Updated: Smash 112, free all political prisoners

23 01 2023

Brave advocates for the end of Article 112 began protesting “in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road in conjunction with a hunger strike by two detained female activists who are neither eating nor drinking water with tonight (Jan. 21) being the third night but they have been taken to the Correctional Department’s hospital…”.

Calling themselves the Independent People’s Group, the protesters had these demands:

  • Reform the judicial process taking into account human rights principles and freedom of expression and not interfere with litigation;
  • Stop prosecuting people for exercising their freedom of expression, assembling and  voicing their political views:
  • All political parties propose a policy to guarantee rights, liberties and political participation by cancelling Section 112, also known as the lese majeste law, and Section 116 of the Criminal Code.

Yesterday, members of Thalufah “peacefully stood in a row on a sidewalk outside the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre at Pathumwan intersection in protest of the sustained detainment of the 21 political detainees, nine of whom have been faced with the draconian lese majeste charges, better known as Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and others on sedition charges.” They planned a 112 hour protest calling for “Free Political Prisoners” and “Stop Violation of Human Rights”, among other demands.

These protesters are also calling “for the unconditional and immediate release of the 21 political detainees,” and supporting “Tantawan Tuatulanond and Orawan Pupong, currently held at the Central Women Correctional Institution.”

Now, “Tantawan and Orawan who have not only denied meals but drinking water provided at the prison have resolutely insisted that all the political detainees be freed, the country’s judicial systems be amended and the lese majeste law be abolished.”

Update: Prachatai updates on the protests, which have expanded beyond Bangkok, including Khon Kaen and Chiang Mai (scroll down the story about halfway for the update on protests).





Absurd 112 trials

19 01 2023

We were surprised to see that the Bangkok Post wrote something on the situation of monarchy reform advocates. Perhaps it is because the report is about the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where the superstar connection might have been the trigger.

The Foundation issued a statement made the all too obvious point that the current military-monarchy regime “should dismiss the case against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy, sedition and a range of public order offences…”. Of course it should!

To do so would mean Thailand would “adhere to its international human rights obligations…”.

The Foundation’s TrialWatch Expert Kevin Bell AM KC submitted “an amicus brief submitted to the Bangkok Criminal Court.”

Clipped from The Nation

TrialWatch monitors criminal trials globally against those who are most vulnerable, including journalists and opposition figures, and advocates for the rights of individuals who are unfairly imprisoned. Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against the protest leaders, who face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges (in Thailand, if a defendant is being prosecuted for multiple offenses for the same conduct, the defendant is to be punished for the offense with the most severe punishment).

Of course, the spinelessness of the Bangkok Post editorial policies means it only summarizes the most important bits of the statement. Here it is in full:

… The charges are based on the prosecution’s allegation that while giving speeches at a protest the defendants lied about the Thai King’s expenditures and his frequent travel to and from Germany, including during the COVID lockdowns and allegedly in violation of quarantine rules.

As documented by TrialWatch monitors who have attended the trial, the prosecution has not presented evidence that the defendants’ statements were false and the court has refused to order institutions like the Crown Property Bureau, the Royal Office, and Thai Airways to provide financial and travel records, despite the defense’s repeated requests. This has undercut the defense’s ability to prove the statements were true. As one defendant noted at a recent hearing, without access to information to prove the truth of their comments “it is as if the defendant’s side is chained with one hand to the boxing ring, preventing them from punching and fighting with the other side.” If the court does not dismiss the case, it should at least allow the defense access to the materials it needs to both mount a defense and to challenge the prosecution’s evidence and arguments, today’s amicus brief said.

… “In violation of international principles, the court has tied the accused’s hands by obstructing their attempts to obtain documents that would prove the truth of their statements about the King. The absurdity of this situation is highlighted by the fact that the defendants are charged with lying that the King was not in Thailand during certain periods at the same time as defense lawyers have been prevented from accessing routine travel records,” said TrialWatch Expert the Honourable Kevin Bell AM KC, who has fifteen years of judicial experience in the conduct of criminal trials, including as former Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia.

Read the whole statement.





