In pursuance to the rescue of 15 migrant workers from Cambodia employed in fisheries sector by the Thai authorities on 21 January 2016 and they have undergone trafficking screening process and the case against the perpetrators have been indicted with the Provincial Court of Ranong on charges concerning trafficking in person per the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act B.E 2551 (2008) and the Penal Code (the Black Case no. KM 2,4/2559), the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has submitted a letter to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) asking for permission to visit and offer legal assistance to the victims who are entitled to the rights as an injured party in a criminal case. The injured parties have agreed to appoint HRDF’s attorneys as their legal representatives in the Thai justice process and the injured parties have later been allowed to become co-plaintiffs in the case. And in June 2016, the attorney of the co-plaintiffs have pleaded to the Provincial Court of Ranong to transfer the case to the Criminal Court’s the Division of Trafficking in Person citing safety concern of the injured parties. The request was however turned down by the Supreme Court which deemed the supporting evidence submitted by the attorney of the co-plaintiffs failed to prove materially that there would be any disruption or unrest that would significantly affect the interest of justice as provided for in the Criminal Procedure Code’s Section 26 (for more information, please see http://hrdfoundation.org/?p=1600 ).
On 18 January 2017, while the Provincial Court of Ranong was conducting a hearing of prosecution witness examination in the Black Case no. KM 2,4/2559 with witnesses from Cambodia who is the trafficking victim and co-plaintiff in this case to give evidence to the Court and the attorney of the co-plaintiffs has performed the duty during the witness examination. During the hearing, the defense attorney has objected the questions asked by the attorney of the co-plaintiffs claiming the attorney of the co-plaintiffs has used a leading question during the witness examination. The Court was asked to review how the attorney of the co-plaintiffs performed his duty. It was noted that after the injured parties have pleaded to become co-plaintiffs in the case and have authorized the attorney, they have given evidence to the Court different from the account they had given to the police. After reviewing the objection of the defense attorney, the Court ordered that, to prevent any further confusion, the attorney of the co-plaintiffs shall not be allowed to talk to the witnesses during lunch break and the witnesses shall be escorted by the court official. Even though the attorney of the co-plaintiffs has pleaded to the Court to have the order revoked, since it would infringe on the rights of his clients in a criminal justice process, but the Court insisted on upholding the order as the Court deemed it would ensure a peaceful hearing fair to both parties.
As a result, today the Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) has submitted a letter of petition to the President of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice Region 8 and the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Ranong to ask for permission for the attorney of the co-plaintiffs to have access to and to talk to his clients. The decision should be made based on principle of fair trial, equality and independence which has long been upheld by the Court of Justice in Thailand. In addition, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Constitution recognize the rights of a person in a justice proceeding and since an attorney is a major part of a criminal justice proceeding, to ensure that parties shall receive legal counseling and to prepare their defense properly, the judge should not deny the chance for the attorney to meet his clients since such denial shall negatively affect the litigation and independence of the attorney as well as the right of the clients to have access to counseling from their attorney.