In Thailand, TrialWatch is exposing how the authorities are using the courts to crack down on pro-democracy protesters, relying on outdated laws or those that are otherwise incompatible with international human rights. For instance, CFJ’s partner Columbia Law School is monitoring key trials brought under ‘secret society,’ sedition and ‘lese majeste’ laws.
At the same time, TrialWatch is also monitoring how the powerful are instrumentalizing criminal defamation laws to target their critics, which allow private parties to bring suits: In one case, a government official responding to critical Facebook posts; and in others, a large company retaliating against those who tweeted (or retweeted) criticism of their labor practices.
Since late 2020, CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring and evaluating criminal proceedings against 22 protest leaders charged with insulting the monarchy–otherwise known as lèse-majesté—sedition, and a range of public order offenses, and adhere to its international human rights obligations. The defendants participated in demonstrations in Bangkok on September 19, 2020, with protesters calling for amendments to the Thai Constitution and reform of the monarchy. On 16 January 2023, CFJ filed a brief with the Bangkok Criminal Court saying that Thailand should dismiss the case against the protest leaders.
Four alleged members of the Organization of Thai Federation (OTF), a political movement that advocates for a republican-style government and which the Thai government considers anti-monarchist, were convicted of ‘membership in a secret society’ for distributing flyers and t-shirts. The Fairness Report on the trial concludes that the proceedings “violate[d] the principle of legality” because the law was “fundamentally unclear,” facilitating its use “for unjustified restrictions of the freedom of speech.” The report gave the trial a grade of ‘D.’
An indigenous activist and retired parks official were charged with criminal defamation for social media posts that suggested a government official was misusing public land for private gain. While the defendants were acquitted, the report on the case, which was monitored by CFJ’s partner Columbia Law School as part of TrialWatch, concludes that the prosecution was a “misuse of criminal law” that may have been politically motivated, and gives the proceedings a grade of ‘C.’
TrialWatch is monitoring some of the multiplying proceedings brought by the Thammakaset poultry company against those who have criticized their labor practices—which according to the FIDH now number more than 39 cases against 23 defendants.
Wut Boonlert, an indigenous rights activist, and Samak Donnapee, a retired national park officer, were charged with criminal defamation due to social media posts that, according to the prosecution, suggested a government official was misusing national forest land for private gain.See the Fairness Report
The trial against five individuals for their alleged membership in a “secret society”— the Organization for Thai Federation, which advocates for a republican system of government in Thailand—was marred by serious procedural violations of the right to a fair trial.See the Fairness Report