Thailand

 

  • ‘We are an activist group that seeks to restore faith in democracy’

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic governance, the challenges they encounter in doing so, and the victories they score. CIVICUS speaks to Rangsiman Rome, co-founder of the Democracy Restoration Group, a Thai civil society organisation seeking to restore faith in democratic processes, particularly among young people, and promote accountable and responsive democratic institutions.

     

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  • CIVICUS' United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 4 countries in advance of the 39th UPR session in October 2021. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

     

  • Joint Letter: Restore democratic rule in Thailand

    5 June 2018

    Prime Minister
    General Prayut Chan-o-cha
    Government House
    Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
    Bangkok 10300, Thailand

     

    Re: Concerns regarding arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing to you with regards to the recent arrest and charging of pro-democracy activists for their participation in a peaceful protest in Bangkok on 22 May 2018, the fourth anniversary of the military coup in Thailand. These individuals were part of a group of hundreds of protesters who were calling for an end to military rule and for elections to be held by November 2018, in line with commitments previously made by your government.

    15 individuals were arrested on the day of the protest and subsequently charged with various offences including violations of Penal Code Sections 116 (sedition), 215 (assemblies leading to “breach of the peace”) and 216 (refusal to disperse). They are also facing charges under Article 12 of the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibits “political gatherings of five or more persons”, the Road Traffic Act, and the Public Assembly Act.

    On 24 May, after being detained for two nights, the 15 activists were brought to the Bangkok Criminal Court and granted bail of 100,000 Thai Baht per person (approximately USD 3,100). The court also imposed restrictions prohibiting the activists from organising or participating in further protests.

    On 29 May, authorities issued summons to at least 47 additional individuals present during the protest, including a staff member from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who was on hand to monitor the event. This group of individuals will learn the nature of the charges they face when they report to a Bangkok police station on 7 June.

    The arrest and charging of the protesters clearly contravene Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as do the restrictions placed on the future activities of these individuals.

    After four years of military rule in Thailand, government authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain and prosecute peaceful protesters and government critics under an array of laws including those used to charge the 22 May protesters as well as the Computer Crimes Act and Penal Code provisions relating to defamation and offenses against the monarchy. Many pro-democracy activists are subject to charges in multiple criminal cases concerning their protest activities and could face decades of imprisonment, if convicted.

    By limiting political activities, curbing public gatherings, monitoring private communications, and stifling public discourse on matters of national interest, authorities are unjustifiably restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Moreover, these actions have created a fearful environment in which people cannot freely express their opinions, criticize public authorities, or peacefully assemble without risking arrest and prosecution. These human rights violations are taking place in the context of the Thai government’s repeated failure to fulfil promises to hold elections and restore democratic norms.

    Therefore, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 22 May pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Quash convictions and drop charges against anyone prosecuted or convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;
    • Amend or repeal laws and orders that restrict or provide criminal penalties for the peaceful exercise of human rights or allow for arbitrary detention, including Penal Code provisions relating to sedition, defamation and insults to the monarchy; the Computer Crimes Act; the Public Assembly Act; and NCPO Order No. 3/2558;
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution; and
    • Lift all restrictions on political activities and take steps to restore democratic rule in Thailand as soon as possible.

    We express our sincere hope that you will consider and support these recommendations. We would be happy to discuss these matters with you or other appropriate officials at any time and offer our support in reforming laws and policies to ensure compliance with international human rights law and standards.

    Sincerely,                      

    David E. Kode                                  Soo Yon Suh                                    Matthew Bugher

    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead          Program Manager                            Head of Asia Programme

    CIVICUS                                          Asia Democracy Network                ARTICLE 19

     

  • Laos and Thailand must investigate enforced disappearances

    Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong

    On the seventh anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, urge the Lao and Thai governments to investigate enforced disappearances, and demand Vientiane finally reveal Sombath’s whereabouts and ensure justice for him and his family.

    Considering the Lao police’s protracted failure to effectively investigate Sombath’s enforced disappearance, a new independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts should be established without delay. The new body should have the authority to seek and receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional, independent, impartial, and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

    Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

    Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, only twice since January 2013 – the last time in December 2017. No substantive information about the investigation has been shared by the police with the family, indicating that, for all intents and purposes, the police investigation has been de facto suspended.

    We also call on the Lao and Thai governments to resolve all cases of enforced disappearances in their countries. The most recent case is that of Od Sayavong, a Lao refugee living in Bangkok, who has been missing since 26 August 2019. Over the past several years, Od engaged publicly in drawing attention to human rights abuses and corruption in Laos, and met with the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on 15 March 2019 in Bangkok, prior to the latter’s mission to Laos. The concerns regarding Od’s case were expressed in a joint statement that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and three Special Rapporteurs issued on 1 October 2019. 

    We would also like to draw particular attention to reports that Ittiphon Sukpaen, Wuthipong Kachathamakul, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatcharn Buppawan, and Kraidej Luelert, five Thai critics of the monarchy and Thailand’s military government living in exile in Laos, went missing between June 2016 and December 2018. In the case of the latter three, the bodies of Chatcharn and Kraidej were found about two weeks later on the Thai side of the Mekong River, mutilated and stuffed with concrete, while a third body - possibly Surachai’s - reportedly surfaced nearby and then disappeared. DNA tests carried out in January 2019 confirmed the identity of Chatcharn and Kraidej.

    We call on the Lao and Thai governments to investigate these cases in line with international legal standards with a view towards determining their fate and whereabouts.

    Both the Lao and Thai governments have the legal obligation to conduct such prompt, thorough and impartial investigations and to bring all individuals suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations to justice in fair trials.

    We also urge the Lao and Thai governments to promptly ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Laos and Thailand signed in September 2008 and January 2012 respectively, to incorporate the Convention’s provisions into their domestic legal frameworks, implementing it in practice, and to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of victims or other states parties.

    Finally, we call on the international community to use the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos to demand the Lao government promptly and effectively investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. The third UPR of Laos is scheduled to be held on 21 January 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland.

    During the second UPR of Laos in January 2015, 10 United Nations member states (Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) recommended the Lao government conduct an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

    Until the fate and whereabouts of those who are forcibly disappeared are revealed, the international community should not stop demanding that they be safely returned to their families. The Lao government should be under no illusion that our demands will go away, we will persist until we know the real answer to the question: “Where is Sombath?”

    Signed by:

    1.    11.11.11
    2.    Action from Ireland (Afri)
    3.    Alliance Sud
    4.    Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
    5.    Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) 
    6.    Amnesty International
    7.    Armanshahr / OPEN ASIA
    8.    Article 19
    9.    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) 
    10.    Asia Europe People’s Forum
    11.    Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
    12.    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    13.    Asian Resource Foundation
    14.    Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM)
    15.    Awaz Foundation Pakistan – Centre for Development Services
    16.    Banglar Manabadhikar Sutaksha Mancha (MASUM)
    17.    Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    18.    CCFD-Terre Solidaire
    19.    Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
    20.    Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR)
    21.    China Labour Bulletin (CLB)
    22.    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    23.    Civil Rights Defenders
    24.    Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
    25.    Community Resource Centre (CRC)
    26.    Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC)
    27.    DIGNIDAD Coalition
    28.    Dignity – Kadyr-kassiyet (KK)
    29.    Equality Myanmar
    30.    Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF)
    31.    Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) 
    32.    FIAN International
    33.    FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    34.    Focus on the Global South
    35.    Fresh Eyes - People to People Travel
    36.    Front Line Defenders
    37.    Global Justice Now 
    38.    Globe International
    39.    Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
    40.    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
    41.    Human Rights in China (HRIC)
    42.    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    43.    Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
    44.    INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
    45.    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    46.    Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
    47.    Justice for Iran (JFI)
    48.    Karapatan Alliance Philippines (Karapatan)
    49.    Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHR)
    50.    Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)
    51.    Land Watch Thai
    52.    Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)
    53.    Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
    54.    League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)
    55.    MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) 
    56.    Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
    57.    Manushya Foundation
    58.    MONFEMNET National Network
    59.    National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)
    60.    Nomadic Livestock Keepers' Development Fund
    61.    Odhikar
    62.    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD) 
    63.    People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
    64.    People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
    65.    People’s Watch  
    66.    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) 
    67.    Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)
    68.    Psychological Responsiveness NGO
    69.    Pusat KOMAS
    70.    Right to Life Human Rights Centre (R2L)
    71.    Rights Now Collective for Democracy (RN)
    72.    South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM)
    73.    Stiftung Asienhaus
    74.    STOP the War Coalition - Philippines (StWC-Philippines) 
    75.    Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL)
    76.    Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
    77.    Tanggol Kalikasan – Public Interest Environmental Law Office (TK)
    78.    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
    79.    The Corner House
    80.    Think Centre
    81.    Transnational Institute
    82.    Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
    83.    Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
    84.    Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)
    85.    WomanHealtth Philippines
    86.    Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
    87.    World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
    88.    World Rainforest Movement (WRM)

