organised by the Talu Wang organisation. She had no idea that, just by watching over the young people taking part in the activities, she would also be penalised under Article 112.

Later, Bung gained greater public attention for her role as "Yok's" guardian, encouraging the 15-year-old girl to return to her previous school despite being the youngest female juvenile to be charged under Article 112. Bung and Yok's activism was frequently attacked for being combative, displaying extreme protest behaviour, and using language that sparked arguments. Furthermore, a young person who had left the country left a message claiming that, similar to Yok, she had been tricked by Bung when she was sixteen years old, engaging in what she called "child grooming" in order to make everything noteworthy and eye-catching and to use the activism's outcomes to raise money for other movements. Yok, however, maintained that she had never been tricked by Bung and had carried out a number of independent actions. After a period, Bung was placed under arrest once more, and on 23 March 2024, Yok declared that she was quitting politics.

Bung had already made a will, dated 2 February 2024, outlining her wishes for the distribution of her belongings in the case that she passed away. She said that she wished to leave for Yok her wristwatch, earrings, pets, and all of her cash assets and bank deposits in all commercial banks.

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