On 11-13 November 2019 HRLA was invited to speak on the topic “Protecting Public Protest: The case of SLAPP Lawsuit”, at the PILnet global forum in Singapore. HRLA Director Nadthasiri Bergman gave a presentation on Thailand SLAPP lawsuit summarized as follows
Current application of SLAPP in Thailand can be separated into 3 groups;
1. Human Rights Defenders
2. Political Activists
3. Individuals demanding their opinions be expressed and their rights be respected
SLAPP cases in Thailand are typically employed by government officials and the private sector utilizing both civil and criminal cases. Criminal defamation can result in punishment of 2 years imprisonment and a 100,000 baht fine. Violation of the Computer Crime Act can result in punishment of 5 years imprisonment and a 100,000 baht fine Sedition cases caring a punishment of 6 years imprisonment. Other SLAPP charges including disrupting public order, trespassing, falsifying information and perjury have also have been used.
Actions which could trigger SLAPP suits vary from publishing reports online, filing a complaint with authorities such as the labor inspector for violations of labor law, participating in a public gathering, public political gestures, publishing dissenting opinions online etc.
Typically a person filing criminal defamation charges in Thailand usually claims their reputation has been damaged, file charges with police who investigate the evidence, but the plaintiff never asks for damages. The plaintiff will usually file a separate damage claim using a civil case. From HRLA study of 212 cases of SLAPP, 90% are criminal cases which create more severe consequences for the defendant.
Thailand’s justice system offers atypical privately prosecuted cases with no police investigation where the defendant will need to appoint a lawyer to represent them at the pretrial hearing. If the case is admit by the court, bail money must be posted and the case could last a very long time thereby disrupting the defendant’s activity. As soon as such a SLAPP case is admitted by the court, the plaintiffs have already won because they have succeeding in creating a problem for activists and human rights defenders by depleting their resources and wasting their time.
People hit by SLAPP suits are usually the leaders or the most influential people of activist and human rights groups, the aim being to intimidate other activists sending message to be careful as they might be the next person hit with a SLAPP suit if they continue with their activist work.
The challenges of defending SLAPP cases in Thailand are that currently, Thailand does not have an Anti-SLAPP law, and SLAPP cases are disguised as legitimate civil and criminal cases. From cases, HRLA is working on, under the eyes of the law, defendants are prosecuted without looking into the intention of the one filing charges or without examination of whether the defendant’s work is to protect the public interest or not. Although the legal mechanism the government has enacted under criminal procedures allows a person impacted by a SLAPP case to submit a motion to dismiss, it is still problematic as judges have no legal precedence for addressing ill-intentioned SLAPP cases. Thailand desperately needs this legal mechanism to work, but first, we must educate judges on the necessity of considering the intention of the suit before even accepting it for adjudication.
HRLA did a research on #SLAPP the link to the finding is here: https://naksit.net/…/thailand-strategic-lawsuits-against-pu…/