Thailand: Drop Criminal Complaints Against Rights Activist
Thai authorities and chicken-farm company Thammakaset Company Limited should immediately drop criminal complaints against human rights defender and migrant worker from Myanmar Nan Win for his involvement in exposing labor rights violations in Thailand, Fortify Rights said today.
Nan Win is scheduled to be in Bangkok Criminal Court today for a preliminary hearing on the criminal defamation complaints against him.
“Nan Win is contributing positively to Thailand’s economy as a migrant worker and to Thai society as a human rights defender,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Thailand should protect Nan Win from labor rights abuses and protect his right to speak out against abuses. Nan Win has faced a series of complaints designed to intimidate and silence him.”
In October 2018, Thammakaset—a Thai-owned poultry company in Lopuri Province—filed criminal defamation complaints against Nan Win under sections 326 and 328 of the Thailand Criminal Code for his involvement in Fortify Rights activities in October 2017, including a 107-second film published by Fortify Rights and a Fortify Rights press conference on human rights defenders under threat in Southeast Asia. As part of these activities, Nan Win described how Thammakaset brought criminal defamation charges against him and 13 other former Thammakaset employees in 2016 after the workers reported labor rights violations by the company to the Thai authorities.
If convicted, Nan Win faces up to four years in prison and fines of up to 400,000 Thai Baht (US$12,780).
In a separate complaint, Thammakaset accused Sutharee Wannasiri—a former human rights specialist with Fortify Rights—of criminal and civil defamation for posting on social media the Fortify Rights film featuring Nan Win. Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hear her case on March 11.
All charges in this case should be dropped and the government should immediately decriminalize defamation, said Fortify Rights.
Thammakaset previously brought criminal defamation complaints against the 14 migrant workers in October 2016 and labor rights activist Andy Hall in November 2016. The company brought further charges against two migrant workers in August 2017 for alleged theft and similar alleged theft charges against woman human rights defender and coordinator of the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) Suthasinee Kaewleklai. Thai courts struck down these previous criminal complaints.
Under international law, imprisonment is considered a disproportionate punishment for acts of defamation. The 2017 Constitution of Thailand protects the right to freedom of expression as does Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party.
“The Thai authorities should make legislative moves to prevent judicial harassment,” said Amy Smith. “Thailand can do better to protect human rights defenders and ensure companies uphold human rights principles.”