The ICJ welcomes the Pattani Provincial Prosecutor’s decision to end the criminal prosecution of three prominent human rights defenders who raised allegations of torture in Thailand’s restive deep South: Ms Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Mr Somchai Homlaor, and Ms Anchana Heemmina.
On 24 October 2017, the Region 9 Senior Expert Public Prosecutor, on behalf of the Pattani Provincial Prosecutor, informed the Superintendent of the Muang District Pattani Police Station of the decision to end the prosecution of the three defenders for criminal defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act.
The ICJ has previously expressed concern that the prosecutions were unwarranted and abusive and were aimed at chilling the exercise of critical human rights work in Thailand.
“While we welcome the decision to end these prosecutions, they have already caused a tremendous amount of damage to complainants of serious human rights violations like torture and ill-treatment, civil society, and the local community in the deep South that must now be repaired,” said Kingsley Abbott, the ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia.
“An important first step would be to pass legislation which criminalizes torture and ill-treatment and provides meaningful protections for those who wish to come forward with allegations of violations,” he added.
On 28 February 2017, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights announced that it had been informed that the Thai National Legislative Assembly (NLA) would not enact legislation then under consideration criminalizing torture and enforced disappearance, the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act (Draft Act).
The following day, an NLA official speaking to BBC Thai confirmed that the Draft Act would be “returned [to the Thai Cabinet] for more consultations… with Interior officials, police authorities, the national security sector, military authorities and prosecutors.”
The Draft Act remains with the Thai Cabinet.
“It is long past time for Thailand to make good on its repeated commitments on the international stage to pass this essential piece of legislation in accordance with its international human rights obligations,” added Abbott.
Kingsley Abbott, Senior International Legal Adviser, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Office, t: +66 94 470 1345, e: kingsley.abbott(a)icj.org
On 10 February 2016, three Thai organizations, the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF), Duay Jai Group (Hearty Support Group), and the Patani Human Rights Organization (HAP), issued a report that documented 54 cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment by the Thai security forces in the deep South since 2004.
In response, the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Region 4 (Forward Command) – created to resolve the situation in the deep South – made complaints of criminal defamation against the three co-editors, Pornpen Khongkachonkiet (Director of the CrCF), Somchai Homlaor (Senior legal advisor to CrCF and Hearty Support Group), and Anchana Heemmina (founder and Director of the Hearty Support Group).
On 26 July 2016, the Thai police charged the three defenders with criminal defamation by means of publication under Article 326 and 328 of the Penal Code, and importing false information to a computer system under Article 14 (1) of the Computer-Related Crime Act B.E. 2550 (2007).
On 7 March 2017, the ISOC 4 Forward Command announced its intention to drop the complaints at a press conference in Bangkok.
Thailand is a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and has signed, but not yet ratified, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED).
Further reading on these criminal proceedings
Further reading on the Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act
Thailand-News-Pressreleases-humanrightsdefenders-2017-THAI (full press release in Thai, pdf)