    Individuals:

    Andy Rutherford 
    Anuradha Chenoy 
    David JH Blake
    Glenn Hunt
    Jeremy Ironside
    Jessica diCarlo
    Kamal Mitra Chenoy
    Mary Aileen D. Bacalso
    Miles Kenney-Lazar
    Nico Bakker
    Philip Hirsch

     

  • Resilience in times of shrinking civic space: How Resilient Roots organisations are attempting to strengthen their roots through primary constituent accountability

    Soulayma Mardam Bey (CIVICUS) and Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now)

    The systematic crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations across the world has shaped our understanding of repression against civil society organisations (CSOs). Yet, less-spectacular restrictions such as increased bureaucratic requirements imposed by governments are not necessarily less threatening to CSO resilience.

    While those tactics significantly hamper CSOs’ ability to operate and can reduce primary constituents' trust in CSOs' ability to represent them legitimately, we also need to acknowledge that these symptoms can stem from our own inappropriate approaches to accountability. When CSOs are not accountable to their roots, this can serve as a breeding ground for governments’ and other non-state actors’ anti-CSOs strategies and rhetoric.  

    The Resilient Roots initiative is aiming to test whether CSOs who are more accountable and responsive to their primary constituents are more resilient against threats to their civic space. 15 organisations from diverse countries and contexts have partnered with us to design and rollout innovative accountability experiments over a 12 month period. These experiments will explore how public support and trust in CSOs can be improved through practising what we call primary constituent accountability, which aims to establish a meaningful dialogue with those groups that organisations exist to support, and increase their engagement in CSO decision-making.

    Accountability and resilience are both highly context-specific and vary not just from country to country but also along an organisation’s thematic focus, size and approach. This means that we need to explore the relationship between accountability and resilience on a case by case basis and across a variety of very different contexts. Keeping this in mind - and without further adieu - read on to meet the some of Resilient Roots Accountability Pilot Project organisations:

    One of these organisations is the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) from Zimbabwe. In the rural area of Dora, in the district of Mutare, they aim to systematically validate actions and strategies through constituent-led monitoring of programme progress. As a platform for civil society that aims to address the root-causes and diverse manifestations of poverty in Zimbabwe, they may face very different challenges from an organisation that works on more politically polarising topics.

    For example, Russian CSO OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project that monitors detentions and other cases of politically motivated harassment, informs media and human rights organisations on the state of political repression in Russia, and provides legal assistance to activists. For the Resilient Roots initiative, OVD-Info seeks to set up a dashboard to serve as a data visualisation tool, which will help evaluate the efficiency of its projects and motivate their constituents to play a stronger role in the organisation’s decision-making.

    In contrast to the technology and data-driven approach of OVD-Info, FemPLatz is a women’s rights organisation from Serbia that seeks a more direct and personal approach. They plan to gather feedback from their constituents through focus group discussions, interviews and workshops while also improving their communication with their constituents through the publication of a regular newsletter. This will allow their constituents to monitor their work and get in contact with them to provide feedback.

    A newsletter can also contribute to closing the feedback loop. Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) from Madagascar, for example, will engage young adolescents, their parents and school administrations to establish a coordinated and systematic means to collect feedback. They will collect feedback through participatory scorecards, stories from primary constituents around the changes triggered by the project, and an updated youth magazine to get closer to their constituents. PJL works on a comprehensive sexual-reproductive health education and leadership development program integrated into public middle schools.

    A particularly creative approach comes from Solidarity Now. Through multimedia productions, their primary constituents will express their daily perceptions, challenges, and dreams through the making and sharing of interactive material like video clips. Solidarity Now consists of a network of organisations and people whose goal is to assist and support the populations affected by the economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. Through the provision of services to both local Greeks and migrant populations, it seeks to restore the vision of a strong Europe based on solidarity and open values.

