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Thai PM orders probe into death of activist under pre-trial detention

BANGKOK — Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on May 15 ordered an investigation into the death of a young political activist, who died after she went on a partial hunger strike during pre-trial detention on charges that included insulting the country's monarchy.

Hundreds of people, including activists and opposition lawmakers, joined a candlelight vigil on the night of May 14 for Netiporn "Bung" Sanesangkhom, 28, who died in a prison hospital of heart failure. Western diplomats and rights groups mourned her death on social media.

"It is sad about the loss (of life)... and I want to extend my condolences to the family," Srettha told reporters.

"I have instructed the Justice Ministry to investigate details about her death," he said.

Netiporn was jailed in January for contempt of court and her custody was extended after her bail was revoked in a royal insult case, said legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. She went on a hunger strike for a month before her health deteriorated.

She started to take some soft food in early April, but refused to take vitamins and minerals, the Corrections Department said at a press conference on May 15.

She was not in critical condition prior to her death, the department said, adding that it was waiting for an official autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Prison hospital director Pongpak Areeyapinan, said: "Her vital signs were normal, everything was normal until the emergency."

Netiporn is the first activist to die in custody since the outbreak of youth-led protests in 2020 calling for a reform of the monarchy.

She was among 272 people who have been charged with royal insult since 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Thailand's lese majeste law — one of the