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Labour rights network backs MFP labour protection bill

01. March 2024

Representatives of 95 labour unions gathered at parliament on Wednesday (28 February) to show support for a new labour protection bill proposed by the Move Forward Party (MFP) and call for the bill to be approved in its first reading.

Representatives of the 95 unions and the Labour Network for People's Rights handing their open letter to MPs from the Move Forward Party.

The Labour Network for People’s Rights, along with representatives of 95 labour unions, filed an open letter with MFP MP Sia Jampatong calling for parliament to approve the bill in its first reading.

The letter says that workers in Thailand still face injustice under the current labour protection law, from unfair wages and unsafe working condition to overwork. Existing laws are also outdated and ignore new forms of employment. Changing the labour protection law is therefore important to protecting workers’ rights, guaranteeing fair employment, and improving their quality of life.

If passed, the bill would re-define employment to include independent workers, freelancers, and platform workers like food delivery riders, so that all are protected under the labour law. It would require those employing both daily and monthly workers to hire all workers on a monthly basis, and for the minimum wage to be increased automatically every year. Companies will also be required to provide pumping space and equipment for employees who are breastfeeding mothers.

The bill would also limit the work week to 40 hours or 5 days per week. Employers would be required to give their workers 2 days off per week and to pay overtime for any working hours that exceeded the legal limit. Annual leave would be set at least 10 days per year, and remaining days would carry over to the next year. Employees would also be allowed to take up to 15 days off to care for family members or other close relations.

The bill also prohibits all forms of discrimination, whether on the basis of ethnicity, place of origin, disability, or political stance.

Thanaporn Wichan

Thanaporn Wichan, a labour rights activist from the Labour Network for People’s Rights, stressed that the unions are backing the bill because the existing labour protection law, which was last amended in 1998, is not inclusive, and the MFP’s bill would make it so that all workers are protected.

The bill would also set a minimum requirement for employers, Thanaporn said, noting that young people entering the workforce would have more security if the law can be enforced, since they would receive a fairer employment and benefit programmes.

“We’re not looking at just our generation that used the current law, but we’re talking about the new generation of workers, our children’s generation, or the generation who just finished school and going into work. They have to live with this protection law,” she said.

“If this law is strong, for example, there is a fairer employment or fairer welfare, your employment would be secure. It will talk about the career of new workers who are entering the job market. They will have more security in their work.”

Thanaporn noted that it is difficult for unions to demand a pay raise each year, because they have no negotiating power, and it would be very beneficial if the law could guarantee an annual raise so that wages match the yearly inflation rate. She also said that the labour relations law, which governs the foundation of labour unions, should be made stronger and more inclusive so that workers have the power to negotiate better welfare. There should also be freedom and democracy in the workplace, she said, and workers should be allowed the space to voice their concerns instead of allowing companies to exploit workers to the point that they have to go on strike. It would be better for both employers and employees if there was a space for workers to express their opinions, she said.

Thanaporn calls on all MPs to pass the bill in its first reading, since the current version of the Labour Protection Act has been in use since 1998 and has not been amended since. She hopes that parliament can be used as a space for a debate on what should be included in the labour protection law.

“Don’t look at it as an excessive demand and reject our law. We want you to accept the principle that the labour protection law should be amended. [The law has existed] since 1998. Now it’s 2024. It should be amended, and we might use this space for a debate because the parliamentary mechanism could include representatives of employers who disagree with this law. We should try exchanging and see what the solution would be. I think that if there is a space to talk, there will be a solution,” she said.

The bill was previously scheduled to go before parliament on Wednesday (28 January). However, its first reading has been postponed to next Wednesday (6 February), when the Cabinet will propose its own labour protection bill.

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Senator sues photographer for defamation

01. March 2024

Nattaphon “Yah” Phanphongsanon, a photographer for the online news outlet Spacebar, has been sued for defamation by Senator Seree Suwanpanont, over his coverage of an incident in 2023 where activists distributed leaflets, calling on senators to respect the people’s voice during the last prime ministerial vote.

Nattaphon Phanphongsanon (left)
(Photo by Chanakarn Laosarakham)

Nattaphon received a summons on Thursday (29 February) ordering him to report to the police at Watprayakrai Police Station on 8 March on a charge of being an accomplice to defamation by publication.

The charge resulted from an incident on 1 August 2023, where activists distributed leaflets at a market owned by Seree calling on senators to respect the people’s voice during the last prime ministerial vote.

The leaflets carried the Senator’s picture along with the caption “Serve the dictator or follow the voice of the people.” Below this was a quote from a speech given by the Senator in 2019: “I like democratic authoritarian, but I do not like fake democracy”. The activists further accused the Senator of not bothering to go to parliament for the PM vote.

Activist Sopon Surariddhidhamrong has been charged with defamation by publication, destruction of property, and intimidating others. Sopon is now detained pending appeal on a royal defamation charge, and the police visited him in prison on 20 February to notify him of the charges in this case.

Seree also filed a defamation by publication charge against Prachatai reporter Nutthaphol Meksobhon over his coverage of the incident.

Nutthaphol and Natthaphon were previously arrested on 12 February and charged with being accomplices in damaging a historic site and vandalizing a wall in a public place. The charge resulted from their coverage of an incident on 28 March 2023 when a 25-year-old activist sprayed an anarchist symbol and the number 112 with a strike through it, onto the wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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Former pro-democracy activist jailed for royal defamation over protest speech

01. March 2024

A former pro-democracy activist and protest leader has been initially sentenced to 6 years in prison for an array of charges, including royal defamation, over a speech he gave during a protest in November 2020. The sentence was reduced to 3 years without parole. He has previously been convicted on 2 other royal defamation charges.

Shinawat Chankrajang was previously charged with royal defamation, assembly of more than 10 people, not dispersing when ordered to do so by an official, violating the Emergency Decree, blocking a public road, and unauthorized use of a sound amplifier. The charges stemmed from his speech during a protest at the Siam Commercial Bank’s head office on 25 November 2020, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

The court ruled that Shinawat was guilty as charged. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison for violating the royal defamation law and 2 years for assembly of more than 10 people and not dispersing when ordered by an official. In addition, he was fined 10,000 baht for violating the Emergency Decree, 2,000 baht for blocking a public road and 200 baht for unauthorized use of a sound amplifier. However, due to his guilty plea, the activist was handed a reduced sentence of 3 years in prison without parole and fined 6,100 baht. His lawyer filed a bail request of 150,000 baht as security. It takes a few days for the court to decide. During this time, he is detained in the Bangkok Remand Prison.

This charge is one of 3 royal defamation charges he has faced, which have reached the final verdicts. He pleaded guilty in all 3 cases. Shinawat was given a 1 year and 6 months suspended sentence for his protest speech on 28 July 2022 and was sentenced to 3 years in prison and fined 11,100 baht for a speech during a protest on 2 December 2020.

The TLHR reported that 7 other activists faced the same charges over the same event. During the trial in January, Shinawat reversed his plea to guilty. His case was then separated from the others. The court decided to indict them earlier this month.

According to the indictment, the purposes of the protest in question were to demand the revocation of the King’s ownership of property, which should belong to the nation, and to call for the resignation of the former PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha. The protesters were reported to accuse the monarchy of interfering in the government and using taxpayers’ money to carry out personal ceremonies and business activities.

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Prachatai reporter faces defamation charge from senator over coverage of activists

28. February 2024

Cover photo from: Chanakarn Laosarakham

Nutthaphol Meksobhon, a Prachatai reporter, faces a defamation charge filed by a senator over his coverage of an incident in 2023 where activists distributed leaflets, calling on senators to respect the people’s voice during the last prime ministerial vote.

Nutthaphol received a summons issued on 22 February, on a charge of being an accomplice in defamation. The complaint was filed by Senator Seree Suwanpanont, owner of the market where Nutthaphol went to cover the news. He is required to report to Watprayakrai Police Station on 8 March. The summons also revealed that more charges will be made against others.

The case is reportedly the same as the one filed by the same Senator against the detained activist Sophon Surariddhidhamrong, who has recently been charged with defamation for distributing leaflets at a market owned by the Senator on 1 August 2023, calling on senators to respect the people’s voice during the last prime ministerial vote. Nutthaphol is the Prachatai reporter who went to cover the activity on that day.

