Thai authorities should drop the criminal defamation charges against woman human rights defender and former Thailand National Human Rights Commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit and end the cases of judicial harassment by Thai chicken company Thammakaset Company Limited, said Fortify Rights.
On 16 August 2021, the Bangkok South Criminal Court ruled to proceed with a trial in the case against Angkhana Neelapaijit, granting her bail and setting October 26 for the first hearing.
“With my due respect to the court, I cannot agree with the decision to allow the case to proceed to trial today,” said Angkhana Neelapaijit. “Until now, I have been expressing my opinions in good faith to protect human rights defenders and as a former National Human Rights Commissioner. In my opinion, if the government had acted in compliance with their commitments in the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, particularly on the protection of human rights defenders and the suppression of Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation against human rights defenders, a case like this would not be filed in the first place.”
The ruling comes following a series of four preliminary hearings spanning more than 17 months concerning a criminal defamation complaint brought by Thammakaset against Angkhana Neelapaijit. The complaint, filed on October 25, 2019, alleges that Angkhana Neelapaijit defamed the company by posting two tweets—on December 3, 2018 and June 28, 2019—that expressed support for other human rights defenders facing lawsuits brought by Thammakaset.
Since 2016, Thammakaset has brought at least 37 complaints against 22 human rights defenders. The courts have dismissed or ruled against the company in most cases.
“I thank all friends for following this case and showing their solidarity with me,” said Angkhana Neelapaijit. “I have no idea how long the trial will go on. I only hope this case will set a precedent, paving the way for legal reform to stop the misuse of the judicial process as a tool to harass people who exercise their freedom of opinion for human rights and public interest.”
The 2017 Constitution of Thailand protects the right to freedom of expression as does Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Thailand is a state party. The Thai National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights also includes commitments on protecting human rights defenders from judicial harassment.