Thailand: Thammakaset sues HRDs for defamation on work supporting chicken farmers; groups urge govt to stop judicial harassment

Thammakaset has filed several cases against Myanmar workers who worked at its chicken farms and made reports of exploitation and abuse. Courts have so far dismissed some of these cases.

On 03 December 2018, a Thai court will hear the latest defamation case now filed against former Fortify Rights human rights specialist Sutharee Wannasiri and former employee of Thammakaset, Nan Win. 

On 08 March 2019, the Bangkok Criminal Court confirmed criminal defamation cases against Nan Win. The court will start trial on 24 May 2019. On 25 March 2019, the court will decide if the case against Sutharee Wannasiri will proceed separately. 

This story will follow the development of this case. Details of the charges are in the items linked below. Statements of support for the human rights defenders from various groups are also linked below.

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Article
2 April 2019

UN WG on business & human rights and various special rapporteurs call on gov't to protect HRDs vs Thammakaset suits

30 January 2019

Excellency,

We have the honour to address you in our capacities as Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences...

...we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency’s Government information we have received concerning the judicial harassment of human rights defender Ms. Sutharree Wannasiri and Mr. Nam Win, a migrant worker from Myanmar, for denouncing labor conditions of migrant workers in a Thai company, Thammakaset Co. Ltd (Thammakaset)...

As it is our responsibility, under the mandates provided to us by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to our attention, we would be grateful for your observations on the following matters:

...2. Please indicate what measures have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders, including labour rights defenders, in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate work in a safe and enabling environment without fear of threats or acts of intimidation and harassment of any sort, including from civil and criminal defamation charges.

3. Please provide detailed information on any measures your Excellency’s Government has undertaken to promptly identify migrant workers who are victims or potential victims of trafficking for the purpose of forced labour or labour exploitation...

4....[P]lease highlight the steps that the Government has taken, or is considering to take, to ensure (i) that migrant workers are able to seek effective remedies for violations of their rights without any fear of intimidation, and (ii) that existing legislation are not misused by businesses to obstruct legitimate and peaceful activities of human rights defenders, including by filing civil and criminal defamation cases.

...8. Based on the Supreme Court’s order of 15 January 2019 to pay compensation to the fourteen migrant workers from Myanmar exploited by the Thammakaset farm, please indicate the timeframe for the payment.

 

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Article
11 March 2019

Thailand: Criminal Court confirms criminal defamation charges filed by Thammakaset against human rights defender Nan Win

Author: Fortify Righgts

"Thailand: End Judicial Harassment of Human Rights Defenders Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri," 12 March 2019

On March 8, the Bangkok Criminal Court confirmed criminal defamation charges against Nan Win, a former employee at a Thammakaset-owned chicken farm in Lopburi Province who reported labor rights violations at the farm. The court scheduled his criminal trial to start on May 24.  The court is expected to decide whether to proceed with a separate criminal case against Suthareee Wannasiri on March 25.

...Thailand’s Supreme Court will also consider an appeal filed by Thammakaset challenging an order to pay 1.7 million Thai Baht (US$51,470) in compensation to 14 former Thammakaset employees for labor rights violations. In January, the Supreme Court rejected a separate appeal by Thammakaset challenging the compensation order.

The cases against Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri stem from complaints originally filed by Thammakaset in October 2018 and relate to their activities to bring attention to reprisals, including judicial harassment, against human rights defenders involved in exposing labor rights violations committed by Thammakaset.

Nan Win is one of the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar previously charged with criminal defamation by Thammakaset for reporting labor rights violations to Thai authorities.  Nan Win now faces up to four years in prison and up to 400,000 Thai Baht (US$12,100) in fines...

Sutharee Wannasiri...faces up to six years in prison and up to 600,000 Thai Baht (US$18,150) in fines for alleged violations under sections 326 and 328 of the Thailand Criminal Code as well as civil defamation charges for circulating the Fortify Rights film on social media.

...Lopburi Province Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DLPW) and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand both found evidence of labor rights abuses in the Thammakaset farm...DPLW ordered Thammakaset to pay 1.7 million Thai Baht (US$51,470) in compensation to the 14 former employees for violations of Thailand’s Labor Protection Act. Until today, the former employees have yet to receive compensation.

