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Thailand
09.06.20
Urgent Interventions

Dismissal of the cases against Mr. Nan Win and Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri

New information

THA 001 / 0220 / OBS 016.1
Judicial harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of expression

Thailand
June 9
, 2020


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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the dismissal of the cases against human rights defenders Mr. Nan Win and Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, who were found not guilty of the accusation of defamation brought against them by the Thai poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd, as well as of the continued judicial harassment against Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit[1] and Ms. Puttanee Kangkun[2], who remain accused of “defamation” (Article 326 of the Thai Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328).

According to the information received, on June 8, 2020, the Criminal Court in Bangkok found Mr. Nan Win not guilty of defamation and dismissed the case against him. The Court ruled that the information Mr. Nan Win gave in the two interviews to the NGO Fortify Rights[3] was true and provided in good faith for the protection of a legitimate interest - an exemption from defamation under Article 329 (1) of the Criminal Code[4]. The Courts also found Ms. Sutharee not guilty of defamation and dismissed the case against her. The Court ruled that Ms. Sutharee’s three Twitter posts constituted “fair comment” on issues that were the subject of public criticism - another exemption from defamation under Article 329(3) of the Criminal Code.

The complaints stemmed from social media posts that included a video clip by Fortify Rights that highlighted alleged labour rights violations. Thammakaset considered the video clip defamatory.

On the same day, the Bangkok South Criminal Court refused to combine the cases of Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit and Ms. Puttanee Kangkun and scheduled the next preliminary hearings for the two cases for August 4, 2020, and August 17, 2020, respectively.

The Observatory welcomes the dismissal of the cases against Mr. Nan Win and Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, but condemns the ongoing judicial harassment against Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, and all other human rights defenders, as it only aims at punishing them for the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression. The Observatory calls on Thai authorities to immediately put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, and all other human rights defenders targeted by civil and criminal defamation complaints filed by Thammakaset.

Background information:

Since 2016, Thammakaset has filed at least 38 criminal and civil cases against 22 defendants, including human rights defenders, workers, and a journalist for alleged defamation of the company[5]. They include Mr. Andy Hall[6], Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian, and Ms. Suchanee Cloitre[7].

The Observatory also recalls that on April 4, 2018, at the end of its 10-day visit to Thailand, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Business and Human Rights issued a statement that urged the Thai government to “ensure that defamation cases are not used by businesses as a tool to undermine legitimate rights and freedoms of affected rights holders, [civil society organizations] and human rights defenders.”[8]

On March 12, 2020, a group of UN human rights experts, including the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, condemned Thammakaset’s “continued misuse of judicial processes” to harass and silence human rights defenders[9].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit and all other human rights defenders targeted by Thammakaset;

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the right to freedom of opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

iv. Repeal criminal defamation provisions (Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code);

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular Articles 1, and 12;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Thailand is a State party;

vii. Ensure that bail guarantees are refunded by the Court.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131

· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th

· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503

· Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702

· Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th

· H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int

· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

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

***

Paris-Geneva, June 9, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit, former Thailand National Human Rights Commissioner, is prosecuted for two social media posts.

[2] Ms. Puttanee Kangkun is a Senior Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights, who is prosecuted in relation to 14 social media engagements (three tweets, nine retweets, and two Facebook posts) she posted between January 25 and September 17, 2019, to express support to fellow human rights defenders involved in criminal and civil defamation cases regarding labour rights abuses committed by the Thai poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd

[3] Fortify Rights is an international NGO that works to prevent and remedy human rights violations, investigate abuses, and provide technical support to human rights defenders.

[4] Article 329 of the Thai Criminal Code reads that:

A person, in good faith, expresses any opinion or a statement:

* By way of self-justification or defense, or for the protection of a legitimate interest;

* In the status of being an official in the exercise of his functions;

* By way of fair comment on any person or thing subjected to public criticism; or

* By way of fair report of the open proceeding of any Court or meeting

shall not be guilty of defamation.

[5] See the Observatory Factsheet, “Thammakaset Watch”, published on February 13, 2020 and updated on June 7, 2020: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/thailand-thammakaset-watch

[6] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 003 / 0815 / OBS 067.5, published on May 23, 2019.

[7] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 003 / 1219 / OBS 114, published on December 27, 2019.

[8] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23095&LangID=E

[9] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25714&LangID=E

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