Thailand: Ongoing judicial harassment against seven KRBKG members

27/07/2017
Urgent Appeal

New information
THA 003 / 0717 / OBS 075.1

Judicial harassment
Thailand
July 27, 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 about the ongoing judicial harassment against seven members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG), a community-based group committed to the defence of the local environment from the negative impacts of an open-pit copper-gold mine, operated by the Tungkum company in Thailand’s Loei Province [1].

According to the information received, on July 25, 2017, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, Ms. Viron Rujichaiyavat, Ms. Ranong Kongsaen, Ms. Mon Khunna, Ms. Suphat Khunna, Ms. Boonraeng Srithong, and Ms. Lumplearn Ruengrith, seven women members of KRBKG, were formally indicted by the Loei Provincial Court Prosecutor under Articles 8 and 24 of the Public Assembly Act. The seven defenders were briefly placed in the custody of the court while they awaited indictment and a bail order. At around 2pm, the seven women were granted temporary release without the requirement of a bail deposit but on the condition that they report themselves to Loei Provincial Court on August 11, 2017 and on any subsequent occasions when ordered by the court until the trial is completed.

The seven were indicted for their involvement in legitimate human rights activities on November 16, 2016, when more than 200 KRBKG members and villagers marched from Ban Na Nong Bong village to the Khao Laung Sub-District Administrative Council Office in Loei Province, and peacefully staged a peaceful sit-in protest in front of the Council meeting room. The protest was aimed at demanding community participation in the decision-making process ahead of a scheduled meeting of the Council to decide whether to grant Tungkum permission to use forest land for their mining operations. Members of the Administrative Council ultimately called off the scheduled meeting due to the protest and filed a complaint with the police (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that this case is one of the 21 criminal and civil complaints initiated against villagers in Loei Province, 19 of which were filed by Tungkum. Thai authorities filed the two other complaints against the villagers. Tungkum previously brought a defamation lawsuit against three of the seven women, Ms. Viron Rujichaiyavat, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, and Ms. Mon Khunna [2], before the Loei Provincial Court dismissed the case on March 30, 2016.

The Observatory strongly condemns the acts of ongoing judicial harassment against the seven women and other members of KRBKG, which only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon both the Thai judicial authorities and Tungkum to end all forms of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all of the above-mentioned defenders, and drop all charges against them.

Background information:

On March 8, 2017, police in Wang Saphung District, Loei Province, charged the seven women KRBKG members for allegedly violating Article 309 of Thailand’s Criminal Code for forcing local council members to cancel a scheduled meeting. In addition, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, one of the leaders and spokespersons of KRBKG, was charged under Articles 10 and 28 of the Public Assembly Act for failing to notify the authorities about the protest. The case was then transferred to the Public Prosecutor to decide whether to indict the women based on the police investigation.

On June 13, 2017, the police filed additional charges against the seven women under Articles 8 and 24 of the Public Assembly Act for holding a public gathering that blocks entries or disrupts service of government agencies. The offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a 10,000 THB (258 EUR) fine, or both.

On June 27, 2017, the Public Prosecutor again postponed the indictment of the seven women KRBKG members. The indictment was originally scheduled for May 25, 2017, but was postponed first to June 27, 2017 and finally to July 25, 2017. The Observatory considers this series of postponements amounts to additional harassment against the seven defenders.

The seven women human rights defenders are each facing up to five years in prison and a 100,000 THB (about 2,586 EUR) fine, or both. Ms. Pornthip Hongchai faces additional fine of up to 10,000 THB (258 EUR) for the extra charge under Article 10 of the Public Assembly Act.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of judicial harassment - including at the judicial level - against the seven above-mentioned women defenders, all members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group as well as against all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

iii. 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 Article 12.2;

iv. 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
· Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
· Mr. Suwaphan Tanyuvardhna, 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
· Mr. Wichit Chiamwichitkun, Chief Executive Director and Chairman of the Executive Board, Tongkah Harbour Public Company Limited (of which Tungkum Ltd. is a subsidiary company), Bangkok, Thailand, Fax: +66 2 694 4420, +66 2 695 4901; Email: info@tongkahharbour.com.

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

***
Geneva-Paris, July 27, 2017

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 the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH 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:
· Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
· Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

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