THAILAND: THAMMAKASET WATCH

Thammakaset Watch is a web page maintained by FIDH to document the ongoing judicial harassment to which the Thai poultry company Thammakaset is subjecting human rights defenders, workers, and journalists. The page is regularly updated to reflect new developments.

[Latest update: February 17, 2020.]

Thammakaset vs. human rights defenders and workers in Thailand



Since 2016, Thai poultry company Thammakaset Co., Ltd. has filed a total of 31 criminal and civil cases against 21 defendants, including human rights defenders, workers, and journalists, for alleged defamation of the company. The complaints stemmed from the defendants’ documentation, communication, and advocacy in connection with labour rights violations allegedly committed by Thammakaset. In addition to the cases detailed below, Thammakaset has filed an unknown number of criminal complaints to the police against other individuals. However, to date, there have not been any decisions on whether these complaints warranted prosecutions.

List of the 21 individuals targeted by Thammakaset’s civil and criminal complaints
Cases filed by Thammakaset
Next Hearings
Criminal Law Provisions
Civil Law Provisions

List of the 21 individuals targeted by Thammakaset’s civil and criminal complaints


1-14. Mr. Nan Win and 13 migrant workers (including six women) from Myanmar, former Thammakaset employees
15. Ms. Suthasinee Kaewleklai, labour rights defender
16. Mr. Andy Hall, labour rights defender
17. Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, former Human Rights Specialist
18. Ms. Suchanee Cloitre, journalist
19. Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian, academic
20. Ms. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, human rights defender and former member of the National
Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT)
21. Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, Senior Human Rights Specialist

Cases filed by Thammakaset


1. Criminal case against 14 former workers for reporting the labour rights violations to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT)

On October 6, 2016, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Don Mueang Kwaeng [Sub-District] Court in Bangkok against 14 migrant workers from Myanmar for allegedly “providing false information to an official” (Article 137 of the Criminal Code) and “defamation” (Article 326), after the workers submitted a complaint over alleged labour rights violations to the NHRCT. [1] Thammakaset claimed that their complaint to the NHRCT had damaged the company’s reputation. On July 11, 2018, the court dismissed the case against the 14 migrant workers. The court found that the workers filed the complaints of labour violations while working at Thammakaset farm to the NHRCT in good faith to defend their own rights. Even though some of the details of the information provided by the workers were inaccurate, the workers’ provision of information to the NHRCT did not amount to providing false information. Thammakaset had appealed the court’s verdict, but the Don Mueang Kwaeng [Sub-District] Court refused to accept the appeal on a matter-of-fact. On May 30, 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld the Don Mueang Sub-District Court’s decision not to accept Thammakaset’s appeal. This judgment is final.



2. Criminal case against two former workers and the Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) for taking the employees’ timecards to use it as evidence of working excessive hours without overtime pay

2.1 Public prosecution against two former workers

On June 24, 2016, Ms. Ye Ye and Mr. Soe Yong, two of the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar employed by Thammakaset, were charged by a police officer with “co-commission of theft of the employer’s properties by night” (Articles 334 and 335(1) and (11) of the Criminal Code) for stealing employee timecards, as alleged by Thammakaset. The charges stemmed from the fact that the workers had presented their employee timecards to government labour inspectors from the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare as evidence of labour violations. Thammakaset alleged the two had stolen the timecards. However, the Lopburi Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to proceed with prosecution against the two workers because they did not commit a crime, as their intentions were not dishonest.

2.2 Private lawsuit against two former workers and the coordinator of the MWRN

On October 24, 2017, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Lopburi Provincial Court, for alleged “co-commission of theft by night” (Articles 334 and 335(1) of the Criminal Code), “receiving stolen property” (Article 357), and “taking away a person’s document, likely to cause damage to that person” (Article 188), against the two workers, Ms. Ye Ye and Mr. Soe Yong. Thammakaset’s complaint also included allegations against Ms. Suthasinee Kaewleklai, a labour rights defender and Coordinator of the MWRN, a civil society organisation promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers, for acting as a co-commissioner, an instigator or a supporter of the above-mentioned offences. [2] On September 3, 2018, during the preliminary hearing, the Lopburi Provincial Court dismissed the merit of the complaint and decided not to proceed with the criminal case against the two workers and Ms. Suthasinee. The Court found that the timecards were taken in order to be presented to the labour inspector of Lopburi Province without dishonest intention. The Court also found the defendants did not change any information on the timecards, and that the company already had a duty to present such a document to the labour inspector, therefore the company’s reputation was not damaged. Thammakaset appealed the Court’s decision. On July 30, 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld the Lopburi Provincial Court’s decision to dismiss the merit of the complaint against the two workers and Ms. Suthasinee. This judgment is final.

