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