05/28/2019

Urgent Action: Defamation Charges for Exposing Labor Abuse (Thailand: UA 73.19)


Human rights defenders, activists, journalists and former employees are facing criminal defamation lawsuits for their public comments on labor rights abuses faced by many workers at Thammakaset Co. Ltd, a chicken farm in central Thailand. Nan Win, a former farm worker and Sutharee Wannasiri, a human rights specialist and former employee of Amnesty International Thailand, go on trial on 24 May 2019 while Tun Tun Win, a migrant worker from Myanmar, will stand trial on 5 June 2019. They are three of at least 22 individuals who have faced criminal and civil proceedings initiated by this company.

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Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
Pitsanulok Road
Bangkok 10300 Thailand
Fax: +66 2282 5131
Email: [email protected]
Ms. Boosara Kanchanalai
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Thailand
1024 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.,
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202 944-3600 I Fax: 202 944-3611
Contact form: https://thaiembdc.org/contact/
Twitter: @ThaiEmbDC
Facebook: @ThaiEmbDC
Salutation: Dear Ms. Kanchanalai

Dear Prime Minister,

I write to urge your government to oppose the legal actions taken by Thammakaset Co. Ltd against their former employees, human rights activists and journalists in relation to their reporting and comments on labour conditions at the company’s chicken farm, and act to ensure that they do not proceed. In 2016, 14 employees at Thammakaset Co. Ltd reported abusive work conditions to Thai authorities. In response, their former employer has subjected former employees, activists and journalists to apparently retributive criminal and civil proceedings, including criminal defamation and computer crimes. The labor rights abuses raised by these employees – paid less than the minimum wage; failure to pay overtime; failure to provide adequate rest time and holidays and confiscation of identity documents – have previously been confirmed through several orders by Thai courts.

While the Bangkok Court dismissed the lawsuit filed against the 14 migrant workers, Thammakaset Co. Ltd continues to file new complaints of criminal defamation. Most recently in October 2018 Sutharee Wannasiri and Nan Win, a human rights specialist and former farm worker respectively, were charged under Articles 326 and 328 of the Thai Penal Code. They are scheduled to stand trial on 24 May 2019.

Amnesty International is concerned that these criminal proceedings threaten the protection of labor rights in Thailand, with a chilling effect on individuals – including those from vulnerable groups such as migrant workers – reporting on labor and other human rights violations for fear of prosecution and imprisonment. Under Thai law, migrant workers – who make up more than 10% of the Thai work force – may not form their own trade unions, and in practice the support of other rights defenders and advocacy groups has played a role in helping report and prevent abusive working conditions. I request that your government act to support human rights defenders’ work to highlight and prevent violations in the workplace, and protect human rights defenders from reprisal, including prosecution for peacefully exercising their rights to publicize violations, including by decriminalizing defamation.

Yours sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES