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Suchanee Cloitre conviction over Twitter post overturned in Thammakaset saga

Paris-Geneva, October 28, 2020 – Yesterday, a Thai Court of Appeals overturned the LopburiProvincial Court’s conviction and prison sentence against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre,who had been found guilty of “defamation” and “libel” against poultrycompany Thammakaset for posting a message on Twitter. The Court of Appeals found that Ms.Suchanee’s statement was made in good faith and constituted “fair comment” onissues that were subject of public criticism – an exemption from defamationunder Article 329(3) of the Criminal Code.

On March 1, 2019, Thammakaset filed acriminal complaint for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code)and “libel” (Article 328) with the Lopburi Provincial Court, against Ms.Suchanee Cloitre, a former Voice TV reporter, for posting informationregarding labour rights abuses on Twitter. Ms. Suchanee Cloitre’s tweet madereference to a court decision in a labour dispute between Thammakaset and 14former workers from Myanmar. On December 24, 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Courtfound Ms. Suchanee guilty under Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code andhad sentenced her to two years in prison. After the sentence, Ms. Suchanee wasreleased on a 75,000 THB (2,404 USD) bail. Ms. Suchanee appealed the verdict.

The Observatory welcomes yesterday’sdecision by the Court of Appeals but recalls that Ms. Suchanee should neverhave been prosecuted in the first place, as the charges against her only aimedat targeting her for her legitimate journalism and human rights activities andthe exercise of her right to freedom of expression.

Since 2016, Thammakaset has filed atleast 38 criminal and civil cases against 23 defendants, including human rightsdefenders, workers, Ms. Suchanee, and VoiceTV, for alleged defamation. In March 2020 UN human rights experts condemned this pattern of harassment as a“continued misuse of judicial processes” to silence human rights defenders[1]. Since 2019, the Observatory hasadvocated for the cases brought by Thammakaset against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre andother human rights defenders to be dismissed.

The Observatory for the Protection of HumanRights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is toprevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDHand OMCT are both members of, the European Union HumanRights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] On August 1,2016, Thailand's Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) orderedThammakaset to pay workers affected by labour rights violations a total of 1.7million THB (54,496 USD), because Thammakaset had failed to pay minimum andovertime wages and to provide adequate leave to workers as required by Thailaw. On March 17, 2017, the Labour Court Region 1 in Saraburi Province upheldthe DLPW’s order requiring Thammakaset to pay workers a total of 1.7 millionTHB. On September 15, 2017, the Court of Appeals for Specialized Cases (LabourCases Division) also affirmed the decision. The judgment in the labour disputebetween Thammakaset and the 14 former workers is final after the Supreme Courtrefused to accept Thammakaset’s appeal on a matter-of-fact on March 12, 2019.The compensation was finally handed over to the 14 workers.

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