The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of charges brought against Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Chair of Amnesty International Thailand and Director of Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) , Mr. Somchai Homlaor, a prominent lawyer and senior legal advisorto CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina, founder and Director of the organization Duay Jai Group(Hearty Support Group) , who co-edited the report “ Torture and Ill-treatment in the Deep South Documented in 2014-2015 ”, published by CrCF, Duay Jai Group, and Patani Human Rights Organization Network (HAP) on February 10, 2016 .
According to the information received, on July 26, 2016, officers from the Pattani Police Station charged Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai with “criminal defamation” under Articles 326  and 328  of the Criminal Code and “computer-related crimes” under Article 14.1  of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act for allegedly publishing and uploading false information to the Internet in connection with the aforementioned report. The three human rights defenders denied all charges and police allowed them to submit a written statement in their defence within 60 days, while undertaking further investigation on the case. If convicted, they could face up to five years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht (approximately 5,125 euros).
On June 26, 2016, the three human rights defenders were summoned by police at the Pattani Police Station following a complaint filed against them on June 8 by the Thai Army’s Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4) . However, the police interrogation was postponed until July 26, 2016 .
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing judicial harassment of Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai, which only aims at sanctioning their legitimate human rights activities, particularly their documentation and advocacy work on the issue of torture. The Observatory calls upon the Thai authorities to immediately drop all charges against them.
Until all charges are dropped, the Observatory also urges the Thai authorities to ensure that all judicial proceedings against them are carried out in full compliance with their right to a fair trial, as provided for under international law.
Before publishing the report, the three human right defenders tried to engage with the authorities and raise their awareness regarding the alleged cases of torture and ill-treatment documented in the report. They sent the report to Lt. Gen. Wiwat Pathompak, Commander of the 4th Army Region, on January 8, 2016. However, the high-ranking military officers publicly denied the accuracy of the report and questioned the reliability of the civil society organisations that produced it.
In addition, after the release of the report, seven ISOC officers summoned Ms. Anchana to appear for questioning in relation to its publication at the Sirinthon Army Camp in Yala Province, for two and half hours. The officers conveyed their discontent with the report and requested that in the future she submit all of her publications to ISOC before they are released, which Ms. Anchana refused.
On February 19, 2016, at about 5pm, a group of 10 uniformed men visited Ms. Anchana’s home, finding there only her mother. They claimed to be border police officers, and without presenting a warrant questioned Ms. Anchana’s mother about her daughter and reportedly took pictures of her and the house.
In September 2014, Ms. Pornpen was charged with “criminal defamation” by Army Task Force 41 in connection with her documentation and advocacy work concerning allegations of Army torture in Thailand’s ‘Deep South’. The case was eventually dropped in June 2015 following the decision of the State Prosecutor.
Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Ms. Anchana Heemmina, and Mr. Somchai Homlaoras well as of all human rights defenders in Thailand;
ii. Immediately drop all charges against Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchaiand put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against them and all human rights defenders in Thailand;
iii. Put an end to all acts of torture and ill treatment in the country, properly investigate them, and prosecute perpetrators, in compliance with Thailand’s international human rights commitments.
iv. Put an end to the prosecution of civilians in military courts in accordance with international human rights law that prohibits governments from using military courts to try civilians when civilian courts are functioning;
v. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.
· Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
· Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, Minister of Justice, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Somyot Poompanmoung, 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: email@example.com
· 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
· H.E. Ms. Busaya Mathelin, Ambassador, Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.