Thailand: cases of judicial harassment illustrate plight of human rights defenders

August 26, 2014

Coup d’etat in Thailand or not, judicial harassment continues to rack the lives of human rights defenders. A Statement of 24 August by the Asian Human Rights Commission [AHRC] concerns Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, a human rights defender and director of the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), who received a warrant summoning her to report to the police station by 25 August 2014. The warrant is in relation to an investigation carried out pursuant to a legal complaint of libel and defamation filed against her by Army Task Force 41. The complaint accuses Pornpen Khongkachonkiet of causing damage to the reputation of the Army by disseminating an open letter about a case of torture. (The Army has claimed that the young man was not tortured, and so therefore the open letter constitutes libel and defamation.)

The judicial harassment of Pornpen Khongkachonkiet is part of a broader pattern of harassment and legal proceedings against human rights defenders in Thailand, such as the following 3 examples show:

–  the criminal prosecution of Suderueman Maleh, a survivor of torture in southern Thailand, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 after he brought a torture complaint against a police officer who was later cleared of responsibility (AHRC-STM-103-2011<http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-103-2011>).

Kritsuda Khunasen, who was arbitrarily detained for nearly a month following the 22 May 2014 coup by the National Council for Peace and Order. She had released two video interviews detailing her torture and abuse while in military custody, the junta’s response was to threaten and discredit her (AHRC-STM-151-2014<http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-151-2014), even though the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights office on 5 August called for an independent investigation into the alleged torture. “We have been very concerned by the methods of arrest and detention of politicians, activists, academics and journalists following the military coup in Thailand in May this year,” said Ravina Shamdasani, OHCHR. [http://www.icj.org/thailand-allegations-of-torture-against-activist-kritsuda-khunasen-require-immediate-investigation/].

– and then there is the still outstanding case of Andy Hall, a British-born labour activist, who faces jail and 300 million baht in compensation if the company Natural Fruit wins its defamation case against him. His case shows that Thailand’s criminal defamation laws provide opportunities for malicious prosecution by persons and corporations wishing to silence critics and thereby continue possibly unlawful activities with no accountability. To follow his case which resumes on 2 September, see: http://andyjhall.wordpress.com/

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