IFJ joins calls for defamation charges against activists to be dropped in Thailand

On October 12, the Thai company Thammakaset Co. Ltd., which operated chicken farms in Lopburi Province, filed a defamation complaint at the Bangkok Criminal Court against activist and human rights defender Sutharee Wannasiri. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has joined calls for the defamation charges to be dropped immediately.

Credit: Fortify Rights

On December 3, an international joint statement was issued calling for charges to be dropped, on the same day that the Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hold preliminary hearings on the criminal defamation complaints. The complaints relate to short, 107-second video by Fortify Rights, which was shared on social media by former Fortify Rights human rights specialist Sutharee Wannasiri. Thammakaset also filed a complaint against Nan Win, one of the workers in the video.

If convicted of the criminal defamation charges filed in the case, Nan Win faces up to four years in prison and up to 400,000 Thai Baht (US$12,100) in fines and Sutharee Wannasiri faces up to six years in prison and up to 600,000 Thai Baht (US$18,150) in fines. Thammakaset also brought civil defamation complaints against Sutharee Wannasiri, seeking five million Thai Baht (US$151,400) in compensation for alleged damage to the company’s reputation.

The joint statement, which the IFJ signed, said: “We, the 16 undersigned organizations, call on the Thai authorities and Thammakaset Company Limited to ensure that the criminal and civil defamation complaints brought by the company against human rights defenders Nan Win and Sutharee Wannasiri for bringing attention to labor rights violations at a Thammakaset-owned chicken farm in Thailand do not proceed. The Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to hold preliminary hearings on the criminal defamation complaints on December 3.”

“We further call on the Thai authorities to ensure that no person is prosecuted or held criminally liable for defamation for activities protected under international law. The government should decriminalize defamation in Thai law and protect individuals and human rights defenders from abusive litigation aimed at curtailing the exercise of freedom of expression,” said the statement.

The IFJ said: “We reiterate the calls for the charges to be dropped immediately and for the Thai authorities to ensure defamation cannot be used a tool to silent critical voices. Laws and legislation cannot become tools of intimidation and repression.”

Download the joint statement in Thai here