Poultry farm Thammakaset has filed a series of criminal charges against workers and labour activists who reported on the company’s labour rights violations, showing how companies are trying to intimidate critics through criminalisation.

Since October 2016, Thammakaset Co. Ltd has filed criminal charges against workers and labour rights activists for speaking out about illegal working conditions.[1] In October 2016, 14 migrant workers from Myanmar reported alleged labour rights violations to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). These employees claimed that Thammakaset failed to pay minimum wages, failed to pay overtime wages and confiscated their identity documents.[2]

Department of Labour Protection and Welfare (DLPW) ruled that Thammakaset must pay the US$ 54,000 in owed wages. After this ruling, Thammakaset retaliated by bringing criminal defamation charges against all 14 employees. Charges against the full group were dismissed by the court.[3]

Nonetheless, in addition to the criminal cases against the workers, Thammakaset has pursued a lengthy legal battle against a number of human rights defenders who have tried to make the company’s misbehaviour public. Amongst those critics is UK labour rights activist Andy Hall, who used social media to highlight the accusations of the 14 farm workers. Shortly thereafter, Thammakaset filed a criminal complaint with the Bangkok South Criminal Court accusing Hall of defamation, libel and cybercrimes. Mr. Hall is currently appealing the case.[4]

Another human rights defender who faced defamation accusations by Thammakaset is Angkhana Neelapijit, a former commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand. Thammakaset filed criminal defamation complaints against her because she showed support via Twitter for two other human rights activists who were being sued by Thammakaset. In her posts, she referred to other Tweets that included a hyperlink to a video in which the 14 migrant workers described their legal struggles with Thammakaset.[5]

Since 2016, Thammakaset has filed at least 38 criminal and civil cases against human rights defenders, journalists and workers.[6] The large number of lawsuits initiated by Thammakaset against its critics reveals a pattern of criminalising activism and draining the resources of labour rights defenders as a tactic to silence criticism.[7]

[1] The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and International Federation for Human Rights, Fact Sheet: Thammakaset vs. Human Rights Defenders and Workers in Thailand (Geneva: The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, 2019), 16., https://www.scribd.com/document/411214852/THAILAND-Thammakaset-must-end-its-judicial-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders#from_embed (accessed October 28, 2019).

[2] The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

[3] Front Line Defenders, “New Lawsuits Brought by Thammakaset Company Limited Against Human Rights Defenders,” March 7, 2019, https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/statement-report/new-lawsuits-brought-thammakaset-company-limited-against-human-rights-defenders  (accessed October 28, 2019).

[4] Grant Peck and Kaweewit Kaewjinda, “Thai court affirms defamation judgment against UK activist,” AP News, May 22, 2019, https://apnews.com/402d81733f7548dfa4f8c8aa36ed1693 (accessed October 28, 2019).

[5] International Commission of Jurists, “Thailand: ICJ condemns the use of criminal defamation law to harass Angkhana Neelapijit,” November 27, 2019, https://www.icj.org/thailand-icj-condemns-the-use-of-criminal-defamation-law-to-harass-angkhana-neelapaijit/  (accessed December 3, 2019).

[6] International Federation for Human Rights, “Thammakaset vs. human rights defenders and workers in Thailand”, June 23, 2020 https://www.fidh.org/en/issues/human-rights-defenders/thailand-thammakaset-watch (accessed June 29, 2020)

[7] Associated Press, “Court affirms defamation judgment against UK activist,” Bangkok Post, May 22, 2019, https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1682148/court-affirms-defamation-judgment-against-uk-activist (October 28, 2019).