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Thai court denies bail for activists on hunger strike over royal insults

file photo: protest leaders panusaya "rung" sithijirawattanakul and parit "penguin" chiwarak wearing crop tops walk at siam paragon shopping centre, as they demonstrate against the monarchy, in bangkok
Protest leaders Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul and Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak wearing crop tops walk on Bangkok as they demonstrate against the monarchy

A court in Thailand on Thursday denied bail for seven detained activists accused of insulting the king, two of whom have deteriorating health from more than a month of hunger strikes, their lawyer said, prompting concern from right groups.

Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panusaya “Roong” Sithijirawattanakul and five others are in pre-trial detention for violating Thailand’s royal insults law, which carries a punishment of up to 15 years in prison for each offence.

“The court denied bail because a previous order had given sufficient reasons and the decision did not have to be changed,” lawyer Krisadang Nutcharat told Reuters.

About 100 protesters gathered outside the court to oppose the decision.

Parit and Panusaysa have been on hunger strike for 45 and 30 days respectively and between them have made at least a dozen unsuccessful bail requests.

“Penguin said he was very tired, felt dizzy, had heart palpitations and needed help walking,” Parit’s mother, Sureerat Chiwarak, told reporters.

#SavePenguin was the top trending social media hashtag in Thailand on Thursday, reaching 1.6 million users.

Their condition has prompted concern among rights groups and demands for their release.

“Amnesty International Thailand is gravely concerned about the fatal risk and harm that may claim the lives of the two activists,” its director Piyanut Kotsan said.

The corrections department in a statement said Parit was fatigued, but his condition and that of Panusaysa were normal.

Parit was being monitored and could be sent to a prison hospital if his condition worsened, it said.

Thailand’s youth protest movement emerged last year and has posed the biggest challenge to the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power from an elected government in a 2014 military coup.

The protesters have also demanded curbs to the power of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and abolition of the country’s strict lese majeste law.

Legal action has been pursued against more than 80 of the activists since November for alleged violations of that law, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

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