05/24/2019

Urgent Action: Defamation Charges Used to Silence Dissent (Thailand: UA 71.19)


Police have charged prominent activists Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Sirawit ‘Ja New’ Seritiwat, and Phayaw Akkahad with defamation by publication under Article 328 of the Thai Criminal Code which carries a maximum sentence of two years in jail. The Election Commission accused the three of making defamatory speeches during a public campaign to impeach the commissioners in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city. Summoned to Phayathai Police Station on 30 April, they have denied all charges. The case appears to be politically motivated and is part of the crackdown on individuals who criticise the constitutionally independent body.

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Pol Gen Chakthip Chaijinda
Royal Thai Police
Rama I Road, Pathumwan
Bangkok 10330
Thailand
Fax: +66 2251 4739
Tel: +66 2205 2724
Email: [email protected]
Ms. Boosara Kanchanalai
Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Thailand
1024 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.,
Washington, DC 20007
Phone: 202 944-3600
Fax: 202 944-3611
Contact form: https://thaiembdc.org/contact/
Twitter: @ThaiEmbDC
Facebook: @ThaiEmbDC
Salutation: Dear Ms. Kanchanalai

Dear Chairman,

I am writing to express my concern over the charges of criminal defamation by publication recently filed against prominent activists Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, Sirawith ‘Ja New’ Seritiwat and Phayaw Akkahad for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Election Commission accused the three of violating Article 328 of the Thai Criminal Code. They could face up to two years in prison.

An election commissioner has accused the activists of making defamatory speeches during a public campaign to impeach the commissioners around Victory Monument in Bangkok on 31 March 2019. In their statements, the three had requested that the Commission discloses the full results, from all polling stations, following reports of irregularities during the country’s general elections on 24 March. Summoned to the Phayathai police station on 30 April, the three activists denied all charges. They have been summoned to attend the police station again on 4 June to hear the development of their case. This case is the fourth prosecution initiated by the Commission since the elections. Amnesty International believes that raising criminal complaints against these individuals is a bid to silence public criticism amid public calls for transparency about the election results.

I urge your office to act swiftly to uphold and protect the right to freedom of expression. Specifically, I urge you to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Parit, Sirawith and Phayaw, which appear to be motivated by political interests; end the harassment of critics of the Election Commission and take measures to guarantee their right to freedom of expression. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES