The authorities and powerful actors in Thailand have been using the courts to crack down on protesters, journalists, and critics of the government and the monarchy.
CFJ’s TrialWatch initiative is documenting how the government relies on laws that are incompatible with international human rights guarantees to level criminal charges to silence dissent. TrialWatch is also tracking how individuals with influence deploy Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to target those who make their voices heard.
Since 2020 TrialWatch has been monitoring the trial of 22 protest leaders of whom seven are charged with lèse-majesté and facing over a decade in jail.
TrialWatch will also monitor the trial of six individuals who participated in a protest in November 2020, five of whom are facing lèse-majesté charges.
In another lèse-majesté trial that our team is monitoring, eight defendants are facing lèse-majesté charges primarily for having polled the public on whether it finds the royal motorcade disturbing.
Human Rights Lawyer on Trial
Human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, who is a defendant in several lèse-majesté trials TrialWatch is monitoring, has been convicted in two of the 14 lèse-majesté cases against him. The first conviction was in September 2023, when he was sentenced to four years in prison. The second came in January 2024, when he was also sentenced to four years in prison.
In August and September 2023, through its partnership with Columbia Law School, TrialWatch monitored two sedition cases: one involving 13 student protesters (who were ultimately acquitted) and the other involving a female activist allegedly involved in pro-democracy protests. Reports on both cases are forthcoming.
TrialWatch also focuses on SLAPPs: proceedings in which powerful figures file cases aiming to intimidate their critics, drain their resources, and ultimately prevent them from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Because Thailand allows for criminal defamation that can be prosecuted by private parties, criminal defamation SLAPPs are common.
Human Rights Activists
TrialWatch filed an amicus brief in the case of Thanaporn Saleephol, Puttanee Kangkun, and Angkhana Neelapaijit: three female human rights activists who were facing imprisonment based on criminal defamation charges for their social media comments. They were acquitted two weeks later.
In 2024, TrialWatch will monitor the trial of journalist Chutima Sidasathian on defamation charges, also a SLAPP case, for her investigative reporting on corruption.