3. Criminal case against a labour rights defender for posting and sharing information regarding labour rights abuses

On November 4, 2016, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Bangkok South Criminal Court against Mr. Andy Hall, a British national and labour rights defender, for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328), and violation of Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act, [3] in connection with his use of social media to highlight the criminal charges against the 14 migrant workers. The complaint against Mr. Hall is still pending at the Bangkok South Criminal Court.




4. Criminal case against a former worker for speaking about his work conditions during a press conference and in a short film, and for posting such information on Facebook

On October 8, 2018, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Criminal Court in Bangkok, for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328), against Mr. Nan Win, one of the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar, based on two interviews he gave to the human rights NGO Fortify Rights at its press conference, which was broadcast on Facebook Live, [4] and in a short campaign video produced by Fortify Rights and uploaded to YouTube. [5] Thammakaset alleged that Mr. Nan Win’s testimonies, which contained details of alleged labour rights abuses while he was working at Thammakaset’s farm, damaged the company’s reputation. The preliminary hearing was held on 4 February 2019. On March 8, 2019, the Criminal Court decided that the grounds of this case had been established, and therefore accepted to proceed with the prosecution against Mr. Nan Win. The first hearing was held on May 24, 2019. During the hearing, the Court decided to combine the cases of Mr. Nan Win and Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri [see #5.1]. Witness examination is scheduled from February 18 to 21, 2020.


5. Criminal and civil cases against a former human rights specialist for posting a short video clip on Twitter

5.1 Criminal defamation

On October 12, 2018, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Criminal Court in Bangkok, for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328), [6] against Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, former Human Rights Specialist at Fortify Rights. The complaint related to three posts Ms. Sutharee made on Twitter about a campaign video produced by Fortify Rights. [7] Thammakaset alleged that Ms. Sutharee’s posts damaged the company’s reputation. The preliminary hearing was held on March 11, 2018. On March 25, 2019, the Criminal Court in Bangkok decided to proceed with the defamation case against Ms. Sutharee. The first hearing of the trial was held on May 24, 2019. The Criminal Court decided to combine the cases of Ms. Sutharee and Mr. Nan Win [see #4]. The Court also issued a detention warrant against Ms. Sutharee. Ms. Sutharee submitted a 50,000 THB (1,600 USD) [8] deposit to be granted bail. Witness examinations are scheduled to be held from February 18 to 21, 2020.

5.2 Civil defamation

On October 26, 2018, Thammakaset filed a separate civil defamation complaint with the Civil Court in Bangkok against Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri, demanding five million THB (US$160,282) in compensation for damage to the company’s reputation. [9] The complaint related to three posts Ms. Sutharee made on Twitter about the campaign video produced by Fortify Rights, arguing that Ms. Sutharee’s posts on Twitter damaged the company’s reputation. Thammakaset also demanded Ms. Sutharee publish an apology to the company in four local newspapers and on her Twitter account every day for a minimum of 30 days, destroy the defamatory information in the computer or internet system, and cover all legal costs for Thammakaset. The Civil Court held a preliminary hearing for this case on December 24, 2018, which set witness examination hearings for August 27-30, 2019, and set the date for issue of the verdict for October 31, 2019. During the witness hearing phase, the Civil Court sought to mediate the dispute between the two parties. On August 28, 2019, after more than half a day of mediation, Thammakaset decided to drop the complaint pursuant to an agreement reached with Ms. Sutharee, whereby Ms. Sutharee agreed to state that she regretted if some information in the Fortify Rights’ video clip was misleading and could cause damage to Thammakaset.

