Human rights defenders Ms Jittra Kotchadej, Ms Boonrod Paiwong, and Mr Soonthorn Boonyord are due to appear in a pre-trial hearing on 23 December 2011 to decide on the dates of their trial. The human rights defenders are officially charged under Section 215 and 216 of the Criminal Code for leading and organising a peaceful assembly in front of the Parliament House in Bangkok. Jittra Kotchadej is an adviser of the Triumph International Labour Union. Boonrod Paiwong is the former Secretary-General of the Triumph International Labour Union. Soonthorn Boonyord is a labour activist affiliated with the National Congress of Thai Labour. Each of them could face a maximum jail term of five years and/or each be fined up to 10,000 baht (USD 325).
On 27 August 2009, the Triumph International Labour Union organised a demonstration to follow up on the government's promise to find a remedy for 2,000 workers who were dismissed by Triumph International factories. The members of the Labour Union had earlier met with the secretary of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajiva, who promised that he would look into the dismissal. The demonstration consisted of around 400 women labour activists from the Triumph International Labour Union, the Electronic and Mechanic Labour Union, and the World Garment Factory Labour Union, as well as human rights defenders from non-governmental organisations working on labour rights.
When the workers arrived at the Government House, no government official came out to talk to them so they moved to the parliament and received the same treatment. In response to their peaceful demonstration, the police used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) as a means to forcefully disperse the demonstration. Many of the labour activists were later diagnosed with ear problems as a result of the usage of the LRAD machine by the police.
On 27 January 2011, the public prosecutor officially charged Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord. They submitted assets worth 200,000 Thai Baht (USD 6,490) each as a guarantee in order to be granted bail. All three human rights defenders had submitted assets worth 100,000 Thai Baht (USD 3,245) each after the police at Dusit Precinct issued arrest warrants against them.
The human rights defenders are charged under Section 215 and 216 of the Criminal Code. Section 215 states that “If the offender is leading an act [which threatens violence or to cause a breach of peace], he/she shall be punished for the maximum of five years imprisonment or fined not exceeding ten thousands baht or both”. Section 216 states that “[w]hen an official orders any person assembled under section 215 to disperse and such person does not disperse, he/she shall be imprisoned for the maximum of three years or fined for the maximum of six thousands baht or both”.
Front Line believes that the charges against Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord are directly related to their work in the defence of human rights, in particular in demanding compensation for the 2,000 workers who were dismissed from their work.
Front Line urges the authorities in Thailand to:
- Immediately drop all charges against Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord as it is believed that they are solely motivated by the human rights defenders' legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights;
- Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of the aforenamed human rights defenders;
- Refrain from using section 215 and 216 of the Thai Criminal Code as a mean to persecute human rights defenders holding peaceful demonstrations in the promotion and protection of human rights;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Thailand are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.