The Lop Buri-based chicken farm company Thammakaset has sued another female human rights defender for criminal defamation over 2 twitter posts and 3 retweets about labour rights violations at their farm. This brings its total lawsuits to 35 filed against 22 people.
Thanaporn Saleephol (Courteasy of Thanaporn)
On 30 March, the Bangkok South Criminal Court accepted a petition from Charnchai Permphol, acting for Thammakaset, against Thanaporn Saleephol, formerly of Fortify Rights.
The petition alleges that Thanaporn violated Articles 326 and 328 of the Criminal Code. The plaintiff claims that Thanaporn’s 2 twitter posts and 3 retweets were defamatory for giving encouragement to Angkhana Neelapaijit and Puttanee Kangkun, human rights defenders who were sued by Thammakaset for defamation in 2019.
5 tweets contain a link to an open letter from 89 organizations related to defamation cases that Thammakaset has brought against human rights defenders. The open letter in turn contains a link related to a Fortify Rights video about labour rights. The video has been subject to a defamation suit.
Thanaporn said that she had no intention to defame the poultry company in her tweets. However, she is ready to pursue the legal process to the best of her ability as well as promote human rights in business principles.
The court scheduled a meeting between both sides on 5 August 2020 to attempt mediation. The preliminary hearing will take place on 17 August if the mediation fails.
Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, a lawyer from the Community Resource Centre Foundation and Thanporn’s lawyer, who is also responsible for the cases of Angkhana and Puttanee, said the company files similar lawsuits related to the allegedly defamatory Fortify Rights video even when the video is not directly involved.
Sor also said that defamation should not constitute a criminal offence requiring punishment as speech only affects the plaintiff’s reputation, unlike other laws which affect life, body or property. She also disagrees with using lawsuits to attempt to restrict civic participation, also known as SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)
“If it is a defamation suit, I disagree with it, because it is using the judicial process to distort protection from libel. In this regard, there are campaigns from the United Nations and other organizations to put a stop to SLAPP.”
“The National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights which the [Thai] government is now using also encourages an end to SLAPP” said Sor Rattanamanee.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) kept a record of the defamation suits filed by Thammakaset. It reports that the company has filed 35 lawsuits, both civil and criminal, against 22 people: 14 Myanmar labourers, 6 human rights defenders, 1 academic and 1 journalist.
and ensure that defamation are not used as a tool to undermine legitimate rights and freedom of expression
In March 2020, a group of UN experts condemned the continued misuse of the judicial process by Thammakaset to harass and silence human rights defenders who have spoken out against its abusive and exploitative labour practices.
“We are deeply troubled by the information we continue to receive about migrant workers, human rights defenders, academics and journalists facing ill-founded defamation cases by the company Thammakaset when they raise legitimate concerns about working conditions in this company,” the experts said.