What rights?

15 01 2023

Human Rights Watch has released its World Report 2023. Read the Thailand in 2022 report here. It begins ominously and predictably:

The government of Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha continued to restrict fundamental rights, particularly freedom of expression and assembly, and prosecuted human rights and democracy activists, community advocates, environmental defenders, and critics of the monarchy. Government promises to fulfill Thailand’s human rights obligations and end impunity for abuses remained largely unfulfilled.

On lese majeste:

In November 2020, Prime Minister Prayut ordered authorities to use all laws against democracy protesters, bringing back lèse-majesté (insulting the monarchy) prosecution under article 112 of the penal code after a three-year hiatus. Authorities have since charged at least 215 people under Article 112 in relation to various activities undertaken at democracy protests or comments made on social media. In addition, making critical or offensive comments about the monarchy is also a serious criminal offense under the Computer-Related Crime Act. Authorities have also charged some political activists with sedition under Article 116 of the penal code….

Judicial interpretation of lèse-majesté offenses seems to vary according to interpretations by different courts, making convictions arbitrary and sometimes going beyond what is stipulated in the law.





Malls and the status quo

13 07 2022

Archinect is not in PPT’s usual reading list. But it is this week after we found “Architecture, Consumerism, and Human Rights: On ​‘Subverting the Narrative of Power Systems in Thailand’ with Shopping Malls.” The story and interview begins:

Thesis projects offer an exciting glimpse into the minds of emerging designers and their unique architectural perspectives as they navigate through their careers. This is the case for Syracuse University B.Arch graduates Pin Sangkaeo and her collaborative research partner Benson Joseph. Together they explore the practice of merit-making and how political tactics and consumerism have impacted Thailand’s social and political agendas through their thesis project, Temples of Consumerism.

According to Sangkaeo, the project “investigates the role of shopping malls as physical tools of maintaining the status quo, used by those who hold political powers in order to superimpose their ideologies on the collective citizens and perpetuate the systems.”

Reproduced from the linked article where it is placed with the permission of Pin Sangkaeo





Justice in Southeast Asia Lab

1 02 2022

The Justice in Southeast Asia Lab (JSEALab) is part of a five-year initiative on Social Justice in Southeast Asia at the University of Wisconsin-Madison housed in the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Human Rights Program and funded by the Henry Luce Foundation.

The Lab is a combination of intensive exchanges between faculty and graduate students and public events that aim to foster collaboration between academics and practitioners. The JSEALab reflects both the recognition that a growing number of MAs and PhDs in Southeast Asian Studies are choosing to pursue professional careers outside the university and that there is a need for academic work to be directly responsive to ongoing social justice crises in the region.

The JSEALab had a soft launch during the Fall 2021 semester with Justice in Translation, an online open-access translation series. Other activities will begin during the Spring 2022 semester, and then further additional activities will commence in the 2022-2023 academic year.

Upcoming events in Spring 2022 and links that can be followed and set to get updates on the JSEALab via [https://seasia.wisc.edu/sjsea-project/jsealab/], Twitter [https://twitter.com/jsealab], and Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/jsealab].





Further updated: Buffalo manure human rights

8 11 2021

The Thai Enquirer reports that the military-backed regime, headed by a coup plotter as unelected prime minister has made the absurd claim that “Thailand is ready to commit to promoting and protecting human rights in the country and abroad…”.

This regime, constructed on the military murder of scores of protesters in 2010, on the bodies located and still missing of those forcibly disappeared, and which has detained and jailed thousands, made this outrageous claim “ahead of the UN’s upcoming Third Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR)…”.

Ratchada Thanadirek, the regime’s deputy spokeswoman lied: “The government is committed to working with the international community to voluntarily declare its commitments, consider feedback and listen to proposals…”.

How high?

Ratchada built a pile of stinking buffalo poo, saying the “current administration is working to revise its laws to match the international human rights instruments, including anti-torture law, laws against inhumane punishments, and laws that protect against enforced disappearance.”

