Thailand: Ongoing judicial harassment against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG)

THA 003 / 0717 / OBS 075
Judicial harassment | Thailand | July 5, 2017

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH, requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Thailand.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about ongoing judicial harassment against members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG), a community-based group committed to defend the local environment from the negative impacts of the open-pit copper-gold mine, operated by the Tungkum company in Thailand’s Loei province [1].

According to the information received, on June 27, 2017, the Public Prosecutor again postponed the indictment of seven women members of KRBKG, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, Ms. Viron Rujichaiyavat, Ms. Ranong Kongsaen, Ms. Mon Khunna, Ms. Suphat Khunna, Ms. Boonraeng Srithong, and Ms. Lumplearn Ruengrith. The indictment was originally scheduled for May 25, 2017, but was postponed first to June 27, 2017 and now to July 25, 2017. The Observatory is concerned about this series of postponements, which amounts to additional harassment against the seven defenders.

The seven women are facing legal prosecution for their involvement in legitimate activities on November 16, 2016, when more than 200 KRBKG members and villagers marched from Ban Na Nong Bong village to the Khoa Lunag Administrative Council Office, and peacefully staged a peaceful sit-in protest in front of the council meeting room, to demand community participation in the decision-making process concerning the granting of forest land use to Tungkum. Members of the administrative council ultimately called off the scheduled meeting due to the protest and filed a complaint with the police.

On March 8, 2017, Thai police in Wang Sa Pung District, Loei province, charged the seven women KRBKG members for allegedly violating Section 309 of Thailand’s Criminal Code for forcing local council members to cancel the meeting. In addition, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, one of the leaders and spokespersons of KRBKG, was charged under Articles 10 and 28 of the Public Assembly Act for failing to notify the authorities about the protest. The case was then transferred to the Public Prosecutor to decide whether to indict the women based on the police investigation.

On June 13, 2017, the police filed additional charges against the seven women under Articles 8 and 27 of the Public Assembly Act for public gathering that blocks entries or disrupts service of government agencies. The offense carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a 10,000 THB (258 EUR) fine, or both.

The seven women human rights defenders are facing each up to five years in prison and 100,000 THB (about 2,586 EUR) fine, or both. Ms. Pornthip Hongchai faces additional fine of up to 10,000 THB (258 EUR) for the extra charge under Article 10 of the Public Assembly Act.

The Observatory recalls that this case is one of 21 criminal and civil complaints initiated against villagers in Loei province, 19 of which were filed by Tungkum. Thai authorities filed the two other complaints against the Loei villagers. Tungkum previously brought a defamation lawsuit against three out of seven women, Ms. Viron Rujichaiyavat, Ms. Pornthip Hongchai, and Ms. Mon Khunna [2], until the Loei Provincial Court dismissed the case on March 30, 2016.

The Observatory strongly condemns the acts of ongoing judicial harassment against the seven women and other members of KRBKG, which only aims at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls upon both the Thai judicial authorities and Tungkum to end all forms of harassment - including at the judicial level - against all the above-mentioned defenders, and drop all charges against them.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Thailand asking them to:

i. Immediately and unconditionally put an end to all acts of judicial harassment - including at the judicial level - against the seven above-mentioned women defenders, all members of the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group as well as against all human rights defenders in Thailand;

ii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Thailand;

iii. Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Articles 1 and Article 12.2;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Thailand.

Addresses:

Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 282 5131
Mr. Don Pramudwinai, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 643 5320; Email: minister@mfa.go.th
Mr. Suwaphan Tanyuvardhna, Minister of Justice of Thailand, Fax: +66 (0) 2 953 0503
Pol Gen Chaktip Chaijinda, Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police, Fax: +66 (0) 2 251 5956 / +66 (0) 2 251 8702
Mr. Wat Tingsamit, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Email: help@nhrc.or.th
H.E. Mr. Thani Thongphakdi, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: + 41 22 715 10 00 / 10 02; Email: mission.thailand@ties.itu.int
Embassy of Thailand in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 648 30 66; Email: thaibxl@pophost.eunet.be
Mr. Wichit Chiamwichitkun, Chief Executive Director and Chairman of the Executive Board, Tongkah Harbour Public Company Limited (of which Tungkum Ltd. is a subsidiary company), Bangkok, Thailand, Fax: +66 2 694 4420, +66 2 695 4901; Email: info@tongkahharbour.com .

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Thailand in your respective country

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Geneva-Paris, July 5, 2017

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and FIDH. The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Email: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Footnotes

[1] Villagers from six communities near the mine formed the KRBKG in 2007 to advocate for a clean environment and to oppose the mining operations. On March 7, 2016, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand honoured women of the KRBKG with a prestigious human rights defenders award for their role in bringing attention to critical human rights problems in Thailand.

[2] Together with Mr. Suraphan Rujichaiwat, Mr. Khonglai Phakmi and Mr. Samai Phakmi. See Observatory’s Urgent Appeal THA 002 / 0316 / OBS 029, published on March 31, 2016.