Unionist indicted on breaches of Emergency Decree from handing letter to Ministry of Labour concerning foreign worker management
On 6 January 2022 at 14.00, prosecutors of the Department of Special Litigation 2 of the Kwaeng Court (Office of Attorney General) prosecuted Ms. Thanaphon Wichan, a labor union activist for “being complicit in organizing a gathering, an activity, an illegal meeting may likely lead to the spread of diseases in the areas designated by the Notification or the Order as a maximum and strict control zone except when permission has been obtained from a competent official and it is thereby a breach of the issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)” and the court allowed her to post bail on own recognizance.
The case stems from an incidence on 29 October 2021, when Ms. Thanaphon Wichan, representative of migrant employees, The Workers’ Union, the Migrant Working Group and the Labour Network for Peoples Rights has gone to the Ministry of Labour to submit a letter to the Minister of Labour to follow up on their previous petition to demand a solution to construction workers and migrant workers amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and to demand a solution to other concerned issues including expenses incurred from entering the registration process which still lacked the clarity. They wanted more clarification on the government’s policies to register the migrant workers per the cabinet resolution on 28 September 2021. The handing of the letter and negotiation with representatives of the Ministry of Labour was disrupted when the Cambodian migrant workers who accompanied her were arrested right in the premises of the Ministry of Labour.
After the incidence, the Ministry of Labour authorized its personnel to report the case with the inquiry officials of the Din Daeng Police Station against Ms. Thanaphon for “harbouring, hiding or in any manner assisting..”, an offence against the Immigration Act. As the police inquiry has yielded no culpable evidence against her on such charges, the authority decided to press another charge against her for “being complicit in the organization of a gathering and an illegal assembly in a manner that risks spreading the disease in the area designated by an announcement or an order as a maximum and strict control zone and an area under strict surveillance except for permission has been obtained from competent officials, an act of which is a breach of the Regulation issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005)” (For more information, please read https://mwgthailand.org/
Ms. Thanaphon and her attorney have met with the prosecutors of the Department of Special Litigation 2 of the Kwaeng Court (Office of Attorney General) to submit a letter of petition urging the prosecutors to decide to not prosecute the case since it is tantamount to a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP. Her act was simply the use of a mechanism to complain with concerned agencies, the right of which is recognized in the Constitution. In addition, prior to submitting the letter, a coordination had been made with representatives of the Ministry of Labour beforehand. Therefore, the Ministry of Labour was obliged to act to ensure the enforcement of the disease prevention protocol to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The prosecutors accepted the letter of petition but have failed to review it and not acted to refrain from prosecuting the unfair case.
Ms. Koreeyor Manuchae, attorney, says that Ms. Thanaphon is a labor right defender and has accompanied a group of workers whose rights have been violated to lodge the complaint pursuant to a grievance mechanism provided by the state. Instead, she was victimized by the state which used the law as a tool to impede access to justice and it was a process of revictimization made possible by law. She demands that the state grievance mechanism be made a safe space to which all workers must have an easy access based on an equal basis. Ms. Koreeyor further says that the prosecutors can use their discretion to not prosecute a case which may not serve public interest. But on the contrary, the prosecutors in this case have become part of the process to weaponize the law to stifle people’s rights and freedoms. Meanwhile, the offence according to Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) has been widely misused and abused to target human rights defenders or people who simply exercise their rights and freedoms as recognized in the Constitution and not for controlling the diseases as claimed.
“The use of state mechanisms is an attempt to gain access to social safety of the vulnerable and it shall not be criminalized.”
For more information, please contact: Ms. Koreeyor Manuchae, attorney and coordinator of the Migrant Working Group (MWG), 091 838 626