Thailand: ICJ and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada intervene in criminal defamation proceeding against Thai journalist Suchanee Rungmuanporn (Cloitre) | Amicus Brief

Suchanee Rungmuanporn, journalist, Thailand

Full Amicus Brief (English) | Full Amicus Brief (Thai)

On 27 April 2020, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) submitted a joint amicus curiae brief to Thailand’s Court of Appeal in the appeal from conviction for criminal defamation of journalist, Ms. Suchanee Rungmuanporn.

On 24 December 2019, Ms. Suchanee had been convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the Lopburi Provincial Court on the basis of a Twitter post using the word slavery, commenting on  the dismissal of the appeal by Thammakaset Company Limited from a lower court decision ordering the company to pay compensation to 14 migrant workers in the amount of THB 1.7 million (approx. USD 56,000).  The company responded to Ms. Suchanee’s Twitter post by filing criminal defamation charges against her.

The joint amicus brief outlines the relevant international law and standards, emphasizing that criminal sanctions including imprisonment are never appropriate penalties in defamation cases. The amicus brief argues that Thailand’s criminal defamation law, set out in Penal Code Sections 326-328, fails to comply with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in that is is vague and overbroad and impose “disproportionately harsh sanctions by applying criminal sanctions [including imprisonment and fines] when civil remedies are sufficient.”  The amicus brief also argues that the “threat of incarceration has a far greater chilling effect on freedom of expression than monetary damages.”

The case against Ms. Suchanee is one 36 cases brought by Thammakaset against human rights defenders and others in Thailand who have commented on Thammakaset’s alleged labour rights violations.