The story of June
A human rights lawyer in Thailand.
Sirikan Charoensiri, known as June, is a Thai human rights defender and lawyer who now faces prosecution for defending basic legal rights.
Throughout her career she has worked to defend the rights of others. This is the story of June.
In May 2014, martial law was declared in Thailand. June and her colleagues set up Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) to respond to instances of legal malpractice and abuse:
TLHR has assisted in 102 court cases, conducted in the military courts, helping to represent 156 clients. Many of those defended by TLHR are pro democracy activists and academics.
June's work has drawn the attention of authorities. Whilst defending a group of pro-democracy students, she was approached by police who wanted to undertake an illegal search of her car in order to gather evidence. June challenged this demanding that the police produced a warrant:
"I thought letting this happen would be unethical, it would breach the confidentiality of my clients and most importantly compromise the legal independence of lawyers, creating fear and intimidation for others"
Now June faces several criminal charges including sedition, she could face up to 15 years in jail. Her case will be heard in a military court:
"They continue to face threats, harassment and legal actions, for trying to defend the rights of others"
The British Embassy in Thailand works hard to support those who are defending human rights. The British government is a long term supporter of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, funding projects to offer legal assistance and develop their network beyond Bangkok. These projects help to better report and document cases of human rights abuses. The British Embassy has hosted several civil society events, helping members to meet and network, developing wider support. Beyond this the British Government continues to raise June's case and have also made statements at the UN about the need to increase the protection of human rights defenders.
The embassy will be closely monitoring June's case, providing visible and vocal support. They will continue to monitor any trial hearings very closely.
Stories like June's show that it is essential that we continue to protect the work of human rights defenders.
"If a lawyer cannot protect human rights defenders facing prosecution for attempting to exercise their democratic rights, then who can?"