    In Asia, Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) is an organisation working to drive changes in attitudes towards climate change, and trigger action on the topic. As part of the initiative, CWT is going to strengthen how they formulate policy asks, by continuously testing their relevance to their constituents and this gaining wider support.

    Unfortunately, not all the organisations we work with in this initiative feel comfortable enough to publicly associate themselves to Resilient Roots, without the fear of inciting further anti-CSO responses in their local context. Such is the case of our Ugandan partner, a reminder of how delicate civic spaces are and how important it is for our sector to better understand how to strengthen CSO resilience in recent times.

    These diverse organisations are using a variety of approaches to work on CSO accountability, and we are incredibly excited to be exploring with them how different accountability practices fare in different regional and thematic contexts. What factors will make them successful and where will they need to adjust? In what circumstances does increased accountability actually lead to increased resilience? We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you: how they progress with their projects, the things they are learning, and what you can draw from their experiences to inform the work of your own organisation.

     

    Resilient Roots blog

     

  • THAILAND: ‘Young people question the government abusing their rights and compromising their future’

    CIVICUS speaks to Amnesty International Thailand’s executive director, Piyanut Kotsan, about the Thai pro-democracy movement and the repression of protests. Established in Bangkok in 1993, Amnesty International Thailand has more than 1,000 members across Thailand. Its work focuses on the promotion of the freedoms of online and offline expression and peaceful assembly, human rights education, abortion rights and the rights of people on the move, while denouncing torture, enforced disappearances and the death penalty.

     

  • Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    Read the Thai version of the letter

    Letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand as the government cracks down on peaceful protests calling for democracy, human rights and reform.


    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Pitsanulok road
    Bangkok 10300
    Thailand

    Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.

    We are writing to you to highlight our serious concerns about the escalating crackdown on peaceful protests in Thailand. According to reports by civil society groups, at least 80 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested since 13 October 2020. [1]

    • On 13 October, police forcibly dispersed a pro-democracy protest organised by the People’s Group at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Police allegedly kicked, punched, and threw some protesters to the ground. At least 23 protesters including protest leader Jatuphat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa were arrested.[2]
    • On 14 and 15 October, another 34 people were reportedly arrested including protest leaders.[3] Five of the protest leaders - Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Prasit Khrutharot, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Nathchanon Pairoj were charged with “sedition” (Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code).[4] The rest were charged under the newly promulgated Emergency Decree. We are seriously concerned about reports that the police had prevented their lawyers from meeting with the arrested activists. Some have also been denied bail.
    • Activists Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong were also arrested on 16 October. They had reportedly shouted and held up the defiant three-finger salute when the Queen’s motorcade drove past protesters on 14 October. They have been charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code and could face life imprisonment.[5]
    • On 16 October, police closed roads and established barricades with multiple rows of barbed wire in order to prevent people from peacefully gathering peacefully. Subsequently, police repeatedly used water cannons with chemical irritants and dye in attempts to disperse the crowd, estimated to be in the thousands.[6] Police also charged in with batons and shields to disperse the protesters.[7] 12 protesters were reportedly arrested.[8] Among those arrested include Kitti Pantapak, a journalist with Prachathai news outlet. His equipment was also confiscated.[9]
    • On 17 October, despite peaceful protests at least seven activists were reportedly arrested including student leader Panupong Chadnok.[10] On the same day, Chatchai Kaewkhampod a protest leader from Ubon Ratchathani province was also arrested.

    We are also concerned about the introduction of a new emergency decree that severely restricts peaceful assembly and expression. The decree bans gatherings of five persons or more, and broadly prohibits the publication of news and information “which may instigate fear amongst the people” or that “affect national security or peace and order”.

    Under the decree, authorities can arrest and detain people without charge for up to 30 days on grounds as vague as “supporting” or “concealing information” about the protests. The decree also allows those arrested to be detain them in informal places of detention and does not require access to legal counsel or visits by family members. Officials carrying out the duties under the decree enjoy legal immunity.

    During the announcement of the measure, the authorities cited the need to “maintain peace and order” and that protesters had “instigated chaos and public unrest”.[11] We believe this to be a clear misrepresentation of the actions of the protesters.

    The latest crackdown follows months of acts to suppress dissent, including the widespread use of judicial harassment against activists and human rights defenders. Authorities have arbitrarily arrested activists and filed charges against them under an array of repressive laws.

