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Thai PM orders investigation after monarchy reform activist died in prison

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  • Netiporn «Bung» Sanesangkhom died in detention after a monthslong hunger strike, amid a public debate about the country’s justice system.
  • Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he ordered the Justice Ministry to investigate the death.
  • Netiporn was a member of the activist group Thaluwang, loosely translated as «breaking through the palace.» Its members are known for aggressive campaigns demanding reform of the monarchy and abolition of the law that makes it illegal to defame members of the royal family.

Thailand’s prime minister on Wednesday offered his condolences to the family of a young activist who died in detention after a monthslong hunger strike, amid a public debate on the country’s justice system.

Netiporn «Bung» Sanesangkhom, 28, died on Tuesday after suffering cardiac arrest while she was being detained at Bangkok’s Central Women’s Correctional Institution on charges that included defaming the monarchy. She had been on a hunger strike to protest the revocation of her bail in January.

Her death has prompted calls for reviewing a judicial process that allows people accused of politically-motivated, nonviolent offenses to be held for extended periods ahead of trial.

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Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told reporters that Netiporn’s death was a loss that no one wanted, and said he has ordered the Justice Ministry to investigate.

Officials from the Corrections Department said during a press conference on Wednesday that while Netiporn appeared fatigued following her prolonged hunger strike, she had been well and there was no sign that she would develop such critical conditions, and that they had done everything to try to save her life.

They also said the activist had already resumed eating, but refused to take other supplements that could help her body take nutrients better after fasting for so long. They declined to speculate on the possible cause of death until the autopsy results are released.

A Thai activist holds a portrait of Netiporn Sanesangkhom, a member of the activist group Thaluwang, known for their bold and aggressive campaigns demanding reform of the monarchy and abolition of the law that makes it illegal to defame members of the royal family, in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 14, 2024. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit, File)

An autopsy was carried out on Wednesday morning and the initial results are expected on Thursday, said Netiporn’s lawyer Kritsadang Nutcharat. But Kritsadang told reporters that he doesn’t believe the Corrections Department’s version of events.

«She died in your arms. If she had been well, she wouldn’t have died,» he said, adding that the public should focus on the fact that Netiporn died while being detained, not whether she had been eating.

Netiporn was a member of the activist group Thaluwang, loosely translated as «breaking through the palace.» Its members are known for aggressive campaigns demanding reform of the monarchy and abolition of the law that makes it illegal to defame members of the royal family.

Until recent years, criticism of Thailand’s monarchy was taboo, and insulting or defaming key royal family members remains punishable by up to 15 years in prison under a law usually referred to as Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code.

But student-led pro-democracy protests began to challenge that taboo in 2020, openly criticizing the monarchy. That led to vigorous prosecutions under what was previously a little-used law. Critics say the law is often wielded as a tool to quash political dissent.

Netiporn was one of more than 270 activists, many university students, charged under the royal defamation law following those protests. Their supporters say that the authorities have violated their rights by holding them in prolonged pretrial detention and denying their release on bail.

She was originally detained in May 2022, and released on bail in August 2022 after a previous hunger strike. She was rearrested in January for breaking the terms of her bail by participating in a political rally in 2023.

Netiporn was facing several charges stemming from political activities, including two charges of defaming the monarchy. Both involved conducting polls in public spaces in 2022 to ask people’s opinions about the royal family, according to the group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said they had requested bail 45 times for 27 political prisoners from January to April. None of those requests were granted, it said.

Another activist who is facing lese mejeste charges and had been detained several times, Panusaya «Rung» Sitthijirawattanakul, expressed disappointment in Srettha’s government, which took office in August following an election that ended nearly a decade of military rule.

«Before the election, they said that after they became a government they would ask the court to release political prisoners, and they would amend Article 112,» she said during a candlelight vigil for Netiporn on Tuesday night, «None of that ever came true.»

When asked about growing calls for young political detainees to be released, Prime Minister Srettha said «I believe the Justice Minister has heard these calls. It is under consideration and there will be discussions regarding all processes of justice. Everyone must be treated fairly.»

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The U.N.’s human rights office in Southeast Asia, in a Tuesday post on the social network X, said it was «deeply disturbed» by Netiporn’s death and called for a transparent investigation. It also emphasized that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental rights.

Kritsadang, the lawyer, also called for the prime minister to take serious action on problems in the system of justice before making an official visit to France and Italy this week, noting the government’s bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council’s for the 2025-2027 term.

Netiporn’s funeral service will be held at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok from Thursday to Sunday, the Thaluwang group said.


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President of UN’s top court has long history of anti-Israel bias: ‘Conflict of interest’

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JERUSALEM – The controversial International Court of Justice (ICJ) is not only facing severe criticism for its Friday order declaring that Israel should stop its military offensive in Rafah to root out Hamas, but also for the well-documented anti-Israel bias of the U.N. court’s presiding judge.

«Put simply, the U.N.’s highest legal body is a political tool of global antisemitism. The presiding judge in this case was ICJ  [International Court of Justice] President Nawaf Salam. He is from Lebanon, a country that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. And in his spare time, he has tweeted such things as a meme that reads ‘unhappy birthday to you: 48 years of occupation.’ He is a politician – a rabid anti-Israel politician – dressed up by the U.N. as a judge,» Anne Bayefsky, the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, told Fox News Digital

Bayefsky, a legal expert on the U.N. who oversees Human Rights Voices, said, «And from where did his kangaroo Court get its ‘facts’ in this case? Well, the United Nations, of course. An institution whose highest bodies – the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council – have never even condemned Hamas terrorists and their October 7 atrocities.»

