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9-Misc: Government lawsuit against Greenpeace activists a threat to civil liberties in Thailand



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TITLE:  Gov't lawsuit against Greenpeace activists a threat to civil liberties
SOURCE: Greenpeace SouthEast Asia
        http://www.greenpeace.org/seasia/en/news/gov-t-lawsuit-against-
greenpea
DATE:   27 Apr 2005

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Gov't lawsuit against Greenpeace activists a threat to civil liberties

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Activists dressed as prisoners went to the Ministry of Agriculture to
press for the government to investigate and legally punish government
officials responsible for the spread of genetically engineered papaya in
Thai farms. Amnesty International, Thai Coalition for the Protection of
Human Rights Defenders, BioThai, Confederation of Consumer Organization,
and Alternative Agriculture Network also demanded that the Ministry of
Agriculture withdraw the lawsuit filed by one of its agencies against
Greenpeace employees who revealed its role on the spread of GMO
contamination in Thai papaya farms last year. The lawsuit filed by the
government against Dr Jiragorn Gajaseni and Patwajee Srisuwan carries a
5-year jail sentence and is seen by the groups as an attempt to silence
Greenpeace and a threat civil liberties in the country.
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Bangkok, Thailand -- Bangkok, 27 April 2005 - Human rights, farmer, and
consumer groups banded today to demand that the Ministry of Agriculture
withdraw the lawsuit filed by one of its agencies against Greenpeace
employees who revealed its role on the spread of GMO contamination in
Thai papaya farms last year. The lawsuit filed by the Department of
Agriculture (DOA) against Dr Jiragorn Gajaseni and Patwajee Srisuwan
carries a 5-year jail sentence and is seen by the groups as an attempt to
silence Greenpeace and a threat civil liberties in the country.

"The DOA hid the truth on its GMO experiments and its role on the spread
of GE papaya. This is a serious offense against the lives of farmers,
consumers and the public, and ultimately will affect Thailand's
credibility in the global society. GMOs will pose threats to food
security and finally unto human lives," said Boontan Tansuthepveeravong,
Director of Amnesty International Thailand.

"We demand that the government immediately withdraw this prosecution. The
law cannot be used as a stick with which to silence and threaten
activists who work for the protection of human, environmental and social
rights that directly benefit the public," said Metha Matkhao, coordinator
of the Thai Coalition for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which announced results of
its investigations into the scandal on September 15, 2004, concluded that
GE papaya has already slipped out and spread into the environment thru
contaminated khaek dam thapra papaya variety, the seed of which is
produced and sold by the DOA's research station. Consistently, the
memorandum sent by Khon Kaen Provincial Agricultural Office to the
governor of Khon Kaen confirmed that GE papaya found in the farmer's
field came from the DOA's research station. The DOA has clearly violated
the Plant Quarantine Act and the cabinet ban on GMOs. Despite conclusive
evidence, however, the real environmental criminals at the DOA are left
unpunished.

"The Ministry of Agriculture failed in its duty to reveal to the public
its investigation which has recently found that up to 90 papaya samples
have been found to be GE-contaminated. This means that Greenpeace has
done the right thing to expose the illegal activities of the DOA. The
Ministry of Agriculture must protect the interest of Thai farmers and
public by further investigating this contamination and reveal all their
findings so that the country can deal with this problem appropriately,"
said of Witoon Lianchamroon of BioThai.

Contamination of Thailand's papaya from GMOs has serious environmental,
health, legal and trade repercussions. GMO papaya has never been proven
safe for human consumption nor for release into the environment. In terms
of trade, Thai papaya exporters also stand to lose major markets as Japan
and Europe do not allow the entry of GMO papaya.

The groups also urged the government to ensure the safety of Thai
consumers. Papaya is one of the most important staple food for Thais and
features in popular dishes like somtam (spicy papaya salad).

"The move by Greenpeace to expose this GMO papaya scandal not only
protected Thailand's environment but, more importantly, it protected and
warned consumers about this illegal experiment on their food and health.
The government must not put Thai consumers at risk and must ensure GMOs
do not enter the food chain," said Sairung Thongploon, manager of the
Confederation of Consumer Organization of Thailand.

According to Greenpeace, punishing real environmental criminals - not the
ones protecting public interest - will win back the confidence of Thai
farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs that their government is really
protecting their rights and interests.

Simultaneous to the press conference today, Greenpeace launched a global
cyber-petition calling on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra to order the
DOA to withdraw this case against Greenpeace activists and instead pursue
legal action against government officials who have caused havoc in Thai
papaya farms. The cyber-petition can be viewed at http://
www.greenpeace.org/free-pat-and-jay


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