6. Criminal cases against a female reporter for posting information regarding the labour rights abuses on Twitter

6.1 Public prosecution

On November 16, 2017, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code)) and “libel” (Article 328), and violation of Article 14(1) of the Computer Crimes Act, with the Lopburi police against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre, a former Voice TV reporter, in relation to a Twitter post that Ms. Suchanee made on September 14, 2017 regarding Thammakaset’s labour rights abuses. [10] Ms. Suchanee testified at the police station on May 1, 2018. On October 16, 2018, the Lopburi Public Prosecutor’s Office decided not to prosecute the case.

6.2 Private lawsuit

On March 1, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328) with the Lopburi Provincial Court, against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre, a former Voice TV reporter. The preliminary hearing was held at the Court on June 3, 2019. On June 17, 2019, Ms. Suchanee’s lawyer submitted to the Court a motion to request the dismissal of the merit of the complaint under Article 165/2 of the Criminal Procedure Code. [11] The motion argued that Thammakaset’s criminal complaint lacked merit because it amounted to judicial harassment against a human rights defender. However, the court refused to consider the motion. On July 18, 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Court decided to proceed with the case against Ms. Suchanee. The first hearing was held on August 14, 2019, and the witness examination hearings were held from November 5 to 8, 2019. On December 24, 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Court found Ms. Suchanee guilty under Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code and sentenced her to two years in prison. After the sentence, Ms. Suchanee was released on a 75,000 THB (2,404 USD) bail. Ms. Suchanee said she would appeal the verdict.

7. Criminal case against a former worker for posting or sharing information online that is likely to cause damage to the company’s reputation

Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Bangkok South Criminal Court against Mr. Tun Tun Win, one of the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar, for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328). Unaware that a complaint had been filed against him, on May 18, 2019, Mr. Tun Tun Win received a summons to appear before the Bangkok South Criminal Court for the first hearing on June 4, 2019. Unbeknown to Mr. Tun Tun Win, the Court had already accepted to proceed with the prosecution against him and decided that the grounds of the case had been established by Thammakaset. Mr. Tun Tun Win was granted bail upon the deposit of 50,000 THB (1,600 USD). However, Mr. Tun Tun Win did not appear in Court for the first hearing on June 4, 2019. As a result, the Bangkok South Criminal Court, on July 8, 2019, seized the bail deposit, ordered a temporary suspension of the case, and issued an arrest warrant against Mr. Tun Tun Win.

8. Criminal case against a former worker for giving testimony to the Labour Court

On May 1, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Saraburi Provincial Court, for alleged “false testimony to the Court” (Article 177 of the Criminal Code), against Mr. Nan Win, one of the 14 migrant workers from Myanmar, for allegedly providing “false testimony to the Court” (Article 177 of the Criminal Code) regarding the labour dispute between Thammakaset and the 14 migrant workers. The preliminary hearing was held on June 24, 2019. On August 6, 2019, the Saraburi Provincial Court decided that grounds for the prosecution of Mr. Nan Win had been established. The first hearing was held on October 7, 2019. Witness examinations are scheduled from March 11 to 13, 2020.

9. Criminal case against a university lecturer for sharing on Facebook information demanding Thammakaset drop defamation complaints against human rights defenders

On May 1, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328) with the Criminal Court in Bangkok against Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian, a lecturer at Mahidol University’s Institute for Human Rights and Peace (IHRP) in Thailand. The complaint stemmed from sharing a Fortify Rights news release dated March 12, 2019, on IHRP’s Facebook page. [12] Thammakaset alleged that Ms. Ngamsuk was the administrator of IHRP’s Facebook page. Preliminary hearings were held on July 1 and August 5, 2019. On September 18, 2019, the Criminal Court in Bangkok dismissed the complaint against Ms. Ngamsuk due to insufficient evidence.




10. Criminal case against three former workers and the Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN) for reporting labour rights violations to the labour inspectors of the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare.

Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Lopburi Kwaeng [Sub-District] Court against three former workers (Ms. Ka Thway Soe, Mr. Nan Toe, Mr. Nan Win) [13] and Ms. Suthasinee Kaewleklai, a labour rights defender and Coordinator of MWRN, a civil society organisation promoting and protecting the rights of migrant workers, for allegedly “providing false information to an official” (Article 137 of the Criminal Code), after the workers submitted a complaint over alleged labour rights violations to the Department of Labour Protection and Welfare in 2016. The preliminary hearing was held on January 27, 2020. The Lopburi Kwaeng [Sub-District] Court will deliver the decision to accept or to dismiss the merit of the criminal complaint on March 18, 2020.

11. Criminal case against a former member of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) for posting and sharing information in support of human rights defenders on Twitter

On October 25, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Bangkok South Criminal Court, for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328), against Ms. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, human rights defender and former member of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). The complaint related to two posts Ms. Angkhana made on Twitter in support of woman human rights defender Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri [see #5] and Ms. Ngamsuk Ruttanasatian [see #9], which contained a hyperlink to a campaign video produced by Fortify Rights, which Thammakaset considered defamatory. The court scheduled a mediation hearing between Thammakaset and Ms. Angkhana Neelaphaijit on for February 12, 2020. A preliminary hearing is set for February 24, 2020.





12. Criminal case against a senior human rights specialist for posting and sharing information in support of human rights defenders on social media

On December 6, 2019, Thammakaset filed a criminal defamation complaint with the Bangkok South Criminal Court for alleged “defamation” (Article 326 of the Criminal Code) and “libel” (Article 328), against Ms. Puttanee Kangkun, Senior Human Rights Specialist with Fortify Rights. The complaint stemmed from 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 involved in criminal and civil defamation cases filed by Thammakaset. A preliminary hearing is set for March 2, 2020.

HEARING SCHEDULE


Criminal cases

February 18-21, 2020 (Criminal defamation; Mr. Nan Win [see #4] and Ms. Sutharee Wannasiri [see #5.1]):
Witness examinations are scheduled to be held from February 18 to 21, 2020 at the Criminal Court of Bangkok.

February 24, 2020 (Criminal defamation; Ms. Angkhana Neelaphaijit, [see #11]): The preliminary hearing is scheduled to be held at the Bangkok South Criminal Court.

March 2, 2020 (Criminal defamation; Ms. Puttanee Kangkun [see #12]): The preliminary hearing is scheduled to be held at the Bangkok South Criminal Court.

March 11-13, 2020 (Giving false testimony to the Court; Mr. Nan Win [see #8]): Witness examination hearings are scheduled to be held from March 11 to 13, 2020 at the Saraburi Provincial Court.

March 18, 2020 (Providing false information to an official; three former workers and Ms. Suthasinee Kaewleklai, [see #10]): The Lopburi Kwaeng [Sub-District] Court will deliver its verdict.

RELEVANT CRIMINAL LAW PROVISIONS

Thailand’s Criminal Code
‘Providing false information to any official’ Article 137: Whoever, giving any false information to any official, and is likely to cause injury to any person or the public, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding six months or fine not exceeding 10,000 THB, or both.
‘Providing false testimony to the Court’ Section 177: Whoever, giving a false evidence to the Court in the judicial proceedings, if such false evidence is an essential matter in the case, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding five years or fined not exceeding 100,000 THB, or both. If the offence mentioned in the first paragraph is committed in the criminal proceeding, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding seven years and fined not exceeding 140,000 THB.
‘Taking away a person’s document, likely to cause damage to that person’ Article 188: Whoever, damaging, destroying, concealing, making away, losing or rendering useless will or document of the other person in the manner likely to cause injury to another person or the public people, shall be imprisoned not out of five years and fined not out of 100,000 THB.
‘Defamation’ Article 326: Whoever, imputes anything to the other person before a third person in a manner likely to impair the reputation of such other person or to expose such other person to be hated or scorned, is said to commit defamation, and shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one year or fined not exceeding 20,000 THB, or both.
‘Libel’ Article 328: If the offence of defamation be committed by means of publication of a document, drawing, painting, cinematography film, picture or letters made visible by any means, gramophone record or an other recording instruments, recording picture or letters, or by broadcasting or spreading picture, or by propagation by any other means, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding two years and fined not exceeding 200,000 THB.
Exemption from defamation – ‘Making a statement in good faith’ Article 329: Any person, in good faith, expresses any opinion or a statement:

(1) By way of self-justification, defense, or for the protection of a legitimate interest;
(2) In the status of being an official in the exercise of his functions;
(3) By way of fair comment on any person or thing subjected to public criticism; or
(4) By way of fair report of the open proceeding of any Court or meeting,

That person shall not be guilty of defamation.
Exemption from defamation – ‘Making a true statement’ Article 330: In case of defamation, if an accused person can prove that the statement is true, that person shall not be punished.

