Court to consider complaint by Thammakaset Company Limited on July 1, 2019
(Bangkok, June 28, 2019) – Thai authorities should protect human rights defenders from judicial harassment and immediately drop a criminal defamation complaint brought by the Thai poultry company Thammakaset Company Limited against Ngamsuk Ruttanasatain, a woman human rights defender and lecturer at Mahidol University’s Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP), Fortify Rights said today. Thammakaset has filed at least 17 criminal and civil defamation cases against at least 23 human rights defenders since 2016.
“This case represents yet another crass attempt by the company to interfere with the rights and activities of human rights defenders,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “The Thai justice system should be an institution that protects the rights and activities of human rights defenders, but instead its being used as an instrument of harassment.”
On July 1, the Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to conduct a preliminary hearing on the criminal complaint brought against Ngamsuk for her alleged involvement in sharing a Fortify Rights news release by IHRP’s Facebook page on March 12. The news release relates to another criminal defamation lawsuit filed by Thammakaset against Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri, two other human rights defenders involved in promoting labor rights in Thailand.
On May 1, Thammakaset filed a complaint against Ngamsuk for alleged violations under Article 326 and 328 of the Thailand Criminal Code, which carries a sentence of up to two years in prison and up to 200,000 Thai Baht (US$6,500) in fines.
Human rights lawyers from the Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC) are providing Ngamsuk with pro-bono legal representation.
Ngamsuk is a lecturer at IHRP and teaches courses on human rights and peace studies. In addition to her academic work, she promotes human rights protections throughout Thailand.
On February 14, 89 organizations, including Fortify Rights, submitted a joint letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling on the Thai government “to take immediate action to oppose and seek the dismissal of cases filed by Thammakaset” and to develop legislation “that fully protects employees, human rights defenders, and others from judicial harassment.”
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.
“Thai authorities need to put an end to judicial harassment,” said Amy Smith. “Dropping this case and other unwarranted cases against human rights defenders would be a step in the right direction.”