SINGAPORE – One of the leaders of the Thai protest movement, a 22-year-old university student, was taken to a court in Bangkok on Monday, slumped in a wheelchair and tied to a drop of salt after two weeks on hunger strike.
Parit Chiwarak, whose friends call him a penguin, has been accused of insulting Thailand’s royal family. He has been in jail for more than 50 days after being denied bail by two different courts.
Close friends say Mr. Parit’s condition is atypical. They say he is usually animated, often scribbling poetry in a notebook he carries, and singing Thai folk songs non-stop. “We used to complain about it, but now we miss his songs,” said a friend who has known him since high school.
Mr Parit was one of the young leaders of a breathtaking movement that directly challenged the country’s powerful monarchy that has long been seen as obvious. He and several other activists called for the power of King Maha Vajiralongkorn to be curtailed and became the vanguard of broader protests for democracy that began last year and gained momentum over many months.
As the authorities prosecuted critics and responded with escalating police operations on the streets, protests have declined since their peak in August, when tens of thousands regularly gathered for demonstrations. They continued, but with lower turnout and frequency.