JOINT STATEMENT

 

Freedom of Press Advocates and Civil Society Call on Thailand to Protect The Nation Newspaper

Nation News Agency and its Journalist Criminalized For Reporting on Problems of Thai-owned Heinda Mine in Myanmar

 

Bangkok: 14 May, 2017

 

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Myanmar Phongpipat Co. Ltd to immediately withdraw all criminal proceedings against Pratch Rujivanarong, journalist, and the Nation News Network Co., Ltd. We urge the Thai government to protect freedom of the press, decriminalize defamation, and align the 2007 Computer-related Crime Act with international law and standards, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

On 20 March 2017, the mining company, Myanmar Phongpipat Co., Ltd. (MPC) sued Mr. Pratch Rujivanarom, a journalist (first defendant) with the Nation News Agency (second defendant), for defamation under the Criminal Code section 59, 83, 91, 326, and 328 and for violating the Computer Crime Act, Section 14. We call on MPC to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all criminal proceedings against Pratch Rujivanarong and the Nation News Network Co., Ltd. In line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, MPC should protect and respect human rights and remedy any adverse impacts that may be related to its operations.

MPC claims that Pratch Rujivanarom and The Nation damaged the reputation of the company when it reported on tailings from the tin mine draining directly into the river system, which is the main source of drinking water of villagers in Myaung Pyo village, Tanintharyi region, Myanmar.

Because Pratch Rujivanarom and The Nation released this information in print and online on March 1, 2017, they are now facing potential charges of criminal defamation under the Thai Criminal Code and the Computer-related Crime Act. 

In the article, titled: Thai mine ‘destroyed Myanmar water sources’, Pratch quoted community members and reported first-hand from Myaung Pyo, where community members' drinking water was contaminated: “We cannot use this water, not even for watering the plants, as it flows directly from the mine,” Eyi We, a villager in Heinda, said during the visit of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand.

The article also referenced research by an environmental engineering researcher from Naresuan University, Dr. Tanapon Penrat, who conducted a study of heavy metal contaminations and environmental toxicity in the area in 2015 based on 34 sampling points. Dr. Tanapon Penrat presented his findings to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Sub-Committee and NGOs at a meeting dated 22 February 2017 at the NHRC Office. The study found that water leaking into the river system from the tailing ponds at the Heinda mine was heavily contaminated with manganese, arsenic and lead. In the water sampled nearby the mine, the main source of village’s drinking water, Dr. Tanapon Penrat’s research found levels of Manganese to be between 53 and 600 times higher than what is considered safe.

The complaints and charges against Pratch Rujivanarom and The Nation represent an overly broad application of criminal law which violates the right to freedom of expression. Criminalizing free expression creates a chilling effect on the media and human rights defenders whose reporting, including on environmental and human rights issues, essentially serves the public interest. The right to freedom of expression is protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Thailand is a state party. Under international law, restrictions on freedom of expression are permissible only when provided by law, proportional, and necessary to accomplish a legitimate aim.

If convicted of criminal defamation under Section 328 of the Thai Criminal Code and Section 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, this Nation journalist would face up to five years’ imprisonment, 200,000 Thai Baht (US$5,600) in fines, or both.

We are concerned about the use of criminal defamation laws and the Computer Crime Act to restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Thailand, as well as to intimidate human rights defenders and journalists. We condemn the use of criminal defamation laws to threaten journalists and affected communities as an instance of "Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation" (SLAPP).

Imprisonment for defamation is a disproportionate restriction on the right to freedom of expression and never an appropriate form of punishment for defamation, according to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the expert body charged with overseeing the implementation of the ICCPR. Thailand should immediately decriminalize defamation and reject proposed amendments to the 2007 Computer Crime Act which have raised human rights concerns.

The right to freedom of opinion and expression is foundational for any society. These freedoms promote transparency, accountability, and the protection of other human rights. Thailand will only benefit when human rights defenders, journalists, and the media are allowed to practice their professions peacefully and carry out activities without fear of intimidation or judicial harassment.

Human rights defenders are active in support of human rights as diverse as the rights to life, to food and water, to the highest attainable standard of health, to adequate housing, to a name and a nationality, to education, to freedom of movement and to non-discrimination. A duty to gather information, report on human rights violations, and monitor projects and activities that impact local communities and the environment are responsibilities of human rights defenders which should be protected by states. SLAPP should not be used to stop those who defend their rights and the rights of others.

 

Read The Nation's coverage of the suit here.

Read Mr. Pratch Rujivanarom's article here.

 

Thai NGOs

  1. Reporters Without Borders

  2. เสมสิกขาลัย Spirit in Education Movement  (SEM)

  3. Earth Rights International

  4. มูลนิธิศูนย์ข้อมูลชุมชน Community Resource Centre Foundation

  5. โครงการฟื้นฟูนิเวศในภูมิภาคแม่น้ำโขง TERRA

  6. สมาคมพิทักษ์สิทธิชุมชนเขาคูหา Kaokuha Community Rights Protection Association

  7. มูลนิธินิติธรรมสิ่งแวดล้อม EnLaw

  8. Focus on the Global South 

  9. มูลนิธิสืบนาคะเสถียร Seub Nakasatien Foundation

  10. กลุ่มจับตาปัญหาที่ดิน Land Watch Thai

  11. Sustainable Agriculture Foundation Thailand

  12. มูลนิธิผสานวัฒนธรรม Cross Cultural Foundation

  13. เครือข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลือก Alternative Agriculture Network

  14. สมาคมส่งเสริมสิทธิมนุษยชนและสิ่งแวดล้อม Human Rights and Environment Promotion Association

  15. โครงการขับเคลื่อนนโยบายสาธารณะด้านทรัพยากรแร่ Campaign for Public Policy for Mineral Resources

  16. โครงการพัฒนาคนรุ่นใหม่เพื่อการเปลี่ยนแปลงสังคม Young Leadership for Social Change Program

  17. องค์กรแม่น้ำนานาชาติ Internatioanl Rivers

  18. เครือข่ายประชาชนไทย 8 จังหวัดลุ่มน้ำโขง The Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Provinces

  19. Mymekong.org

  20. กลุ่มศึกษาข้อตกลงเขตการค้าเสรีภาคประชาชน (FTA Watch)

  21. International Accountability Project (IAP)

  22. มูลนิธิบูรณะนิเวศ Ecological Alert and Recovery - Thailand

  23. ศูนย์ศึกษากะเหรี่ยงและพัฒนา Karen Studies and Development Centre)

  24. กลุ่มรักษ์เชียงของ Chiang Khong Conservation Group

 

Individuals

  1. เอกชัย อิสระทะ Eakachai Issaratha

  2. อาภา หวังเกียรติ Arpa Wangkiat

  3. ไพรินทร์ เสาะสาย Phairin Sohsai

  4. พรเพ็ญ คงขจรเกียรติ  Pornpen Khongkachonkiet

  5. นภวรรณ  งามขำ  Noppawan Ngamkame

  6. เพียรพร ดีเทศน์ Pianporn Deetes

  7. นายสุวิทย์  กุหลาบวงษ์ Suwit Kularbwong

  8. ศิริพร ฉายเพ็ชร Siriphorn Chaiphet

  9. เลิศศักดิ์ คำคงศักดิ์ Lertsak Kumkongsak

  10. ธารา บัวคำศรี Tara Buakamsri

  11. เรวดี  ประเสริฐเจริญสุข Ravadee Prasertcharoensuk

  12. ชุมพล  คำวรรณะ Chumpol Kamwanna

  13. ประสาท  นิรันดรประเสริฐ  Prasat Nirundornprasert

  14. วิชชุกร  ตั้งไพบูลย์ Vichukorn Tangpaiboon

  15. อำนาจ  เกตุชื่น Amnat Ketchuen

  16. ธีระชัย ศาลเจริญกิจถาวร  Teerachai  Sanjaroenkijthawon

  17. ญาศศิภาส์  สุกใส  Yasasipa Suksai

  18. ชวิศา  อุตตะมัง Chawisa Uttamang

  19. จามร  ศรเพชรนรินทร์  Jamon  Sonpednarin

  20. ทวีศักดิ์  เกิดโภคา  Taweesak Kerdpoka

  21. รพีพัฒน์  มัณฑนะรัตน์  Rapeepat Mantanarat

  22. จารยา  บุญมาก Jaraya Boonmark

  23. ลัลธริมา  หลงเจริญ Lantharimar Longcharoen

  24. จิตติมา  ผลเสวก Jittima Pholsawek

  25. สาธิต  รักษาศรี  Satit Raksasri

  26. วิชัย จันทวาโร Wichai  Juntavaro

  27. จักรกริช  ฉิมนอก  Chakkrit Chimnok

  28. นฤมล  ทับจุมพล Assistant Professor Dr.Narumon Thabchumpon

  29. สายัณห์  ชื่นอุดมสวัสดิ์ Sayan Chuenudomsavad

  30. อารีวัณย์  สมบุญวัฒนกุล Areewan Sombunwatthanakun

 

ประเทศพม่า (Myanmar NGOs)

  1. Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO)

  2. IFI Watch Myanmar

  3. Dawei Watch

  4. Dawei Research Association (DRA)

  5. Dawei Probono Lawyer Network (DPLN)

  6. Tavoyan Women's Union

  7. Dawei Development Association (DDA)

  8. Tarkapaw Youth Group

  9. Dawei Farmers' Union

  10. Human Rights Watch (Dawei)

  11. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)

  12. Karen River Watch

  13. Save the Salween Network

  14. Burma Environmental Working Group

  15. Association of Labor right defender

  16. Kyunsu Youth Network

  17. IFI watch (Kyunsu)

  18. 88 Generation Open and Peace Society (Myeik)

  19. ေတာင္သူလယ္သမားမ်ားနွင္႔ ေျမယာလုပ္သားမ်ားသမဂၢ ( ျမိတ္ခရိုင္)

  20. Green Network Mergui Archipelago

  21. ပဲခူးတိုင္း MATA အလုပ္အဖြဲ႕

  22. Political and Civil Engagement Group (PACE-G)

  23. ျမစ္မခေစာင့္ၾကည့္ေရးအဖြဲ႕

  24. Public Network

  25. မ်က္၀န္းသစ္ အသိပညာရပ္၀န္း

  26. ေရႊရိပ္စစ္ အဖြဲ႕

  27. ေရႊက်င္ခ်စ္သူအဖြဲ႕

  28. ရိုးမခ်စ္သူ အဖြဲ႕

  29. Edu-Wave Foundation

  30. ေမာ္ကြန္းသစ္ အရပ္ဘက္လူမႈအဖြဲ႕အစည္း

  31. အလင္းေစတမာန္ ေဒသဖြံ႕ၿဖိဳေရးအဖြဲ႕

  32. သဲကုန္းလူငယ္အဖြဲ႕ခ်ဳပ္

  33. Thuriya Sandra Environmental Watch Group

  34. Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group

  35. Mwetaung Area Development Group

  36. Community Response Group

  37. Ayearwaddy West Development Organization (AWDO) (Magway Region)

  38. Satotetayar Development Orginization (SDO) (Magway Region)

  39. Pwinphu Development Organization-PDO(Magway Region)

  40. AWDO (Ngaphe)

  41. လြတ္ လပ္ ေသာအရိႈခ်င္ းမ်ားအင္ အားစု (နတ္ ေရကန္ ေတာင္ ထိန္ းသိမ္ း ေရး) ငဖဲ။

  42. ရိုးမခ်င္ းအဖဲြ႕ ( ေစတုတၲရာ)။

  43. ေက်းလက္ လူငယ္ ကြန္ ယက္ ( ေစတုတၲရာ)

  44. Myanmar-China Pipeline Watch Committee

  45. Peace & Open Society  Kyaukse Township

  46. Myanmar Alliance for Transparency & Accountability Mandalay Division

  47. Mong Pan Youth Association

  48. လူထုမဟာမိတ္ ( ရွမ္းျပည္ )

  49. Alin Ein Development Centre

  50. Green Memo alternative newsletter

  51. ေရွ႕ေျပးအသံ အဖဲြ႔

  52. Twantay Youth

  53. Land in our hand

  54. Environmental Conservation And Farmers Development Organization E.C.F.D.O(Southern Shan)

  55. Farmers And Land Workers Union (Myanmar)

  56. ေပါင္းကူး

 
Photo by The Nation: "The scene from Heinda tin mine showing the mine workers dig up the top soil and transfer to the mineral processing plant to extract tin" (http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/aec/asean_plus/30307560).

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