    These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996. These include obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms which are also guaranteed in Thailand’s Constitution.

    As such, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release all pro-democracy protesters detained, drop all charges against them and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have regular access to lawyers of their choice, their family members and to medical care;
    • Revoke emergency measures imposing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
    • Investigate all allegations of excessive force or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the police while dispersing protests and halt the use of water cannons water cannon unless there are situations of serious public disorder as provided by the 2020 United Nations guidance on less-lethal weapons in law enforcement
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution

    We express our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the human rights violations highlighted above.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Kode
    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation


    Civic space in Thailand is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    1 ‘Arrest Statistics’, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 18 October 2020, https://www.tlhr2014.com/?p=22156

    2 Thailand: Over 20 Democracy Activists Arrested, Human Rights Watch, 13 October 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/13/thailand-over-20-democracy-activists-arrested

     3 Two more rally leaders arrested, Bangkok Post, 15 October 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2002671/two-more-rally-leaders-arrested and Thailand bans mass gatherings under emergency decree, Al Jazeera, 15 October, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/15/thailand-imposes-emergency-amid-protests-leaders-detained 

    4 ‘Thailand: End crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists, lift emergency decree ‘ FIDH, 16 October, https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/thailand/thailand-end-crackdown-on-peaceful-pro-democracy-activists-lift 5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/2003267/two-arrested-on-motorcade-charges

    5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020,  https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/2003267/two-arrested-on-motorcade-charges 

    6 ‘Thailand: Water cannons mark deeply alarming escalation in policing’, Amnesty protests’, 17 October 2020, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/thailand-water-cannons-deeply-alarming-escalation/ 

    7 Thailand: Water Cannon Used Against Peaceful Activists Human Rights Watch, 17 October 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/17/thailand-water-cannon-used-against-peaceful-activists 

    8 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020, https://twitter.com/TLHR2014/status/1317170040169377792 

    9 Prachatai's reporter, 24, arrested while covering police crackdown, Prachatai, 16 October 2020 https://prachatai.com/english/node/8848 

    10 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020,  https://twitter.com/TLHR2014/status/1317482849772077061 

    11 Thailand’s emergency decree ‘an excuse’ to end pro-democracy protests, MPs say’, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, 15 October 2020, http://aseanmp.org/2020/10/15/thailand-emergency-decree-excuse/ 

     

  • Thailand: Government must respect and protect the rights of demonstrators

    GettyImages 1229088941 Thailand Oct 2020

    We, the undersigned organizations, condemn the Thai police’s unnecessary and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters marching to the national parliament in Bangkok on November 17, 2020. We are concerned that authorities could employ similar measures when facing protesters who have declared they will march to the Siam Commercial Bank headquarters on November 25.

     

  • Thailand: NGO law would strike ‘severe blow’ to human rights

    The Thai authorities’ adoption of a draft law to regulate non-profit groups would strike a severe blow to human rights in Thailand, several international organizations said today. The bill is the latest effort by the Thai government to pass repressive legislation to muzzle civil society groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

     

  • Thailand:Civil society groups urge government to dismiss cases brought by company against human rights defenders

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha
    Office of the Permanent Secretary,
    Prime Minister’s Office
    Royal Thai Government
    Government House
    1 Pitsanulok Road
    Dusit, Bangkok 10300
    Thailand

    RE: New Lawsuits Brought by Thammakaset Company Limited Against Human Rights Defenders

    Dear Prime Minister Prayut,

    The 89 undersigned organizations write to express our deep concern regarding recent spurious complaints brought by Thammakaset Company Limited against several human rights defenders in Thailand.

    We respectfully urge the Thai government to take immediate action to oppose and seek the dismissal of cases filed by Thammakaset that run counter to your government’s proclaimed policy to support business and human rights as well as Thailand’s interests, legal obligations, and international human rights law commitments.

    To date, Thammakaset—a Thai-owned poultry company in Lopburi Province— has filed no fewer than 13 criminal and civil complaints against a number of human rights defenders, including former employees. While Thai authorities and courts have dismissed most of the complaints, some are still pending and, in November 2018, a company representative pledged to bring more complaints.

