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Warunee, a Facebook user detained pending appeal on a royal defamation charge, has gone on a hunger strike in protest after being repeatedly denied bail.

A poster calling for Warunee's release. (Photo from ไข่แมวชีส)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Warunee told her lawyer during their visit on Monday (21 August) that she is going on a hunger strike to protest her detention and will not be eating solid foods. She will still be drinking milk, but if she is not granted bail within three days, she will be going on a dry fast and will refuse medical treatment.

A record of a visit from Warunee’s lawyer published by TLHR said that Warunee, who has bipolar disorder, is very stressed and has to rely on medication to sleep. She told her lawyer that going on a hunger strike is the only thing she can do to communicate how the royal defamation law hurts ordinary people.

In a statement given to her lawyer and published by TLHR, Warunee said that being denied bail on 17 August was the last straw for her. She said she can no longer put up with being bullied by the court and that there is nothing else she can do but to jeopardize her own health in protest.

“If the Court is not going to let me go nicely, I will find a way out myself … physically intact or covered in a sheet of white cloth,” she said.

Warunee, 30, was charged with royal defamation for posting a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal attire of the Emerald Buddha. The picture, which was edited to make it appear as if the Buddha was wearing a purple ball gown and sitting next to a Yorkshire terrier, was captioned “Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok” - a reference to a fashion brand belonging to the King’s daughter.  Warunee was also charged with threatening national security by entering offensive data into a computer system in violation of Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and insulting an object of religious veneration under Section 206 of the Criminal Code.

The complaint against Warunee was filed by Nopadol Prompasit, a member of the Thailand Help Centre for Cyberbullying Victims, an online royalist group whose members have filed numerous lèse majesté charges against many netizens and activists, including Parit ChiwarakAnon Nampa, and Panusaya Sithijirawattankul.

Warunee was indicted on 24 February 2022 on the grounds that the image might lead to a misunderstanding that the King was putting a dress on the Emerald Buddha and that a dog was sitting next to the Buddha during the ceremony - false information damaging to national security. The image allegedly also made fun of and insulted the King, and displayed disrespect towards the Emerald Buddha, an object of worship for Thai Buddhists, in a manner insulting to religion.

The public prosecutor noted that the dress was from a collection designed by Princess Sirivannavari, the Kings younger daughter by his second wife Sujarinee Vivacharawongse, the only one of their children he did not disown following their divorce. The design was made for her clothing label Sirivannavari Couture.

On 28 June, Warunee was found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in prison.  Her sentence was reduced to 1 year and 6 months because she confessed to committing an offence against the King, who should not have been violated in a manner affecting other peoples feeling.

After her lawyers filed for bail, the Criminal Court forwarded her request to the Appeal Court, which denied it. Warunee has been denied bail 5 times and has been in detention for 57 days at the Central Women Correctional Institution.

TLHR said today (23 August) that a lawyer visiting Warunee was told she has a stomachache, and that a prison nurse examining her on Tuesday night (22 August) found that she has low blood pressure. Warunee has now been on a hunger strike for three days and has only been drinking soy milk. She also told the lawyer that she has signed a document refusing medical treatment.

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