JOINT OPEN LETTER TO THE ROYAL THAI GOVERNMENT:
THAMMAKASET COMPANY LIMITED SLAPP LAWSUITS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
On 14 February 2019, 89 international, regional, and local organizations from around the world issued a joint letter calling on the Royal Thai Government to oppose new spurious criminal and civil complaints brought against human rights defenders by the Thammakaset Company Limited.
Starting in 2016, the Thammakaset Co. Ltd. has filed more than 13 civil and criminal complaints against 14 former employees and individuals defending them for reporting labour rights violations to the Department of Protection and Labour Welfare (DLPW) and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), amounting to Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuits.
The DLPW, the NHRCT and the Supreme Court have found evidence of these violations committed by Thammakaset in civil cases, holding the company liable to compensate the workers for violations under the Labour Protection Act. In addition, criminal defamation charges filed by Thammakaset Co. Ltd. against the 14 former employees have also been dismissed by the Sub-District Court in Thailand and numerous other criminal cases filed by the farm dismissed by police and public prosecutors.
Despite this, Thammakaset continues to file new criminal and civil charges against its former employees and human rights defenders, with the authorities more recently moving forward with investigation and judicial proceedings against Nan Win, a former Thammakaset employee and Sutharee Wannasiri, a former human rights specialist with Fortify Rights. These proceedings should be considered a violation of domestic anti-SLAPP provisions under the recent amendment to Section 161/1 of Thailand’s Criminal Procedure Code.
In the joint letter, the Thai authorities are urged to ensure the dismissal of all lawsuits filed by the Thammakaset Co. Ltd. in violation of international standards and the domestic law with respect to SLAPP cases. It stressed that existing legislation and processes be strictly implemented, including the exercise of powers by the public prosecutor and the Office of the attorney general to screen out unwarranted complaints under Section 21 of the Public Prosecution Organ and the Public Prosecutors Act of 2010.
The coalition signing onto the letter also calls for the revision of domestic civil and criminal laws as well as prosecution processes to prevent the misuse of defamation prosecutions by businesses as a tool to undermine the rights and freedoms of those affected by their activities. Preventing the misuse of defamation legislation must also, the coalition states, be incorporated in the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights (BHR) of Thailand, which must be developed and implemented following meaningful consultation with civil society and affected communities.