Civil society organizations globally call on the Thai government to uphold its business and human rights commitments and to protect the rights of workers and human rights defenders.
A joint letter delivered today to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha from 89 organizations calls on the Thai government to take immediate action to oppose and seek the dismissal of spurious complaints filed by Thammakaset Company Limited against several human rights defenders in Thailand. These retaliatory cases run counter to the Thai 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 Lopuri Province—has filed no fewer than 13 criminal and civil complaints against a number of human rights defenders, including former employees. Following significant international outcry, Thai authorities and courts dismissed many of the complaints, but some are still pending investigation and, in November 2018, a company representative pledged to bring more complaints.
“We are alarmed that Thai authorities are proceeding to investigate and prosecute these complaints by Thammakaset, particularly after another court has already dismissed similar criminal defamation charges against the same 14 former employees,” said Charlotte Tate of the International Labor Rights Forum. “These new charges appear to be reprisals aimed at harassing human rights defenders involved in exposing abusive working conditions.”
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 the Thai government to adopt clear policies and enact regulations and laws to oppose such cases from proceeding.
To prevent future SLAPP lawsuits like those filed by Thammakaset, the letter recommends that Thailand develop comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation that fully protects workers, human rights defenders, and others from judicial harassment. Thailand should also decriminalize defamation and end imprisonment or fines as penalties for acts of defamation.
In addition, the letter urges 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” and encourages the Thai government to incorporate recommendations from the U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights into Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights and ensure meaningful consultations with Thai civil society on developing and implementing the National Action Plan.