Hunger striking Thai activist taken to hospital

Bangkok (AFP) –


A prominent Thai pro-democracy activist was taken to hospital on Friday after more than a month on hunger strike while in detention on royal defamation charges.

Parit Chiwarak, widely known by his nickname "Penguin", has been held on remand since being charged in February under Thailand's strict lese majeste laws.

Parit faces more than a dozen charges for his role in protests last year against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, which called for changes to Thailand's once unassailable monarchy.

He has lost more than 12 kilograms since he began his hunger strike on March 16 and officials transferred him to hospital on Friday amid concerns his health was deteriorating.

"Doctors and nurses were concerned that he could go into shock, so they agreed that he should be admitted to a hospital outside prison to receive treatment from an expert doctor," Thawatchai Chaiyawat, deputy director-general of the Department of Corrections, told reporters.

Student-led demonstrations in Bangkok last year drew tens of thousands at their peak, but the movement has petered out this year amid increasing restrictions on public gatherings due to rising Covid cases.

The movement broke long-held taboos by calling for reforms to the monarchy, in a country where the royal family is considered untouchable and has been treated with reverence for decades.

The king and his family are protected by the kingdom's tough lese majeste laws, which carry prison terms of up to 15 years per charge.