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Thailand: Uphold Acquittal Of Human Rights Defenders

Bangkok, May 16, 2024

Thai authorities should prevent the further judicial harassment of human rights defenders and dismiss Thammakaset Company Limited’s appeal of the court’s 2023 decision to acquit three Thai women human rights defenders, said Fortify Rights today. On April 25, 2024, the human rights defenders filed a counter-appeal in response to successive appeals against their acquittal filed by the controversial Thai poultry company at the end of March 2024.

“This case and others like it have had all the hallmarks of judicial harassment, which should not be tolerated in any rights-respecting country,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director at Fortify Rights. “The longer this case drags on, the more damage it does to the reputation of Thailand and its human rights record.”

Thammakaset lodged complaints against Director of The Fort and former Fortify Rights Senior Human Rights Specialist Puttanee Kangkun on December 6, 2019, former Fortify Rights Communications Associate Thanaporn Saleephol on March 30, 2020, and a third woman human rights defender. The complaints focused on 30 messages posted or re-posted on social media by the women human rights defenders expressing solidarity for other human rights defenders facing lawsuits brought by the company. On August 29, 2023, after almost four years, the Bangkok South Criminal Court acquitted the human rights defenders of the criminal defamation charges.

The women are jointly represented by the legal aid organization Community Resource Center Foundation.

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Since 2016, Thammakaset has brought at least 37 complaints against 22 human rights defenders. Thai courts have dismissed or ruled against the company in most of the cases.

"Companies should not be allowed to weaponize the legal system to intimidate human rights defenders," Amy Smith said. "The Thai government must put an end to this culture of fear and protect individuals who speak truth to power against all forms of reprisals."

In September 2023, Thailand adopted the second National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. One of its stated goals is to “[e]stablish procedures or systems to fairly protect human rights defenders,” and to “[c]onsider, formulate, review, improve or amend laws, measures, mechanisms, and processes to enable the protection of human rights defenders” from judicial harassments in the form of strategic litigation against public participation lawsuits. The 2017 Constitution of Thailand also 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 government should implement its National Action Plan and expedite legislation to decriminalize defamation, safeguard freedom of expression, and protect human rights defenders from further judicial harassment,” Fortify Rights said today.

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