Thailand: Judicial harassment against staff of NGO Fortify Rights Ms. Puttanee Kangkun in relation to social media publications

14/02/2020
Urgent Appeal

THA 001 / 0220 / OBS 016
Judicial harassment /
Obstacles to freedom of expression
Thailand
February 14, 2020

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassment against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, a Senior Human Rights Specialist with the NGO Fortify Rights [1], in relation to 14 social media engagements (three tweets, nine retweets, and two Facebook posts) she posted between January 25 and September 17, 2019, to express support to fellow human rights defenders - including Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, Mr. Nan Win [2], and Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian - involved in criminal and civil defamation cases regarding labour rights abuses committed by the Thai poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd [3].

According to the information received, on December 6, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint for “defamation” (Article 326 of the Thai Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328) with the Bangkok Southern Criminal Court against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun over her 14 social media posts. If prosecuted and convicted under these charges, Ms. Puttanee Kangkun could face up to 28 years in prison and a fine of up to 2.8 million Thai Baht (approximately 81,500 Euros). A preliminary hearing is set for March 2, 2020

The Observatory recalls that Thammakaset has filed more than 30 criminal and civil cases against at least 26 defendants, including human rights defenders, workers, and journalists for alleged defamation of the company [4]. Human rights defenders targeted by Thammakaset include Mr. Andy Hall[5], Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, Mr. Nan Win, Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian, Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit [6], and Ms. Suchanee Cloitre [7].

The Observatory also recalls that on April 4, 2018, at the end of its 10-day visit to Thailand, the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Business and Human Rights issued a statement that urged the Thai government to “ensure that defamation cases are not used by businesses as a tool to undermine legitimate rights and freedoms of affected rights holders, [civil society organizations] and human rights defenders.” [8]

The Observatory condemns the judicial harassment against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, as it seems to be only aimed at punishing her for the legitimate exercise of her right to freedom of expression. The Observatory calls on Thai authorities to immediately put an end to any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun and all other human rights defenders targeted by civil and criminal defamation complaints filed by Thammakaset.

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. Puttanee Kangkun, and all other human rights defenders targeted by Thammakaset;

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 opinion and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

iv. Repeal criminal defamation provisions (Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code);

v. 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 Articles 1, and 12;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments to which Thailand is a State party.

Addresses:

· Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Somsak Thepsutin, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
· Pol Gen Chaktip 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
· Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: +32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Thailand in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, February 14, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

___

[1] Fortify Rights is an international NGO that works to prevent and remedy human rights violations, investigate abuses, and provide technical support to human rights defenders.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 005 / 1118 / OBS 137.1, published on March 28, 2019.
[3] On October 4, 2017, Fortify Rights published a video clip in which Burmese migrant workers employed by Thammakaset, including Mr. Nan Win, described how the company filed criminal defamation complaints against them after the workers reported labour rights violations to the Thai authorities.
[4] See the Observatory Factsheet, “Thammakaset vs. human rights defenders and workers in Thailand”, published on May 23, 2019: https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/thailand-thammakaset-must-end-its-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights
[5] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 003 / 0815 / OBS 067.5, published on May 23, 2019.
[6] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 002 / 1119 / OBS 098, published on November 27, 2019.
[7] See Observatory Urgent Appeal THA 003 / 1219 / OBS 114, published on December 27, 2019.
[8] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23095&LangID=E

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