    In December 2018, Thai authorities summoned 14 former employees of Thammakaset, all migrant workers, to acknowledge complaints by the company, alleging that the workers “wrongly filed a false case with officials and caused damage to another [person or entity].” Lopburi Province police also called Suthasinee Kaewleklai, the Thailand Coordinator of the Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)—an advocacy group that supports migrant rights in Thailand—to report to the police on January 28, 2019 to discuss a separate complaint by Thammakaset against her. On the same day, the Lopburi Province police requested information from witnesses as part of an investigation into complaints brought by Thammakaset at the end of 2018 against six individuals relating to activity on social media.

    Thammakaset’s criminal complaints stem from its former 14 employees’ involvement in reporting labor rights abuses to the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DLPW) and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) in 2016. In separate investigations, both DLPW and the NHRCT found evidence of labor rights abuses, including that Thammakaset failed to pay minimum and overtime wages and failed to provide adequate leave to workers as required by law. On January 15, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s order requiring Thammakaset to pay 1.7 million Thai Baht (US$51,470) in compensation to the 14 former employees for violations of Thailand’s Labor Protection Act.

    Thammakaset recently brought additional legal complaints against human rights defenders involved in publicly reporting on labor rights abuses and employer reprisals against the workers. As of October 2018, Nan Win, a former Thammakaset employee, faces new criminal defamation charges for speaking out on the alleged labor abuses and reprisals against the 14 former employees in a film produced by the human rights organization Fortify Rights and during a Facebook-live press conference that Fortify Rights organized. Sutharee Wannasiri, a former human rights specialist with Fortify Rights, also faces criminal and civil defamation charges for sharing Fortify Rights’ film on social media. The Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to consider the complaints against Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri on February 4 and March 11, 2019, respectively, and the Civil Court scheduled hearings in August 2019 to consider the civil complaint against Sutharee Wannasiri.

    We are alarmed that Thai authorities are proceeding to investigate and prosecute these complaints by Thammakaset, particularly after the Don Mueang Sub-District Court has already dismissed similar criminal defamation charges in July 2018 brought by the company against the same 14 former employees. These new charges filed by Thammakaset constitute harassment by the company that waste valuable time and resources of police, prosecutors, and judicial officers.

    The complaints by Thammakaset appear to be reprisals brought to harass human rights defenders involved in exposing abuses. Such reprisals interfere with the work of human rights defenders and prevent the implementation of labor rights protections. The cases brought by Thammakaset are emblematic of Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) lawsuits. These cases demonstrate the dangers SLAPP suits pose for workers and human rights defenders in Thailand and illustrate the need for your government to adopt clear policies and enact regulations and laws to oppose such cases from proceeding. Thammakaset has a long history of aggressively using the courts to intimidate and silence human rights defenders, who have exposed business related human rights abuses. In August and October 2017, Thammakaset filed criminal suits against two migrant workers and Suthasinee Kaewleklai for the alleged theft of employment timecards. In fact, the timecards were presented to Thai government labor inspectors as evidence of labor violations, assisting officials to perform their duty as required by law. Although Thai courts eventually dismissed Thammakaset’s complaints, the cases should never have proceeded in the first place and resulted in undue stress, unnecessary legal costs, and lost time and wages for those facing charges.

    We recognize recent legislative steps by the National Legislative Assembly in December 2018 to amend Section 161/1 of the Thailand Criminal Procedure Code. This amendment allows a court to dismiss and forbid the refiling of a complaint by a private individual if the complaint is filed “in bad faith or with misrepresentation of facts in order to harass or take advantage of a defendant.” Section 161/1 should apply to the recent complaints brought by Thammakaset.

    This amendment is insufficient to address SLAPP suits generally in Thailand. In addition to relying on the court’s application of Section 161/1, we urge your government to clearly demonstrate its opposition to SLAPP lawsuits, such as the ones filed by Thammakaset. Seeking the expeditious dismissal of the recent complaints by Thammakaset would be instructive to both foreign and Thai businesses operating in Thailand and demonstrate your government’s commitment to implementing the law and upholding business and human rights principles.

    To prevent future SLAPP lawsuits like those filed by Thammakaset, we recommend that Thailand develop comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation that fully protects workers, human rights defenders, and others from judicial harassment. It is also essential that the public prosecutor and the Attorney General’s Office be provided with adequate resources and support to exercise their powers under Section 21 of the 2010 Public Prosecutor Organ and Public Prosecutors Act to screen out unwarranted complaints, including those brought to harass, intimidate, or retaliate against human rights defenders or others. Thailand should also decriminalize defamation and end imprisonment or fines as a penalties for acts of defamation.