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Article
12 February 2019

Thailand: 89 groups urge gov't to oppose new cases filed by Thammakaset against human rights defenders

Author: 89 International and National Organisations

"Open Letter re New Lawsuits Brought by Thammakaset Company Limited Against Human Rights Defenders," 14 February 2019

Dear Prime Minister Prayut,

The 89 undersigned organizations write to express our deep concern regarding recent spurious complaints brought by Thammakaset Company Limited against several human rights defenders in Thailand.

We respectfully urge the Thai government to take immediate action to oppose and seek the dismissal of cases filed by Thammakaset that run counter to your government’s proclaimed policy to support business and human rights as well as Thailand’s interests, legal obligations, and international human rights law commitments.

To date, Thammakaset—a Thai-owned poultry company in Lopuri Province—has filed no fewer than 13 criminal and civil complaints against a number of human rights defenders, including former employees. While Thai authorities and courts have dismissed most of the complaints, some are still pending and, in November 2018, a company representative pledged to bring more complaints.

Thammakaset recently brought additional legal complaints against human rights defenders involved in publicly reporting on labor rights abuses and employer reprisals against the workers. As of October 2018, Nan Win, a former Thammakaset employee, faces new criminal defamation charges for speaking out on the alleged labor abuses and reprisals against the 14 former employees in a film produced by the human rights organization Fortify Rights and during a Facebook-live press conference that Fortify Rights organized. Sutharee Wannasiri, a former human rights specialist with Fortify Rights, also faces criminal and civil defamation charges for sharing Fortify Rights’ film on social media. The Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to consider the complaints against Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri on February 4 and March 11, 2019, respectively, and the Civil Court scheduled hearings in August 2019 to consider the civil complaint against Sutharee Wannasiri.

We are alarmed that Thai authorities are proceeding to investigate and prosecute these complaints by Thammakaset, particularly after the Don Mueang Sub-District Court has already dismissed similar criminal defamation charges in July 2018 brought by the company against the same 14 former employees. These new charges filed by Thammakaset constitute harassment by the company that waste valuable time and resources of police, prosecutors, and judicial officers.

To prevent future SLAPP lawsuits like those filed by Thammakaset, we recommend that Thailand develop comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation that fully protects workers, human rights defenders, and others from judicial harassment...Thailand should also decriminalize defamation and end imprisonment or fines as a penalties for acts of defamation.

We urge the Thai government to follow the recommendation provided by a group of six United Nations human rights experts in May 2018 to “revise its civil and criminal laws as well as prosecution processes to prevent misuse of defamation legislation by companies.”...We encourage the Thai government to incorporate these recommendations into Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and also ensure meaningful consultations with Thai civil society on developing and implementing the National Action Plan.

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Note from Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: Click on "Download the full document" to read the Thai version of the letter and click on the link to access the full version of the open letter.  To know more about these cases, you can follow our stories here and here

 

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Article
2 December 2018

Thailand: 16 orgs call on gov't to drop defamation complaints vs. rights defenders

Author: Various National and International Groups

"Thailand: Drop defamation complaints against rights defenders," 03 December 2018

We, the 16 undersigned organizations, call on the Thai authorities and Thammakaset Company Limited to ensure that the criminal and civil defamation complaints brought by the company against human rights defenders Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri for bringing attention to labor rights violations at a Thammakaset-owned chicken farm in Thailand do not proceed. The Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hold preliminary hearings on the criminal defamation complaints on December 3.

The company—a Thai-owned poultry company in Lopburi Province— should also withdraw all criminal complaints and unsubstantiated civil complaints against other migrant workers and human rights defenders for their involvement in peaceful activities protected by international human rights law.

We further call on the Thai authorities to ensure that no person is prosecuted or held criminally liable for defamation for activities protected under international law. The government should decriminalize defamation in Thai law and protect individuals and human rights defenders from abusive litigation aimed at curtailing the exercise of freedom of expression.

We are deeply concerned by Thammakaset’s continued attempts to misuse laws in Thailand to stifle the peaceful activities of human rights defenders protected under international human rights law and Thai law, curtailing the exercise of free expression in Thailand.

To uphold its commitments under domestic and international law, the Thai authorities should act to prevent further spurious SLAPP complaints being filed by Thammakaset and other companies that target workers and human rights defenders. Action to end SLAPP lawsuits is in line with the promoting responsible, rights respecting business practices that the current Thai government is supporting as part of developing a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. We urge Thai authorities in this regard to enact legislative protections to protect individuals from legal harassment through SLAPP lawsuits including, but not limited to, instituting effective protective provisions in the Thai Criminal Procedure Code.

