Bangkok South Criminal Court to deliver verdict on August 29, 2023

(Bangkok, August 25, 2023)–Thai authorities should acquit Angkhana Neelapaijit, Puttanee Kangkun, and Thanaporn Saleelphol of the criminal defamation charges brought by Thammakaset Company Limited and protect human rights defenders from future cases of judicial harassment, said Fortify Rights today. Nearly four years after Thammakaset filed the complaint against the women, and following many hearings, the Bangkok South Criminal Court will deliver its verdict on August 29, 2023.

“Human rights defenders and others should not face criminal charges and the threat of imprisonment simply for exercising the right to free speech,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Urgently decriminalizing defamation should be a priority for Thailand’s new government.”

Thammakaset’s complaints against the three women are focused on 30 posts or re-posts on social media that contain messages of solidarity for human rights defenders facing lawsuits brought by the company. In total, the case involves 30 counts of alleged criminal defamation under the Thailand Criminal Code sections 326 and 328. This includes four counts against Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance; 21 counts against Fortify Rights former Senior Human Rights Specialist and current Director of The Fort Puttanee Kangkun;and five counts against Thanaporn Saleephol, a former Fortify Rights Communication Associate. 

Each count carries a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of 200,000 Thai Baht (US$5,700). Under international law, imprisonment for acts of defamation is considered disproportionate, excessive, and unnecessary punishment since custodial penalties have a chilling effect on freedom of expression.

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

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