Out of 11 countries in Southeast Asia (SEA), only the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia have laws dealing with Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). SLAPPs encompass lawsuits filed by companies against human rights defenders (HRDs) who speak out against the companies or act in opposition to their business operations.

Only the Philippines has rules that define and prohibit SLAPPs, and even then, they are only applicable to environmental cases.

Ryan Vong Junying and I completed Malaysia’s country report on SLAPPs. The report was commissioned by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC).

In addition to an earlier report, BHRRC released a briefing note titled Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: Southeast Asia cases & recommendations for governments, businesses, & civil society. The briefing note was launched during a forum at the recently concluded United Nations Virtual Forum on Responsible Business and Human Rights 2020 (RBHRF 2020). A recording of the forum may be viewed here.

The briefing note, which can be accessed here and also from BHRRC’s website, focused on the legal frameworks in SEA for the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Also highlighted were court rulings in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Some of these cases were progressive and have contributed to good practices to emulate in the defence of HRDs.

Finally, the briefing note detailed recommendations on how governments, businesses, investors, financial institutions, civil society and international organisations can better protect HRDs against SLAPPs.