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After 14 days of hunger strike, Warunee, a woman detained pending appeal on a royal defamation charge, has been transferred to the Thammasat University Hospital.

Warunee leaving the Department of Corrections Hospital in an ambulance. (Photo by Ginger Cat)

Warunee’s family filed a request with the Department of Corrections Hospital on Sunday (3 September) to have her transferred to the Thammasat University Hospital. The request was made after having communication issues with the Department of Corrections Hospital, which refused to inform the family of her condition on weekends, only allowing them to contact the hospital during working hours. Warunee also refused to be treated by the Department of Corrections Hospital. Her family said she needs immediate medical attention.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said yesterday (5 September) that Warunee is being transferred to the Thammasat University Hospital, where she previously said she preferred to be treated.

Warunee was sentenced to 3 years in prison for royal defamation, threatening national security by entering offensive data into a computer system, and insulting an object of religious veneration for posting a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal attire of the Emerald Buddha, edited to make it appear as if the Buddha was wearing a purple ball gown and sitting next to a Yorkshire Terrier. It was captioned “Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok” - a reference to a fashion brand belonging to the King’s daughter.

Her sentence was later reduced to 1 year and 6 months because she confessed to committing an offence against the King and because she acknowledged that her offence negatively affect other people’s feelings. 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 70 days.

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.

After being denied bail again on 31 August, Warunee began dry fasting on Saturday (2 September), refusing food, water, rehydration solution, and her psychiatric medication. However, after being told by hospital personnel on Monday (4 September) that she needs to keep taking her medication due to her mental condition, she is now drinking a small amount of water when taking the medication.

TLHR said in their statement today (5 September) that Warunee continues to refuse food and rehydration solution, but is drinking around 60CC of water a day with her medication. She now weighs only 33 KG. Doctors say that she is at risk of developing refeeding syndrome if she suddenly starts eating again.

TLHR said that both the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court have denied all bail requests Warunee’s lawyers filed for her. So far, they have filed 5 and have appealed denials twice with the Supreme Court. The reasons cited for denying her requests include the gravity of the crime she confessed to, concern that she is a flight risk, the fact that the appellate court ruled against her and the court’s judgement that the Department of Corrections is capable of providing her with medical care.

According to TLHR, over 2 years of court proceedings, Warunee has never missed a single police or court appointment. They add that she has a permanent residence in Phitsanulok and should not be considered a flight risk and that she also has bipolar disorder and requires continuous medical care. As Warunee has been financially supporting her family, her detention has adversely affected family members.

TLHR notes that the offending picture was the only criticism of the monarchy posted by Warunee on her social media account, and that despite her confession, she intends to file an appeal. In being detained, she is being denied her right to a fair trial, in contravention of any presumption of innocence. In their bail requests, her lawyers have also proposed possible conditions to the courts, including placing her under a curfew, requiring her to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, and appointing a guardian. Her requests continue to be denied, however.

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