Thailand

Region: Southeast Asia

Number of Trials: 4

September 19 Pro-Democracy Protests

Organization of Thai Federation Trial

Wut Boonlert & Samak Donnapee

Thammakaset Trials

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TrialWatch is exposing how the authorities are using the courts to crack down on pro-democracy protesters, relying on outdated laws or those that are otherwise incompatible with international human rights.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.

September 19 Pro-Democracy Protesters

A human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and a protest leader, Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak flash three-fingers salute as they arrive at the criminal court after the public attorney moved to prosecute royal insult charges against them at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, February 9, 2021. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

Twenty-two defendants, including student leader Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, face ‘insulting royalty’ (lese majeste) and sedition charges (among others) for speeches critical of the monarchy at a protest in September 2020. For instance, Parit criticized the Thai King’s trips to Germany during a global pandemic and public financing of the monarchy. Parit and Arnon’s trial is part of a much broader crackdown: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights have found that 1,600 people have been charged—among them more than 250 children and more than 150 who are facing lese majeste charges. Moreover, Arnon and two of the other defendants in the September 19 case could also face potential treason charges after Thailand’s constitutional court recently held that their criticism equated to an attempt to ‘overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.’

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Organization of Thai Federation

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.’

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Wut Boonlert & Samak Donnapee

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.’

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Thammakaset Trials

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.

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