Facebook user charged with royal defamation for editing Emerald Buddha photo

A Facebook user from Phitsanulok was arrested on Thursday (2 December) on a royal defamation charge, after she posted a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the seasonal decoration of the Emerald Buddha, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a dress.

King Vajiralongkorn changing the Emerald Buddha’s seasonal decoration in a ceremony on 20 November 2021 (Picture from royaloffice.th)

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that Warunee (last name withheld), 30, was arrested at her home in Phitsanulok at around 7.00 on Thursday (2 December) on an arrest warrant issued by the Criminal Court and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) headquarters in Bangkok. TLHR also said that she never received a police summons before being arrested.

Warunee was reportedly accused of royal defamation for posting a picture of King Vajiralongkorn changing the Emerald Buddha’s seasonal decoration in a ceremony on 20 November 2021, edited so that the Buddha is wearing a purple ball gown with a Yorkshire terrier sitting next to the base of the Buddha, along with the message “Emerald Buddha x Sirivannavari Bangkok”.

A complaint against her was then 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 Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, and Panusaya Sithijirawattankul.

Nopadol claimed that the edited image insulted and made fun of the King, and that the post was rude and inappropriate and could affect national security, as well as insulting the religion. He also said that the dress edited into the photo was designed and worn by the King’s youngest daughter Princess Sirivannavari to attend VOGUE Thailand’s 2020 Vogue Gala event.

Warunee was charged with royal defamation under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, entering into a computer system data which is an offence relating to national security under Section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act, and insulting an object of religious worship under Section 206 of the Criminal Code.

During her interrogation, Warunee denied all charges and asked the inquiry officer to summon Nopadol to explain his accusations and to point out which component of the image was offensive.

The police then confiscated her phone and laptop, and detained her overnight at Thung Song Hong Police Station. She was taken to court on Friday morning (3 December) for a temporary detention request.

Her lawyer then requested bail for Warunee on the grounds that she has bipolar disorder and needs to receive continuous treatment. She was later granted bail using a 100,000-baht security.

Since November 2020, 163 people are facing royal defamation charges for political expression in 167 cases. According to TLHR, of this number, 81 cases are a result of complaints filed by members of the public.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”