The UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia urges the Thai Government to allow women human rights defenders to conduct their work without fear, and to drop cases against the activists helping to protect community rights.
On 27 July, Suphap Kamlae, the wife of prominent land rights defender Den Kamlae who has been disappeared since April 2016, was found guilty of forest encroachment in relation to a legal dispute between her community in Chaiyaphum Province and the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment under the Criminal Code.
In a separate case, on 25 July, seven women activists of Khon Rak Ban Koed Group from Loei north-eastern province, were indicted for violating the Public Assembly Act and the Criminal Code in relation to their activism surrounding the operation of Tungkham Gold Mining Company in Loei province and the environmental and health impact it has on the community. In November 2016, the seven women played a significant role in leading around 200 Loei residents to protest against the renewal of the permit for the gold mining company, despite serious concerns expressed by the villagers on the impact on their right to health, water and clean environment. If found guilty, the seven women human rights defenders – Phonthip Hongchai, Ranong Kongsaen, Wiron Ruchichaiwat, Suphat Khunna, Bunraeng Sithong, Mon Khunna and Lamphloen Rueangrit – face a maximum of five years and six months imprisonment and/or a fine of up to 100,000 Baht.
“We are very concerned by the recent conviction of Suphap Kamlae and the ongoing criminal investigation of the seven women activists from of Khon Rak Ban Koed community in relation to their human rights work,” said Katia Chirizzi, Acting Deputy Representative of the UN Human Rights Regional Office for South-East Asia. “The crucial work of women human rights defenders in Thailand should be enabled and protected, not prevented.”
These recent developments contradict recommendations adopted in July 2017 by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in the context of Thailand’s review. The UN Committee urged the Government of Thailand to adopt and implement, without delay, effective measures to protect women human rights defenders and to enable them to freely undertake their important work without fear or threat of lawsuits, harassment, violence or intimidation.
See the CEDAW’s concluding observations on Thailand implementation at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CEDAW%2fC%2fTHA%2fCO%2f6-7&Lang=en