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Nawaf Salam, president of the International Court of Justice, listens during a hearing in The Hague, on May 1, 2024. (Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP via Getty Images)

Orde Kittrie, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued in a February Wall Street Journal opinion article that Judge Salam’s political activism in Lebanon contributed to his bias against Israel and violates the ICJ’s rules. He wrote that the ICJ’s conflict-of-interest rules declare that no judge «may exercise any political or administrative function, or engage in any other occupation of a professional nature.»

Kittrie, a law professor at Arizona State University, also noted that the ICJ charter states that no jurist «may participate in the decision of any case in which he has previously taken part» as «advocate» or in «any other capacity.»

IDF forces in Rafah

The IDF says its «troops are continuing operations against terror targets in the area of Rafah.» (IDF Spokesman’s Office)

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Salam reportedly ran for prime minister of Lebanon in the last two elections and, as Kittrie wrote, was Lebanon’s U.N. ambassador from 2007 to 2017. Salam was routinely «denouncing and casting votes against Israel’s military conduct and presence in the disputed territories,» wrote the legal expert.

Nawaf Salam, former Lebanese ambassador to the UN.

Nawaf Salam, the Lebanese ambassador to the United Nations, speaks with Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of Palestine, during a Security Council meeting on Sept. 28, 2011, in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

According to an article in the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) Salam wrote on social media in 2015, «When we criticize and condemn Israel it is never because of the Jewish character of the majority of its population,» and in another post said, «Portraying the critics of Israel’s policies as antisemites is an attempt to intimidate and discredit them, which we reject.»

Later that same year, JNS quoted him as tweeting «…#Palestine’s full membership in #UN & ending #Israel’s occupation remain long overdue.»

Lebanon experts argue that the Mideast country has been in de-facto control of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization, Hezbollah, for over a decade and has played a role in joining Hamas’ war by firing multiple missiles into Israel. The Iranian regime-backed Hezbollah, like Hamas, seeks the destruction of the Jewish state.

Fox News Digital approached the ICJ for a comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The ICJ’s order lacks enforcement and the Israeli government said it will plow forward with its military campaign to eliminate four Hamas battalions in Rafah.

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Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman said on Friday of the ICJ order: «No power on earth will stop Israel from protecting its citizens and going after Hamas in Gaza.» He added, «We will destroy Hamas, we will return peace and security to the people of Israel and to the people of Gaza. We cannot go on with a genocidal terrorist regime on our southern border.» 

Split image of a United Nations flag over United Nations builing, the back of a woman being taken by Hamas

U.N. headquarters and flag juxtaposed with a picture of an Israeli woman kidnapped by Hamas terrorists. (Getty Images/Hamas-Telegram)

Bayefsky noted how the terrorist group responded to Friday’s ruling. «Hamas murderers and rapists themselves best articulate the standing of this ‘legal’ farce. They immediately reacted: ‘We welcome the decision by the World Court’ before referring to the Jewish state as the ‘Zionist enemy’ they intend to annihilate. So the fans of a decision purporting to be anti-genocide, are those who are openly committed to genocide. A U.N. court with friends in low places.»

Salam said in his reading of the ruling, «The Court considers that, in conformity with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, Israel must immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.»

Hamas slaughtered nearly 1,200 people in southern Israel on Oct. 7. The jihadi terrorist movement kidnapped over 250 people, and 125 hostages are still being held captive in Rafah.

ICJ court hearing on Israel

Judge Nawaf Salam speaks at the start of a hearing in The Hague, Netherlands, May 16, 2024. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

Some of the IJC judges and outside legal experts have rejected the majority decision. Four of the 15 ICJ justices said the clause that Salam cited in his oral presentation does not mandate that Israel swiftly pull the plug on its military campaign in Rafah. According to this interpretation, the Jewish state is only required to stop its military operations if it «could bring about physical destruction in whole or in part.» 

ICJ Vice President Julia Sebutinde, from Uganda, who voted against all decisions opposed to Israel, wrote, «This measure does not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah. Instead, it only operates to partially restrict Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the Genocide Convention.»

Sebutinde added, «… this directive may be misunderstood as mandating a unilateral ceasefire in Rafah and amounts to micromanaging the hostilities in Gaza by restricting Israel’s ability to pursue its legitimate military objectives, while leaving its enemies, including Hamas, free to attack without Israel being able to respond.»

The Ugandan jurist also voted against all restrictions that the ICJ ordered against Israel in the court’s January ruling that Jerusalem take steps to prevent acts of genocide as it fights Hamas terrorists in Gaza.

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Hamas terrorists in Gaza

Hamas terrorists are seen during a military show on July 20, 2017, in Gaza City, Gaza. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Aharon Barak, former Israeli Supreme Court president who has a post as an ad-hoc judge on the ICJ bench, said in his dissenting opinion that the majority view «requires Israel to halt its military offensive in the Rafah Governorate only in so far as is necessary to comply with Israel’s obligations under the Genocide Convention.»

He added, «Israel is not prevented from carrying out its military operation in the Rafah Governorate as long as it fulfills its obligations under the Genocide Convention.» Barak noted «the measure is a qualified one, which preserves Israel’s right to prevent and repel threats and attacks by Hamas, defend itself and its citizens, and free the hostages.»


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