Thailand: Drop charges against Amnesty chair targeted for exposing torture
‘The true injustice is that these three brave human rights activists are being punished for reporting on torture’ - Champa Patel
The Thai authorities must immediately drop the charges against three of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, including the current and former chair of Amnesty International Thailand who have today been formally charged with “computer crimes” and “criminal defamation” for publishing a report on torture committed by the country’s security forces, Amnesty International said.
Champa Patel, Amnesty’s Senior Research Adviser for South East Asia, said:
“The Thai authorities must immediately drop all charges against Somchai Homla-or, Anchana Heemmina, and Porpen Khongkaconkiet.
“It is not a crime to investigate human rights violations. The true injustice is that these three brave human rights activists are being punished for reporting on torture, while the soldiers who perpetrated these horrendous acts are being shielded from accountability.”
Somchai Homla-or, Anchana Heemmina, and Porpen Khongkaconkiet, who was appointed Chair of the Amnesty Thailand board last month, face the prospect of five years behind bars and a fine of £3,600 if found guilty on charges of “criminal defamation” and “computer crimes”.
The three activists are members of the Cross Cultural Foundation, Dua Jai Group (Hearty Support Group). Together, they published a report in February 2016 documenting 54 cases of torture and other ill-treatment by the Royal Thai police and Royal Thai army in the volatile southern provinces, where the reported acts of torture took place.
The complaint against them was filed on 17 May 2016 by the Internal Security Operations Command Region 4, which is responsible for security operations in the southern provinces – the focus of their report on torture.
Since the 2014 coup, Thailand’s military government has stepped up efforts to stifle all forms of dissent, including by imposing broad restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. In the past three months alone, the authorities have initiated charges against more than 100 individuals for opposing a draft constitution that is the subject of a 7 August national referendum.
Amnesty considers any person who is imprisoned solely for expressing their rights to freedom of expression to be a prisoner of conscience, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.