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Thailand, a decade of decline

XpA data shows Thailand (4th quartile) to be the third biggest Decliner in the last ten years, and the second biggest in the last five, with notable drops in its scores for Transparency and Civic Space. Thailand has dropped more than 30 places over a decade.

Figure 21: Freedom of expression scores for Thailand, 2000–18

In 2018, Thailand’s military government continued to suppress all forms of dissent, and exercised little tolerance for those demanding a return to representative democracy.

Around 39 activists were arrested after they joined a public demonstration urging Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to fulfil his promise of conducting elections in 2018. The activists were charged for violating the Lese Majeste law (insulting the king), because the venue of the protest was located near a monarchy-owned temple.[1]

The ban on political activities was officially lifted in December 2018,[2] but major restrictions on expression remain in place in the country, as the Thammakaset case demonstrates. CSO Fortify Rights created a film about complaints the poultry company Thammakaset brought against 14 of its former employees. The company had brought criminal defamation charges against workers who reported labour violations to the authorities, including unlawfully low wages and confiscation of their identity documents.

In October 2018, Thammakaset filed criminal and civil defamation complaints against Nan Win (one of the migrant workers featured in the film) and Sutharee Wannasiri (a former human rights specialist with Fortify Rights). Nan Win faced up to four years in prison and more than $12,000 (USD) in fines, while Sutharee Wannasiri faced up to six years in prison and up to $18,000 (USD) in fines.[3] The charges were finally dropped in August 2019.[4]

 

[1] Pravit Rojanaphruk, ‘Police will seek immediate jailing of #MBK39’, Khaosod English, 2 February 2018, available at http://www.khaosodenglish.com/politics/2018/02/02/police-will-seek-immediate-jailing-mbk39/

[2] Sinfah Tunsarawuth, ‘Thailand: Reform further restricts free speech and media’, Southeast Asian Press Alliance, 4 May 2018, available at https://www.seapa.org/thailand-reform-further-restricts-free-speech-and-media/

[3] ARTICLE 19, Thailand: Drop Defamation Complaints Against Rights Defenders, 3 December 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/blog/resources/thailand-drop-defamation-complaints-against-rights-defenders/

[4] Civicus, THAILAND: ‘Nobody Should Go To Jail Simply for Expressing their Opinions’, 5 September 2019, available at https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/interviews/4034-thailand-nobody-should-go-to-jail-simply-for-expressing-their-opinions

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