Thailand: Suchanee Cloitre conviction over Twitter post overturned in Thammakaset saga

28/10/2020
Statement

Paris-Geneva, October 28, 2020 – Yesterday, a Thai Court of Appeals overturned the Lopburi Provincial Court’s conviction and prison sentence against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre, who had been found guilty of “defamation” and “libel” against poultry company Thammakaset for posting a message on Twitter. The Court of Appeals found that Ms. Suchanee’s statement was made in good faith and constituted “fair comment” on issues that were subject of public criticism – an exemption from defamation under Article 329(3) of the Criminal Code.

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, for posting information regarding labour rights abuses on Twitter. Ms. Suchanee Cloitre’s tweet made reference to a court decision in a labour dispute between Thammakaset and 14 former workers from Myanmar. On December 24, 2019, the Lopburi Provincial Court found Ms. Suchanee guilty under Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code and had 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 appealed the verdict.

The Observatory welcomes yesterday’s decision by the Court of Appeals but recalls that Ms. Suchanee should never have been prosecuted in the first place, as the charges against her only aimed at targeting her for her legitimate journalism and human rights activities and the exercise of her right to freedom of expression.

Since 2016, Thammakaset has filed at least 38 criminal and civil cases against 23 defendants, including human rights defenders, workers, Ms. Suchanee, and Voice TV, for alleged defamation. In March 2020 UN human rights experts condemned this pattern of harassment as a “continued misuse of judicial processes” to silence human rights defenders[1]. Since 2019, the Observatory has advocated for the cases brought by Thammakaset against Ms. Suchanee Cloitre and other human rights defenders to be dismissed.

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.


[1] On August 1, 2016, Thailand’s Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) ordered Thammakaset to pay workers affected by labour rights violations a total of 1.7 million THB (54,496 USD), because Thammakaset had failed to pay minimum and overtime wages and to provide adequate leave to workers as required by Thai law. On March 17, 2017, the Labour Court Region 1 in Saraburi Province upheld the DLPW’s order requiring Thammakaset to pay workers a total of 1.7 million THB. On September 15, 2017, the Court of Appeals for Specialized Cases (Labour Cases Division) also affirmed the decision. The judgment in the labour dispute between Thammakaset and the 14 former workers is final after the Supreme Court refused to accept Thammakaset’s appeal on a matter-of-fact on March 12, 2019. The compensation was finally handed over to the 14 workers.

Read more
statement