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Warunee, a woman detained pending appeal on a royal defamation charge, has gone on a dry fast after 13 days of hunger strike and being denied bail again on Thursday (31 August).

Warunee's sister standing in front of the Department of Corrections Hospital while holding a picture of Warunee. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

To protest her detention, Warunee has been on a hunger strike since 21 August. She told her lawyer she would not be eating solid food and would be going on a dry fast if she was not granted bail within three days of beginning her strike. On 24 August, she began limiting her water intake, only drinking a small amount when taking medication for her bipolar disorder. She was admitted to the Department of Corrections Hospital on 30 August.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said on Saturday (2 September) that Warunee is refusing food, water, and rehydration solutions. She has also refused to take her medication, and is continuing to refuse treatment from the Department of Corrections Hospital.

Warunee was found guilty of royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, 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. She was charged 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 Kings daughter. 

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.  She acknowledged it was wrong to negatively affect other peoples feelings.

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.

After her lawyers filed for bail, the Criminal Court forwarded her request to the Appeal Court, which denied it. Subsequent attempts to appeal the decision have also been denied, and she has been in detention for 69 days.

On Thursday (31 August), the Appeal Court once again denied her bail, saying that she has been repeatedly denied bail because she is deemed a flight risk. The court also said that the Department of Corrections is capable of providing her medical care.

Warunee's sister standing at the entrance to the Department of Corrections Hospital. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Warunee’s sister, whose prefers to remain anonymous, said that she is not confident that the Department of Corrections will be able to take care of Warunee. During her detention at the Women’s Central Correctional Institution, her family found it difficult to send medication into prison and prison officials refused to answer when family members ask how much was left. At one point, Warunee was left without medication for several days before her family was informed and able send it to her. Her sister also said that any medication the family sends must be vetted by a prison doctor who is only available on Fridays, leading to further delays.

Warunee’s sister said that no one informed the family when Warunee was admitted to the Department of Corrections Hospital. Warunee told her during their visit the day before she was admitted that she was being taken to see a doctor to get a blood test. Her sister found out later that she had been admitted, adding that no one from the Department of Corrections called her even though they had her phone number and had been asked to call her in case of emergency.

Warunee’s family filed a request with the Department of Corrections Hospital yesterday (3 September) asking to have her transferred to the Thammasat University Hospital. The family said that they made the request because the Department of Corrections Hospital refused to inform them of her condition during the weekend, telling them that they could only contact the hospital during working hours, even though her condition needed constant monitoring.

Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon lied down in front of the Police Hospital while dressed in an inmate uniform and with chains around her neck. Other activists then covered her in red paint. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

On Sunday (3 September), activists walked from the Siam Paragon shopping mall to the Police Hospital to demand bail for political prisoners and that Warunee be transferred to Thammasat University Hospital. Activist Tantawan Tuatulanon dressed in an inmate uniform and walked through the shopping district with chains around her neck.  She was held by another activist dressed as a judge. At the Police Hospital, she lied down while other activists poured red paint over her and scatted pieces of paper with names of political prisoners around her.

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