These are all crimes that this regime has engaged in, regularly. It is a false claim, it is a gross untruth. It is made as it continues to lock up protesters and jail people under Article 112, a draconian law that “protects” the monarchy from criticism and scrutiny and permits the jailing of political dissidents.

As the article explains:

The statement comes at a time when the Thai government is being criticized at home and abroad for its arbitrary arrest and detention of pro-democracy protesters.

Over a dozen student protesters have been arrested and denied bail for leading street protests against the Prayut Chan-ocha administration and calling for reform of Thailand’s conservative institutions.

Films, art exhibitions, and even nationally recognized artists have been punished and/or censored by the government for speaking in support of the demonstrators or on political issues….

The Prayut administration has implemented a Covid-related state of emergency protocol that bans large-scale gatherings. This emergency act has been used to detain, arrest, and crack down on unarmed protesters.

Built on murders, lies, deceit, rigged laws and elections, and repression, this is a corrupt regime.

Update 1: For something far more realistic and factual, try the CIVICUS and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) call for UN member states to raise serious concerns about Thailand’s civic freedoms.

Diplomats in training

Update 2: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been a useful tool for the regime. Populated by royalists, for decades it has polished royal posteriors, often with amazing contortions that make its people look like pretzels. The latest official contortionist is Nadhavathna Krishnamra, a Foreign Ministry representative speaking to the UN Human Rights Council.

Facing questions from Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, among others, about those charged with lese majeste, including more than a dozen children, Nadhavathna defended lese majeste. It was asserted that the law “protects the monarch and therefore national security, and that royal insult cases were carefully handled.” Everyone knows this is buffalo manure. Nadhavathna trotted out more of the regime’s buffalo poo: “It reflects the culture and history of Thailand, where the monarchy is one of the main pillars of the nation, highly revered by the majority of Thai people…. Its existence is closely linked to safeguarding the key national institutions and national security.” Blah, blah, blah excrement.





Official human rights nonsense

17 08 2021

Thanks to a reader for pointing out a recent op-ed by academic Mark S. Cogan at the Southeast Asia Globe.

“Thailand’s human rights narrative runs contrary to reality, even at the UN” has the following sub-header:

Despite cases of lèse-majesté piling up and pro-democracy protesters facing serious charges like sedition, Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review later this year will most likely be as inconsequential as previous UN human rights inspections.

Thailand is due to have its human rights record examined in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in n November. This is Thailand’s third UPR. Cogan states that:

Back in February, in preparation for this upcoming human rights review, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai gave remarks during the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council, noting that Thailand would “recommit to our common core values in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

He adds that Don’s perspective has little to do with human rights as practiced in the country. In fact:

[p]ublic statements on Thailand’s human rights contributions often boast about the kingdom’s accomplishments…. But these … often mask Thailand’s true record on the ground – a record stained by draconian measures to cripple individual freedom of expression, curb press freedom, and silence regime critics.

Don’s “remarks” were meant “to ensure that the narrative on human rights was crystal clear to the UN – there were no human rights challenges in Thailand…”.

He and other Thai diplomats have almost Pavlovian retorts to any challenges, pointing to the “perceived failure to understand what it means to be Thai, [a] … lack of familiarity with the situation on the ground, or the more nationalistic refrain that highlights Thailand’s unique status as a country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonised.”

Cogan recounts a meeting between Don and three UN officials after the 2014 coup where he went to great lengths “trying to ensure that the trio also understood Thai culture and tradition, the Foreign Minister paused and remarked: “Actually, in summary, Thailand has one of the best human rights records in all of Southeast Asia.” He then “corrected himself and said: ‘No, no, no, Thailand has the best human rights record in Asia’.”

Not even Don believes such nonsense.

Lese majeste is of especial concern. Cogan notes that:

… for its second cycle UPR in 2016, the Thai government compared its lèse majesté law (Article 112) as comparable to libel law for commoners, adding that it is “not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression or academic freedom” and it was implemented in “accordance with due legal process and those convicted are entitled to receive royal pardon”.

It is troubling to PPT that several human rights protectors and the media in Thailand now regularly refer to lese majeste as “royal defamation,” which seems to accept the authoritarians’ narrative. We say, call it by its name.

