Thailand: Decision to withdraw all charges against Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Mr. Somchai Homlaor and Ms. Anchana Heemmina

10/03/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 003 / 0816 / OBS 066.1
Judicial harassment
Thailand
March 9, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the decision by the Thai army’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) [1] to withdraw all charges against Ms.Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Chair of Amnesty International Thailand and Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF) [2], Mr. Somchai Homlaor, a prominent lawyer and senior legal advisor to CrCF, and Ms. Anchana Heemmina, founder and Director of the organization Duay Jai Group (Hearty Support Group) [3], prosecuted for co-editing 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 [4].

According to the information received, on March 7, 2017, Col. Pramote Promin, a spokesman for ISOC 4, announced during a press conference that the ISOC would drop a criminal defamation lawsuit and charges under the Computer Crimes Act against the three defenders over the 2016 torture report (See Background information). The spokesman claimed that both parties agreed to: 1) set up a joint fact-finding committee to review allegations of human rights violations; 2) create appropriate preventive measures and remedial approaches to human rights violations; and 3) submit future human rights reports to the newly created joint committee for review.

The Observatory welcomes the Thai army’s decision, which takes place a few days before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (CCPR) is set to review Thailand on March 13 and 14, 2017, but condemns the judicial harassment to which Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Mr. Somchai Homlaor and Ms. Anchana Heemmina were subjected, as it was clearly aimed at hindering their peaceful human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon the Thai authorities to put an end to all acts of judicial harassment against them and all human rights defenders in Thailand.

Background information:

On June 26, 2016, Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai were summoned by police at the Pattani Police Station following a complaint filed against them on June 8 by the ISOC 4. However, the police interrogation was postponed until July 26, 2016.

On July 26, 2016, officers from the Pattani Police Station charged Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai with “criminal defamation” under Articles 326 [5] and 328 [6] of the Criminal Code and “computer-related crimes” under Article 14.1 [7] 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. The three faced up to five years in prison and a fine of 200,000 baht (approximately 5,360 euros) if they had been convicted.

Before publishing the report, the three human right defenders tried to engage with the authorities concerning 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.

This is also not the first time Ms. Pornpen has faced charges for documenting torture. 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 by the State Prosecutor in June 2015.

Actions requested:

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 Homlaor, as well as of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. 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. Conform to 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;

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.

Addresses:

· 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: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, Minister of Justice, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda, 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: help@nhrc.or.th
· 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: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
· H.E. Ms. Busaya Mathelin, Ambassador, Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@thaiembassy.be

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country.

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