Protest leader ‘Rung’ infected with COVID-19, ‘Penguin’ vows to fight on

File photo Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak

22-year-old anti-establishment protest leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has contracted COVID-19, according to her social media post today (Wednesday), almost a week after her release on bail.

Panusaya revealed this morning that she just learned that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and had started developing symptoms last night.

Charting her movements, to alert those who may have been in contact with her, or the same area, she said, after being released on bail on May 6th, she went to Praram 9 Hospital, then went home that day. She stayed home between May 7th and 9th and had a swab test at a drive-thru facility on May 10th, before joining a crowd in front of Bangkok Remand Prison yesterday, to wait for her fellow protest leaders also to be released on bail.

“I sincerely apologize to everyone who has been put at risk by me. I didn’t think I was infected, because a test on April 22nd was negative and I did not have any symptoms. I was also barred from getting a test after my release on May 6th, because I wasn’t part of a high-risk group,” she wrote.

Panusaya had been detained at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution in Bangkok since early March on a lèse majesté indictment. She was granted conditional bail last week.

Her infection, along with the previously confirmed COVID-19 infections of her fellow protest leaders and lèse majesté detainees Anon Nampa and Chukiat “Justin” Saengwong, has raised questions about the safety of inmates from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak vowed to fight on in his Facebook post today. He and another protest leader, Chaiamorn “Ammy” Kaewwiboonpan, were released on bail last night on the same bail conditions imposed on Panusaya, namely that they would refrain from joining activities that could cause unrest, from tarnishing the monarchy’s reputation, leaving the country without the court’s permission and that they will appear at court hearings.

“I don’t think the conditions will obstruct our movement. I don’t think the monarchy’s reputation will be tarnished just because people speak the truth. For me, the fight to reform the monarchy will go on,” the 22-year-old wrote.

Both Panusaya and Parit were on hunger strike in prison, to protest denial of bail for their fellow Ratsadon group activists.


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