Lese majeste has seen hundreds locked up, including for Article 112 convictions that don’t even fit the law. As Cogan reminds us, “… Prawet Praphanukul, a human rights lawyer, [was]… locked up in prison after being held at the 11th Army Circle base in Bangkok…”. He spent 16 months in prison on lese majeste and sedition charges and when he was finally sentenced, the lese majeste charge was simply not mentioned, probably because, at that time, the erratic king was trying to minimize political damage.

Famously, Prawet bravely rejected the royalist courts. When he appeared in court in 2017 he stunned the court by stating: “Thai courts do not have the legitimacy to try the case. Therefore, I declare that I do not accept the judicial process in the case.” Prawet added that he would not participate in the case nor grant authority to any lawyer to represent him.

Clipped from Prachatai

More recently, Cogan reports, various UN experts were deeply alarmed over the harsh sentence of Anchan Preelerd, a 60-year old former Thai civil servant. She was given a 43-year sentence. In fact, she was sentenced to a mammoth 87 years in prison, with the sentence reduced because she finally agreed to plead guilty because she had already spent three years in prison pending her trial.

Yet the puppet-like Ministry of Foreign Affairs is straight-faced when it declares the lese majeste law is not “aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression nor the exercise of academic freedom or debate about the monarchy as an institution.” It “went on to suggest once again that the law exists to “protect the dignity of royal families in a similar way a libel law does for any Thai citizen.” That’s buffalo manure, and every single Thai knows this.

Cogan concludes: “Thailand’s third time through the Universal Periodic Review, because of its predetermined narrative about its own human rights record, will most likely be as inconsequential as its previous UPR.” Sadly, he’s right. In the years since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s human rights situation has deteriorated into a dark age.





fidh appeal

14 08 2021
The following is an appeal by Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture:

THA 002 / 0821 / OBS 083
Arbitrary detention /
Judicial harassment
Thailand
August 12, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and ongoing judicial harassment of eight pro-democracy activists, namely: Anon Nampa, prominent human rights lawyer; Parit ChiwarakNutchanon PairojSirichai Natueng, Thammasat University student activists; Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Ratsadon Mutelu member; Panupong Chadnok, Eastern Youth for Democracy member; Thatchapong Kaedam, Free Youth member; and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, Dao Din member….

On August 9, 2021, police officers arrested Anon Nampa after he surrendered himself to the Pathumwan police station in Bangkok after learning that a warrant had been issued for his arrest. Mr. Anon was charged with violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”) and the Emergency Decree for his participation in a peaceful protest on August 3, 2021, in Central Bangkok. During the protest, Mr. Anon made a speech in which he reiterated the pro-democracy movement’s call for the reform of the Thai monarchy.

On August 10, 2021, police denied Anon Nampa’s bail request arguing that he would present a high risk of re-offending, if released. After spending two nights in custody at the Pathumwan police station, on August 11, 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court approved the police’s request detention for Mr. Anon and denied him bail. The court argued Mr. Anon was accused of a serious offence, had breached previous bail conditions, and was likely to re-offend, if released. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Mr. Anon was being detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre, where he was undergoing COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine. The Observatory recalls that it is not the first time that Mr. Anon faces charges under Article 112 and, if convicted in all the “lèse-majesté” cases pending against him, he could be sentenced to a total of 195 years in jail. Earlier this year, Mr. Anon was detained for 113 days on charges under Article 112. Similarly, Messrs. Parit and Panupong were detained for 92 and 85 days, respectively, on lèse-majesté charges. Mr. Parit was conditionally released on May 11, 2021, and Messrs. Anon and Panupong on June 1, 2021.

The Observatory notes with concern that between November 24, 2020 and August 9, 2021, 116 individuals, including Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, and many other human rights defenders, were charged under Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code (“lèse-majesté”).