    We urge the Thai government to follow the recommendation provided by a group of six United Nations human rights experts in May 2018 to “revise its civil and criminal laws as well as prosecution processes to prevent misuse of defamation legislation by companies.” During its official visit to Thailand in April 2018, the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights similarly called on the Thai government to “ensure that defamation cases are not used by businesses as a tool to undermine legitimate rights and freedoms of affected rights holders, civil society organizations and human rights defenders.” The Working Group further recommended “enacting anti-SLAPP legislation to ensure that human rights defenders are not subjected to civil liability for their activities.” We encourage the Thai government to incorporate these recommendations into Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and also ensure meaningful consultations with Thai civil society on developing and implementing the National Action Plan.

    We thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations raised in this letter. We welcome the opportunity to assist and support the Thai government in meeting its commitments to uphold business and human rights principles as well as to protect the rights of workers, human rights defenders, and basic freedoms in Thailand.

    Sincerely,

    1. Aksi! for Gender, Social and Ecological Justice, Indonesia
      2. American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)
      3. Amnesty International
      4. Anti-Slavery International
      5. Article 19
      6. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
      7. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
      8. Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM), Hong Kong
      9. Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
      10. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
      11. Assembly of the Poor, Thailand
      12. Australian Council of Trade Unions
      13. Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI)
      14. Bune United Sisters, Tombil Community, Minj , Jiwaka Province, PNG
      15. Burma Campaign UK
      16. Business & Human Rights Resource Center
      17. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
      18. Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Philippines
      19. Chab Dai
      20. CIVICUS
      21. Civil Rights Defenders
      22. Coalition for the Rights of Refugees and Stateless Persons
      23. Community Resource Centre Foundation
      24. Conservation International
      25. Cross Cultural Foundation
      26. Danish Ethical Trading Initiative
      27. Environmental Justice Foundation
      28. Ethical Trading Initiative
      29. Ethical Trading Initiative Denmark
      30. Ethical Trading Initiative Norway
      31. FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
      32. FishWise
      33. Fortify Rights
      34. Foundation for Education and Development (FED)
      35. Free the Slaves
      36. Freedom Fund
      37. Freedom United
      38. Frontline Defenders
      39. GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women, Philippines
      40. Global Coalition on Migration
      41. Global Legal Action Network
      42. Global Migration Policy Associates
      43. Greenpeace
      44. Highlands Women Human Right Defenders Movement, PNG
      45. Human Rights and Development Foundation
      46. Human Rights Lawyers Association
      47. Human Rights Now
      48. Human Rights Watch
      49. Humanity United Action
      50. IJM Foundation (มูลนิธิไอเจเอ็ม)
      51. Indonesian Migrant Workers Union, Indonesia
      52. International Accountability Project
      53. International Labor Rights Forum
      54. Kabar Bumi (Indonesian Migrant Workers Union), Indonesia
      55. Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy (KOCUN), the Republic of Korea
      56. Kugar Farmers Association, Kudjip, BANZ, Jiwaka Province, PNG
      57. LawAid International
      58. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
      59. Liberty Shared
      60. Manushya Foundation
      61. MAP Foundation
      62. MARUAH, Singapore
      63. Migrant Workers Rights Network
      64. National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
      65. National Indigenous Women Forum (NIWF), Nepal
      66. NEthing, India
      67. North Whagi Country’s Women Association, Jiwaka Province, PNG
      68. Oxfam
      69. RITES Forum, India
      70. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
      71. Rural Women Association Alga, Kyrgyzstan
      72. Shan Women’s Action Network
      73. Slave Free Seas
      74. Social accountability international
      75. SRED, India
      76. Stop the Traffik Australian Coalition
      77. Suara Perempuan Desa (Rural Women’s Voices), Indonesia
      78. SwedWatch
      79. Tarangini Foundation, Nepal
      80. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
      81. Trades Union Congress
      82. Uniting Church of Australia (Synod of Victoria and Tasmania)
      83. Verité
      84. Voice
      85. Voice for Change, Jiwaka Province, PNG
      86. Walk Free Foundation
      87. We Women Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
      88. Women’s League of Burma
      89. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders