Criminal case against Witoon Lianjamroon, an environmental rights defender and Director of BioThai dismissed

On 2 September 2019, Ms. Chanya Maneechote, President of the Weed Science Society of Thailand has reported the case to the Bang Khen Police Station accusing Mr. Witoon Lianjamroon of an insult by publication and an offence against the Computer Crime Act. And since 17 March 2021, the case was filed with the Criminal Court as the Black Case no. O642/2021 by the Weed Science Society of Thailand with Ms. Chanya Maneechote as President of the Weed Science Society of Thailand (both plaintiffs) v. Mr. Witoon Lianjamroon (defendant) for an insult by publication, an offence against the Penal Code’s Sections 326 and 328 and another offence against the Computer Crime Act’s Sections 14 and 16. The case stems from a post in BioThai facebook page and an interview broadcast on TV. The preliminary hearing of the case took place on 1 November 2021, and the Court is scheduled to rule if it will accept to review the case or not today (15 December 2021).
Mr. Witoon Lianjamroon, “Witoon”, an environmental rights defender and defendant in this case, has been working for a change in the agricultural and food system to ensure justice for ordinary people. Although they work at the smallest chain in the capitalist system, the small-scale producers should attain life security in terms of their economy, safety and health, and fair income. He advocates for a sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural system. He also fights for the rights of academics and people to speak truth on the subject. Being filed with the case helps to give the public a chance to know more in-depth information and the hidden truth about the extreme danger of the banned chemical substances and how various interest groups have been opposing such chemical ban. He, other academics and activists working to protect health and the environment shall not give in to any form of threat which aims at stifling the truth.
A summary of the court’s verdict on whether the case is a prima facie case or not.
Regarding the insult by publication charge pursuant to the Penal Code’s Sections 326 and 328 and another offence against the Computer Crime Act’s Sections 14 (1) and 16, the judges rule that the facebook post made by the defendant’s facebook page in which the plaintiffs’ post was shared and a commentary on it was made was about the danger of chemicals. Such statements are an academic opinion which contradicts to the plaintiffs’. Both parties’ opinions intend to promote public safety. As to the interview during a Khom Chud Luek TV program, no mention was made about the plaintiff no. 1 and it did not constitute an offence against the defamation law since the audience would never be able to attribute it to the plaintiffs. As to the plaintiff no. 2, Ms. Chanya Maneechote, there was no mention about her personally. She, therefore, had no legal standing as an injured party according to the Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 2(4) and the Computer Crime Act’s Sections 14(1) and 16. No mention was made about the two plaintiffs and no doctoring of the images was made, and the act, therefore, did not constitute an offence pursuant to the Act’s Section 16. The defendant’s acts could not be held culpable as an insult by publication or an input of false information pursuant to the Computer Crime Act. And since defamation is a compoundable offence and although the
case was reported to the police on 2 December 2020, but it was only filed with the Court more than three months afterward. This has given rise to an expiry of the statute of limitations. The case filed by both plaintiffs is therefore dismissed.
The dismissal of the case is good news for Mr. Witoon Lianjamroon who should not have been taken to court in the first place.
Our recommendations to the government of Thailand State’s duties to protect Women and HRDs and those at risks
Ensure that all people enjoy the rights and freedoms provided by the constitution to participate in the preservation of the environment, health, and community as well as public interest. They should be regarded as HRDs per the “UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders” which obliges Thailand to uphold the rights of HRDs to perform their activities safely without any fear of intimidation.
Ensure that state actors and all relevant business enterprises immediately end judicial harassment of HRDs, especially WHRDs, and to take concrete steps to promote good business with a genuine commitment to human rights according to business and human rights principles
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