On August 8, 2021, Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, and Phromsorn Weerathamjaree were arrested in front of the Police Headquarters in Bangkok in connection with their participation in a peaceful protest on August 2, 2021, in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province. Protesters had gathered to demand the release of 32 fellow activists who had been arrested and detained in connection with another protest at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau in Bangkok earlier the same day. Later on August 8, 2021, Messrs. Parit, Nutchanon, Sirichai, and Phromsorn were taken into custody to the Khlong 5 police station and then to the the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters in Pathumthani Province.

On August 9, 2021, Panupong Chadnok and Thatchapong Kaedam were arrested after they reported themselves at the Khlong 5 police station in Pathumthani Province in relation to the August 2, 2021 protest. All six pro-democracy activists were charged with violating Article 215 of the Criminal Code (“leading an illegal assembly of more than 10 people” ), the Emergency Decree, and the Communicable Diseases Act. Three other protesters who accompanied Messrs.Panupong and Thatchapong at the Khlong 5 police station were also arrested and detained.

On August 9, 2021, the Thanyaburi Provincial Court approved the temporary detention request for Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Panupong Chadnok, and Thatchapong Kaeda and denied them bail on the grounds that they acted without considering the society’s safety, peace, and order during the COVID-19 pandemic and that they would likely commit the same offenses if released. The six activists were then taken to the Rangsit Temporary Prison in Pathumthani Province, where they remained detained at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal for a quarantine period of 21 days after which they would be transferred to the Thanyaburi Prison.

On August 9, 2021, police arrested Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa after he surrendered himself at the Thung Song Hong police station in Bangkok. Mr. Jatuphat was charged with violating the Emergency Decree and Article 215 of the Criminal Code, in connection with a protest held in front of the Thung Song Hong police station on August 3, 2021. Mr. Jatuphat, who was detained at Bangkok’s Central Special Treatment Centre at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, had no access to a lawyer until the afternoon of August 10, 2021.

The Observatory condemns the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of the eight above-mentioned human rights defenders, which seem to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities and the exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.

The Observatory calls on the Thai authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the eight human rights defenders and to put an end to the judicial harassment against them and all other human rights defenders in the country.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Thailand, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok,Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa since their detention is arbitrary as it seems to be merely aimed at punishing them for their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Anon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, Panupong Chadnok, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Thatchapong Kaedam, Jatuphat Boonpattararaksa, and all other human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists in the country;

iv. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Email: spmwebsite@thaigov.go.th
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Email: complainingcenter@moj.go.th
· Gen Apirut Kongsompong, Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army, Email: webadmin@rta.mi.th

· Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Email: info@royalthaipolice.go.th
· Mr. Prakairat Tanteerawong, National Human Rights Commissioner of Thailand, Email: Prakairatana@nhrc.or.th/ Prakairatanao@yahoo.com
· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.





Virus doublespeak

20 12 2020

We at PPT are not medically trained or epidemiologists but as laypersons interested in human rights, we were stunned by a report at Thai Enquirer.

The outbreak in Samut Sakhon is among workers employed in the fisheries industry who live in crowded and unsanitary dormitories. It is reported:

The government said that they would isolate the dormitories where the migrant workers were …[living] but would provide healthcare and other necessities. The government said Thais living in the dormitories would be evacuated and moved to local hospitals.

Photos show razor wire being put up around the dormitories and the seafood market.

Government Spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin said this was not about “blaming” migrants – it is – and that human rights were being maintained – they aren’t.

Taweesin said Singapore had shown:

how to isolate and quarantine a foreign work force. Singapore saw a mass break out in foreign workers dormitory with workers living in close proximity to one another. The city-state managed to isolate and quarantine the work force but faced some criticisms from rights groups.

And how did things go for migrant workers in Singapore? A Reuters report explains that:

Nearly half of Singapore’s migrant workers residing in dormitories have had COVID-19, according to the government, indicating the virus spread much more widely among those living in these accommodations than the official case tally shows.

The rate in the dormitories for migrant workers was 47%. The rate for those outside the dormitories was just 0.25%.

If that’s the model, human rights count for nothing. Singapore should be condemned, and so should Thailand if it takes this discriminatory route.