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Article
28 November 2018

Thailand: FIDH and the Observatory make urgent appeal for Thai gov't to put an end to judicial harassment of human rights defenders

Author: OMCT & FIDH

"Thailand: Judicial harassment of Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri and Mr. Nan Win," 27 November 2018

The Observatory has been informed...about the judicial harassment of Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, a human rights consultant and former Thailand human rights specialist with the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Fortify Rights... and Mr. Nan Win, a migrant worker from Myanmar, for denouncing labour rights violations by a Thai company against migrant workers.

 

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. Sutharee Wannasiri, Mr. Nan Win and all human rights defenders in Thailand;

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 expression as required by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and abolish criminal defamation laws;

iv. 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 with its Articles 1, and 12;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

 

 

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Article
28 November 2018

Thailand: Fortify Rights calls on govt to drop defamation charges filed by Thammakaset vs. human rights defenders

Author: Fortify Rights

"Thailand: Drop Criminal Complaints Against Human Rights Defenders Sutharee Wannasiri and Nan Win," 28 November 2018

Thai authorities and Thammakaset Company Limited should immediately drop criminal and civil defamation complaints against two human rights defenders for their involvement in activities related to a Fortify Rights film, Fortify Rights said... The Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hold preliminary hearings on the criminal defamation complaints on December 3.

“These complaints are a form of judicial harassment and should be dropped immediately,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Instead of allowing companies to target and attack human rights defenders, the Thai authorities should protect and promote human rights defenders.”

The complaints, filed by Thammakaset in October 2018, relate to a 107-second film...that called on the Thai authorities to drop criminal defamation charges against 14 migrant workers at the Thammakaset-operated chicken farm in Lopburi Province and to decriminalize defamation in Thailand...

Former Fortify Rights Human Rights Specialist Sutharee Wannasiri is facing criminal defamation under sections 326 and 328 of the Thailand Criminal Code for a social media posting of the Fortify Rights film. Human rights defender and former employee of Thammakaset Nan Win, who is featured in the film, is also facing criminal defamation under sections 326 and 328 of the Thailand Criminal Code. If convicted, both human rights defenders face up to two years in prison and fines of up to 200,000 Thai baht (US$6,050). In a separate civil complaint, Thammakaset is also seeking five million Thai baht (US$151,400) from Sutharee Wannasiri for alleged damages to company’s reputation for her social media post.

Thammakaset—a Thai-owned poultry company in Lopuri Province—previously brought criminal defamation complaints against 14 migrant workers in October 2016 and against labor rights activist Andy Hall in November 2016. The company brought further charges against two migrant workers in August 2017 for alleged theft and similar alleged theft charges against woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) Suthasinee Kaewleklai. Thai courts struck down these previous criminal complaints.

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Note: The story on the cases filed against the chicken farm workers can be viewed here.

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Article
28 November 2018

Thailand: Thammakaset files defamation charges vs. human rights advocates supporting chicken farm workers

Author: ChannelNewsAsia

"Thai activist sued for defamation as poulty firm vows more cases," 28 November 2018

A defamation case by a Thai poultry farm against an activist who tweeted allegations of labour abuse should be dropped, a rights group urged...as the complainant vowed further action against "so-called human rights defenders".

A chicken farm owned by the Thammakaset company in Lopburi province has been at the centre of disputes by Myanmar workers about grueling days, lack of overtime and confiscated documents.

It has hit back with multiple defamation suits, a criminal offence in Thailand, but has yet to win.

Still the company has filed fresh defamation charges against one of the former workers named Nan Win and prominent Thai activist Sutharee Wannasiri, who had shared on social media a 107-second video about the case produced by NGO Fortify Rights.

Fortify, where Sutharee worked at the time, urged the company and authorities to drop the complaint, which will reach court on Dec 3.

"These complaints are a form of judicial harassment and should be dropped immediately," said Amy Smith of Fortify.

The International Federation for Human Rights also condemned the lawsuit.

But Thammakaset owner Chanchai Pheamphon said he was forced to bring the suits to defend the name of his company from false allegations.

"For the past two years, everyone blamed me but they never did a proper investigation," he said, denying accusations of confiscating passports and making workers endure herculean shifts of more than 20 hours.

"From now on, you will see that more lawsuits will be filed against a series of so-called human rights defenders in Thailand who to me are actually (rights) violators," he warned, adding that attempts at negotiation had failed.

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Note: The story on the cases filed against the chicken farm workers can be viewed here.

 

 

 

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