But a person shall not be allowed to prove the statement imputed on personal matters, and which will not be benefit to the public.
‘Theft’ Article 334: Whoever, dishonestly taking away the thing of other person or which the other person to be co-owner to be said to commit the theft, shall be imprisoned not out of three years and fined not more than 60,000 THB.
‘Theft by night’ and
‘theft from an employer’
Article 335(1) and (11): Whoever commits theft under any of the following circumstances:

(1) By night;

(11) Upon a thing belonging to or in possession of the employer;

Shall be punished with imprisonment of one to five years and fined 20,000 to 100,000 THB.

If the offence committed according to the first paragraph comes under the circumstances provided in the above-mentioned sub-articles from two sub-articles upwards also, the offender shall be punished with imprisonment of one to seven years and fined 20,000 to 140,000 THB.
‘Receiving stolen property’ Article 357, paragraph 1: Whoever, assists in concealing, disposing of, making away with, purchases, receives in pledge or otherwise any property obtained through the commission of an offence, and such offence being theft, snatching, extortion, blackmail, robbery, gang-robbery, cheating and fraud, misappropriation or misappropriation by an official, is said to receive stolen property, and shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding five years or fined not exceeding 100,000 THB, or both.
2007 Computer Crimes Act
‘Import to a computer system of false data’ Article 14(1) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (revoked): Any person who commits any of the following crimes shall be liable to imprisonment for not more than five years, or a fine of not exceeding 100,000 THB, or both:

(1) that involves import to a computer system of forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to that third party or the public;

Note: under the Computer Crimes Act (No. 2) of 2017, Article 14 has been revised not to include the crime of defamation under the Criminal Code. The revisions are:

Article 14(1) of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act (new): Any person who commits any of the following crimes shall be liable to imprisonment for not more than five years, or a fine of not exceeding 100,000 THB, or both:

(1) dishonestly or deceitfully bringing into a computer system computer data which is distorted or forged, either in whole or in part, or computer data which is false, in such a manner likely to cause injury to the public but not constituting a crime of defamation under the Criminal Code
Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code
‘Court’s power to dismiss a private lawsuit filed in bad faith, misrepresentation of facts or to abuse the defendant’ Article 161/1: In a private lawsuit, if it appears to the Court that the plaintiff filed a complaint without good faith or mislead the facts in order to harass or take advantage on the defendant, the Court shall dismiss the complaint, and the plaintiff is not allowed to submit the similar compliant.

The submission of lawsuit in bad faith above-mentioned shall include the fact that the defendant intends to violate the Court order or verdict of the other criminal case without sufficient reasons.
‘Right to submit the facts, laws and evidences to the Court to prove no prima facie case’ Article 165/2: In the preliminary examination, the defendant may provide statement of facts or laws that the Court should order no prima facie of the case, and may stipulate in the statement about person, document or material as supporting evidence on argument of the facts. In such case, the Court may summon person, document or material as evidence to support the decision as necessary and appropriate. The defendant may examine the Court evidence as allowed by the Court.

RELEVANT CIVIL LAW PROVISION

Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code
‘Civil defamation’ Article 423: A person who, contrary to the truth, asserts or circulates a fact that is injurious to the reputation or the credit of another or his[/her] earnings or prosperity in any other manner, shall compensate the other for any damage arising therefrom, even if he[/she] does not know of its untruth, provided he ought to know it.

A person who makes a communication the untruth of which is unknown to him[/her], does not thereby render himself liable to make compensation, if he[/she] or the receiver of the communication has a rightful interest in it.
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