End Harassment of Suchanee Cloitre

29 10 2020

PPT had earlier posted on the legal harassment of journalist Suchanee Cloitre. This is just one more example of how the rich and powerful benefit from Thailand’s warped judicial system. We reproduce the joint letter by human rights groups:

Thailand: End Harassment of Suchanee Cloitre
Baseless criminal defamation cases undercut labor rights protections

Suchanee (clipped from LePetitJournal.com)

Joint Letter

26 October 2020

We, the undersigned twelve human rights organizations, call on Thailand’s government to immediately end the harassment through the judicial system of journalist Suchanee Cloitre and to take concrete steps to protect journalists and human rights defenders from frivolous criminal proceedings. On 27 October, the Lopburi Court of Appeal will deliver the verdict in an appeal by Suchanee, who was convicted last year in a case initiated by Thammakaset Company Limited. The case underscores the need to repeal criminal defamation provisions in Thailand’s Criminal Code, which have frequently been used by businesses and powerful individuals to silence their critics.

The charges against Suchanee stem from a tweet concerning alleged labor rights violations at a chicken farm operated by Thammakaset in Lopburi Province. According to a complaint filed by workers with the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, the company failed to pay minimum wage or overtime, did not provide adequate rest time and holidays, and confiscated identity documents, among other abuses. In 2016, the Lopburi Department of Labor Protection and Welfare ordered Thammakaset to pay THB 1.7 million in compensation to the workers, a penalty that was later upheld by Thailand’s Supreme Court.

At the time of her tweet in 2017, Suchanee was a journalist for Voice TV and reported on the allegations. In March 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint against Suchanee under sections 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code, concerning defamation and libel, respectively. In December 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Court convicted Suchanee under both provisions and sentenced her to non-probational two years’ imprisonment.

Suchanee is only one of many individuals targeted by Thammakaset. Since 2016, Thammakaset has initiated civil and criminal cases against 22 individuals and Voice TV for speaking out about the company’s alleged labor right violations. Among the accused are former Thammakaset employees, labor rights activists, an academic, women human rights defenders, and a former commissioner from the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

In March 2020, four United Nations Special Rapporteurs and the chairs of two UN Working Groups wrote to the Thai government to express concern about the “continued judicial harassment by Thammakaset Co. Ltd (Thammakaset), of human rights defenders, migrant workers, journalists and academics for denouncing exploitative working conditions of migrant workers”.

The Thai government’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, adopted in 2019, set combatting “strategic lawsuits against public participation” (SLAPP) and preventing prosecution of human rights defenders as major priorities for the government. However, the government has failed to act decisively to achieve this objective. Earlier this month, the Thai government further undermined its commitment to ensuring a rights-respecting business environment by awarding a human rights prize to Mitr Phol Co. Ltd, a sugar company facing a class action lawsuit over alleged human rights abuses in Cambodia.

In December 2018, Thailand’s National Legislative Assembly amended the Criminal Procedure Code to include two provisions, sections 161/1 and 165/2, that could be used to dismiss criminal cases against those acting in the public interest. This reform was cited in the National Action Plan as evidence of the government’s attempt to prevent SLAPP lawsuits. However, to date, judges have refused to consistently apply these provisions in spurious criminal cases filed by Thammakaset and other private actors against journalists and human rights defenders.

While the proactive application by judges of sections 161/1 and 165/2 to dismiss abusive cases against human rights defenders and others acting in the public interest would be a positive step, more far-reaching reforms are necessary.

We call on the Thai government to decriminalize defamation, including by repealing or amending sections 326-333 of the Criminal Code and section 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. There is growing international consensus in favor of decriminalizing defamation, as recognized in the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34, which emphasized that custodial sentences are never an appropriate penalty for defamation.

We also call on the government to take immediate steps to end frivolous criminal proceedings against journalists, human rights defenders, and whistleblowers, including those accused by Thammakaset.

Signed:

Amnesty International
ARTICLE 19
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and development (FORUM-ASIA)
Community Resource Center (CRC)
Civil Rights Defenders
Fortify Rights
Human Rights Lawyers Association
Human Rights Watch
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)








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