The leaflets carried the Senator’s picture along with the caption “Serve the dictator or follow the voice of the people.” Below this was a quote from a speech given by the Senator in 2019: “I like democratic authoritarian, but I do not like fake democracy”. The activists further accused the Senator of not bothering to go to parliament for the PM vote.

The detained activist faces three charges: defamation, causing property damage, and intimidating others.

Nutthaphol is the same reporter who was arrested on 12 February for his coverage of an incident in March 2023 where an activist sprayed graffiti onto the wall of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

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Hunger striking activists denied bail

27. February 2024

The Criminal Court has once again denied bail for detained activists Tantawan Tuatulanon and Nutanon Chaimahabut, who are now on the 14th day of a dry hunger strike.

Sommai Tuatulanon (center), Tantawan's father, speaking to the media before filing a bail request for Tantawan and Nutanon.
(Photo by Ginger Cat)

Sommai Tuatulanon, Tantawan’s father, filed a bail request for Tantawan and Nutanon on Saturday (24 February). He was asked to return on Sunday (25 February) when their original detention order would expire, with a medical certificate.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said the Court ruled to deny them bail on the grounds that it has no reason to change its existing order because the two activists are already receiving medical attention, and ordered them detained for 12 more days.

Tantawan and Nutanon were arrested on 13 February on several charges, including sedition, for allegedly honking at and blocking a royal motorcade and for posting dash cam footage of the incident. They were subsequently denied bail.

In a Facebook post on 11 February, Tantawan said that she did not block or cut off the motorcade. She also said she did not know that there was going to be a motorcade. She was on the way back from a funeral and admitted that she was speeding because she was in a hurry.

The dashcam footage shows the vehicle stuck in traffic, and that the horn was sounded when it moves to the front of the line and the lane was blocked by a police vehicle. The footage also shows the vehicle stuck behind another police vehicle while at the exit from the expressway, and a police officer was seen approaching the vehicle before Tantawan was heard arguing.

Activists and protesters gathered in front of the Criminal Court on Sunday (25 February) after Tantawan and Nutanon were denied bail.
(Photo by Ginger Cat)

Immediately after being denied bail, Tantawan and Nutanon went on a dry hunger strike to call for a reform of the justice system, an end to the detention of dissidents, and for Thailand to be rejected when it runs for a seat in the UN Human Rights Council.

Tantawan was transferred to the Thammasat University Hospital last Thursday (22 February). The referral document from the Corrections Hospital states that she has been refusing food and water since 14 February, and that the Corrections Hospital had her transferred because her condition is “beyond their ability” to care for. Nutanon, meanwhile, remains at the Correction Hospital. Both are refusing medical intervention.

Activist Noppasin Treelayapeewat said after the court ruling was issued that the Court had received a petition from Sonthiya Sawasdee, a royalist activist and former Phalang Pracharath MP candidate, objecting to the two activists’ release. He also noted that the Court has yet to take into consideration Sommai’s promise that he would prohibit his daughter from participating in political activism if she is granted bail.

Sommai Tuatulanon (left) and Krisadang Nutcharus (right) at the Criminal Court yesterday (26 February)
(Photo by Ginger Cat)

Yesterday (26 February), Sommai and lawyer Krisadang Nutcharus filed a petition with the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court stating that, while Sommai does not wish to file for appeal, he asks that the Court take responsibility for the two activists. The petition notes that they have not been indicted on the charges against them and should be treated as innocent, and says that the court should consider who will be held responsible if they die as a result of being detained.

Sommai said that all he is trying to do is get Tantawan and Nutanon released so they can receive medical attention. He noted that the charges against them are still being investigated and asked how the court could say that they are facing a charge with a high penalty when they have not been indicted. He insisted that they are not a flight risk and that they could not tamper with evidence, and said that the authorities must be held responsible if anything happens to them.

