Tawan (Tantawan Tuatulanon) and Bam (Orrawan Phoopong) are two young women currently facing Article 112 charges for peacefully protesting in Thailand. Although they were granted bail, they remained concerned about other politically detainees being denied the right to bail. On 16 January 2023, they revoked their own bail and have been on a dry hunger strike for nearly two weeks to call for the release on bail of all political detainees. They are currently hospitalized in the Thammasat University Hospital and their condition is very grave. On the evening of Sunday, 5 February 2023, their lawyer, Krisadang Nutcharus, penned the below open letter after speaking with their parents.
To the Judges:
Even though we perform different roles, we are all jurists in the judicial system. Whether one is a judge, a prosecutor or a lawyer, we are all human. We love. We desire. We get angry. We make mistakes. We want freedom. We want what is fair. We want justice. We want to live in a polity in which the state listens to our voices and we have equal rights.
All of us —before we are judges, prosecutors or lawyers —must be human.
This past weekend was a time of relaxation for us. Are you aware of the following:
In the Bangkok Remand Prison, there are 8-9 people who have been detained for a long time. Their ages range from 18 to 50 years. They have not been found guilty of any crime. They have been accused by the state of crimes relating to explosives, while in actual fact they had firecrackers and ping-pong bombs. They have been detained for nearly a year even though in the majority of cases, their trials have not yet begun. They have been detained on your orders. Many of them are still in school. Many of them are breadwinners who support their families. Locking them up before they have been judged guilty creates trouble for them and many others in their lives. They have pled to be released on bail to fight their cases from outside the prison tens of times. But you have refused over and over again.
And in a corner of Thammasat University Hospital, there are two young women who are on hunger strike – refraining from consuming both water and food — to entreat upon you to grant bail to those 8-9 people detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison.
An hour ago [ at late night on 5 February 2023], physicians from Thammasat University Hospital called the parents of the two young women to tell them that their daughters’ condition was declining and reaching a grave crisis. They told the parents to contact their lawyers to arrange to visit in the morning.
What comes to mind when you listen to this account?
Perhaps you find the actions of the two young women, Bam and Tawan, to be impudent and an effrontery to you. Perhaps you think they are on hunger strike to force and coerce you.
But I want to tell you: no, and no.
I want to tell you that what Bam and Tawan are doing is to plead with you, not to try to force you.
They are imploring and pleading with you with their own suffering. They are taking their own lives as young women – lives that they love and cherish — as proof that they firmly believe that what they are pleading for is right. I think that it is of greater value than crawling on their knees to prostrate themselves and grovel.
You are well aware that what Bam and Tawan are begging from you will not be of any benefit to themselves as all. They are not making demands on their own behalf. The political detainees on whose behalf they plead for you to use your authority to grant bail to are not members of their family or their relatives. They are not gaining anything for themselves by putting their lives on the line.
If we do not tell ourselves lies, the demand that they are making for others to be granted bail to fight their cases from outside prison is a fundamental right clearly guaranteed in the law. We are well aware of this already.
If you would only listen to Bam and Tawan, you would know that what they call for is the guarantee of the rights of all of us. This includes your right, the right of your brothers and sisters, and the right of your children and grandchildren to be protected from the illegitimate exercise of the power of the state.
I know from Bam’s and Tawan’s parents that the two young women do not have very much time left. You yourself must decide whether to listen to their requests or let this country be as it has always been.
I won’t blame you, whatever you decide. Perhaps we hold different perspectives. All I know is that if you make the wrong decision, that mistake will haunt you forever.
5 February 2023, 7:47 pm (Bangkok)