(New York) – in prosecutors Thailand Human Rights Watch said today that three prominent human rights defenders should immediately drop the criminal defamation cases brought by Themkaset Co. Ltd. in support of other activists facing criminal charges. The Thai government should act to repeal the criminal defamation provisions and introduce stronger safeguards to prevent the use of frivolous, vexatious, or malicious legal actions, which have a chilling effect on free speech.
On March 14, 2023, the Bangkok South Criminal Court began the trial, involving 28 counts of alleged criminal defamation under Thailand’s Criminal Code sections 326 and 328. The allegations drew on social media Angkhana Neelapaijit, Puttani Kangkun, and Thanaporn Salipholl to express solidarity with other human rights defenders already facing lawsuits brought by Thammakaset over labor rights abuses at the company’s chicken farm in Lopburi province . The company has filed at least 37 Civil and Criminal Matters Against rights defenders, journalists and workers since 2016.
“Thai authorities should not help companies use criminal defamation or other legal avenues to prevent workers from reporting about their working conditions or alleged abuses in the company to human rights defenders or journalists.” ellen pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The charges against Angkhana, Puttani and Thanaporn should be dropped immediately, and Thai authorities should take action to prevent such cases from being filed in the future.”
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has said in its General Note No. 34 on freedom of expression that governments should “take effective measures to protect against attacks aimed at silencing those who exercise their right to freedom of expression, including those who publish human rights statements on human rights positions” Engage in the collection and analysis of information-related reports.”
UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights on December 16, 2022 Thai authorities urged Strategic Litigation Actions to Stop Public Participation (SLAPP) are increasingly being used by Thai companies to intimidate journalists and human rights advocates.
The Working Group specifically mentioned Thammakaset, stating that: “Cases filed by companies, such as Thammakaset Co Ltd, against human rights defenders to censor, intimidate and silence criticism through SLAPPs A clear example of businesses abusing the system is a method of judicial harassment.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has repeatedly stressed the importance of respecting and upholding human rights in the operations of companies. United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, In October 2019, Thailand was the first country in Asia to announce a national action plan on business and human rights, committing to protect human rights defenders and prevent judicial harassment. But the allegations against Angkhana, Puttani and Thanaporn, as well as the failure to assist those facing several other civil and criminal cases filed by Thammakaset, run contrary to the Thai government’s pledges to take action to protect rights. Rights Watch said.
In 2018, the National Assembly amended the Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent misuse of criminal cases. While this is a useful step, the Thai government should repeal all criminal defamation provisions. Neither prosecutors nor courts in Thailand have actually amended Section 161/1, much less considered allowing judges to dismiss a criminal complaint by a private individual and refuse to re-fil it. Gives, if the complaint is filed “in bad faith or with misrepresentation” of facts to harass or take advantage of the respondent. Further, section 165/2 permits the production of evidence to show that there is “merit” in the complaint.
However these reform provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure remain unused and unused. It is also important to provide adequate resources and support to prosecutors to investigate frivolous cases under Public Prosecution Organ and Section 21 of the Public Prosecutors Act 2010.
Human Rights Watch, along with a growing number of governments and international agencies, has consistently called for the repeal of criminal defamation laws, as they are inherently disproportionate punishments for the expression of speech that damages a reputation. Civil defamation laws, when complemented by strong anti-SLAPP safeguards, balance the need for fair reporting in the public interest with concerns about reputational damage to private actors. Furthermore, as the charges against Angkhana, Puttani and Thanaporn show, criminal defamation laws in Thailand are easily abused and free expression in the public interest can be adversely affected.
Human Rights Watch said Thailand should enact comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation to strengthen safeguards to protect freedom of speech and expression, and prevent retaliation against workers, human rights defenders, and journalists.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association recommended that “states must protect and facilitate the rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association to ensure that these rights are exercised by all” including “enforcement of anti-SLAPP legislation, speedy dismissal of such lawsuits (with award of costs)” and the use of measures to punish abuse.
“The United Nations and governments around the world should share with Thailand their reform efforts to strengthen anti-SLAPP protections and point out that criminal defamation laws with the absence of strong anti-SLAPP protections are unable to administer essential human rights. disrupt the ability of businesses for sustainability and environmental stewardship,” Pearson said. “Unless the Thai government takes steps to protect Angkhana, Puttani and Thanaporn from retribution, the promises made by the Thai authorities on trade and human rights will ring hollow.”