The protest at the Victory Monument on Saturday (24 February). The banner above the protesters says "Free our friends. Repeal Section 112 [Royal defamation] and Section 116 [sedition]."
(Photo by Ginger Cat)

Krisadang said that Tantawan and Nutanon’s condition has worsened, and that the Corrections Hospital will be transferring Nutanon to another hospital but no hospital has accepted the referral. He said that Tantawan’s father wanted to inform the Court of why the two activists must be released, noting that both himself and Sommai believe that any appeal or new bail request they file will be rejected.

Meanwhile, other activists and protesters have been staging a protest at the Victory Monument in Bangkok for the past three days against the denial of bail for Tantawan and Nutanon and demanding the release of other political prisoners.

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Jailed Myanmar reporter’s body found buried and riddled with bullets

25. February 2024

Myat Thu Tun is the fifth Myanmar journalist to be killed by the junta since the coup d'état in February 2021. His body was recently found buried, riddled with bullets and marked by signs of torture. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the international community to take action to force the junta to stop this massacre.

The buried body of Myanmar journalist Myat Thu Tun was recently found in the town of Mrauk-U, in the western Rakhine region, along several bodies of prisoners buried in an air shelter, and was reportedly marked with gunshot wounds and signs of torture, according to a statement by the rebel troops of Arakan Army on 11 February 2024.

"This shocking murder bears the hallmark of the Myanmar military junta, which for three years now has imposed a climate of terror on all media professionals and is once again demonstrating its ruthless violence. We call on the international community to step up pressure on the Myanmar regime to cease its campaign of terror against reporters and release the 62 journalists and press freedom defenders detained in the country," said Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

The victim, Myat Thu Tun, also known as Phoe Thiha, had been held in prison since his arrest at his home in September 2022, and was awaiting trial on charges of "disseminating false information" and "inciting hatred", under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code, which carries a penalty of up to three years imprisonment. 

Before the coup in February 2021, he had worked for various Myanmar media outlets, including the Democratic Voice of Burma, 7 Days Journal and The Voice Journal. At the time of his arrest in September 2022, he was still working for local media Western News in the western state of Rakhine.

Myat Thu Tun is the fifth journalist to be killed by the military junta since the coup d'état in February 2021. Freelance photojournalists Aye Kaw and Soe Naing were also murdered in detention, while the founder of the Khonumthung News Agency Pu Tuidim and the editor of the Federal News Journal Sai Win Aung were both shot by the army while reporting on the ground.

Myanmar, ranked 173th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index, is one of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists with 64 detained, second only to China.

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RSF demands the Thai authorities drop charges against two journalists

23. February 2024

Following the arrest of Nutthaphol Meksobhon, a Prachatai reporter, and photographer Natthaphon Phanphongsanon, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement calling for the Thai authorities to drop the charges against them and to end harassment of journalists.

Nutthaphol Meksobhon (left) and Natthaphon Phanphongsanon (right) speaking to reporters after being granted bail.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Thai public prosecutor's office to immediately drop the charges brought against two Thai journalists, who face up to 7 years in prison for documenting graffiti painted criticising the lèse-majesté law on a temple in the capital city last year.

They face up to seven years in prison for doing their job. Thai journalists Nutthaphol Meksobhon, a reporter for the independent news website Prachatai, and Natthaphon Phanphongsanon, a freelance photographer, have been charged with "collaborating in the vandalism of a historical site". The case relates to their publication of a report on graffiti painted by a political activist on the wall of a temple in March 2023, that displayed an anarchist symbol and crossed out the number 112, related to the lese-majeste law.

The two journalists were released on bail on 14 February 2024 after spending a night in custody in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok. They are accused of violating the Cleanliness Act and the Ancient Monuments Act, for which they face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of 700,000 baht (18,000 euros). No date has been announced for their upcoming trial.

“Charging journalists with vandalism when they were simply reporting on facts appears to be a ploy by the Thai authorities to dissuade them from reporting on criticism of the monarchy. We urge the government to drop these absurd charges and stop harassing journalists reporting on issues related to the monarchy," said Cédric Alviani, RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

In Thailand, the crime of lese-majeste is regularly used to imprison voices critical of the monarchy. This provision is vaguely defined by Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, which provides for a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment for anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, or the Heir-apparent".

Thailand is ranked 106th out of 180 countries in the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index, up 34 places from 2020.

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