Thailand Human Rights - History

Thailand Human Rights - History

A. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining

The interim constitution did not contain provisions providing for the right of freedom of association or the right to bargain collectively. The 2017 constitution provides that a person shall enjoy the liberty to unite and form an association, cooperative, union, organization, community, or any other group. The Labor Relations Act (LRA) and State Enterprise Labor Relations Act (SELRA) remained in effect. The LRA allows private-sector workers to form and join trade unions of their choosing without prior authorization, to bargain collectively, and to conduct legal strikes with a number of restrictions.

Legal definitions of who may join a union and requirements that the union represent at least one-fifth of the workforce hampered collective bargaining efforts. Under the law only workers who are in the same industry may form a union. For example, despite working in the same factory, contract workers who are classified under the “service industry” may not join the same union as full-time workers who are classified under the “manufacturing industry.” This restriction often diminished the ability to bargain collectively as a larger group. Labor advocates claimed companies exploited this required ratio to avoid unionization by hiring substantial numbers of temporary contract workers. The law also restricts formal affiliations between unions of state-owned enterprises (SOE) and private-sector unions because two separate laws govern them.

The law allows employees in private enterprises with more than 50 workers to establish “employee committees” to represent workers’ collective requests and to negotiate with employers and “welfare committees” to represent workers’ welfare-related collective requests. Employee and welfare committees may give suggestions to employers, but the law bars them from submitting labor demands or conducting legal strikes. The law prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against workers for their participation in these committees and from obstructing the work of the committees. Therefore, union leaders often joined employee or welfare committees.

The SELRA allows one union per SOE. SOEs in the country included state banks, trains, airlines, airports, marine ports, and postal services. Under the law civil servants, including teachers at public and private schools, university professors, soldiers, and police, do not have the right to form or register a union; however, civil servants (including teachers, police, and nurses), and self-employed persons (such as farmers and fishers) may form and register associations to represent member interests. If a SOE union’s membership falls below 25 percent of the eligible workforce, labor relations regulations require dissolution.

The law forbids strikes and lockouts in the public sector and at SOEs. The government has authority to restrict private-sector strikes that would affect national security or cause severe negative repercussions for the population at large, but it did not invoke this provision during the year.

Noncitizen migrant workers, whether registered or undocumented, do not have the right to form unions or serve as union officials. Registered migrants may be members of unions organized and led by citizens. Migrant worker participation in unions was limited due to language barriers, weak understanding of rights under the law, frequent changes in employment, membership fees, restrictive labor union regulations, and segregation of citizen workers from migrant workers by industry and by zones (particularly in border and coastal areas). In practice many migrant workers formed unregistered associations, community-based organizations, or religious groups to represent member interests.

The law does not protect union members against antiunion actions by employers until their union is registered. To register a union, at least 10 workers must submit their names to the Department of Labor Protection and Welfare (DLPW). The verification process of vetting the names and employment status with the employer exposes the workers to potential retaliation before registration is complete. Moreover, the law requires union officials be full-time employees of the company or SOE and prohibits permanent union staff.

The law protects employees and union members from criminal or civil charges for participating in negotiations with employers, initiating a strike, organizing a rally, and explaining labor disputes to the public. The law does not protect employees and union members from criminal offenses for endangering the public or for causing loss of life or bodily injury, property damage, and reputational damage. The law does not prohibit lawsuits intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics through costly legal defense. Some private companies charged union leaders with civil and criminal defamation for public statements made online or in media during collective bargaining in an effort, according to labor rights activists, to intimidate union leaders. Human rights defenders said the use of criminal defamation and other actions to camouflage retaliation had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and association.

The law prohibits termination of employment of legal strikers but permits employers to hire workers or use subcontract workers to replace strikers. The legal requirement to call a general meeting of trade union members and obtain strike approval by at least 50 percent of union members constrained strike action in the private sector. The law provides for penalties, including imprisonment, a fine, or both, for strikers in SOEs. In July the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s guilty verdict against seven union leaders of the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) for leading a strike in contravention of strike-permit rules and ordered them to pay fines totaling 21 million baht ($643,000). The union was protesting the SRT’s failure to fund maintenance and safety equipment and manage appropriate rest time for train conductors, which may have contributed to a 2009 train derailment and seven fatalities.

Labor law enforcement was inconsistent, and in some instances ineffective, in protecting workers who participated in union activities. Employers may dismiss workers for any reason except participation in union activities, provided the employer pays severance. There were reports of workers dismissed for engaging in union activities, both before and after registration, and, in some cases, labor courts ordered workers reinstated. In some cases judges awarded compensation in lieu of reinstatement when employers or employees claimed they could not work together peacefully; however, authorities rarely applied penalties for conviction of labor violations, which include imprisonment, a fine, or both. International organizations reported DLPW leadership increasingly promoted good industrial relations and enforcement during inspector training across the country. Labor inspection increasingly focused on high-risk workplaces and the use of intelligence from civil society partners. Trade union leaders suggested that inspectors should move beyond perfunctory document reviews toward more proactive work site inspections. Rights advocates reported that provincial-level labor inspectors often attempted to mediate cases, even when there was a finding that labor rights violations requiring penalties occurred.

There were reports employers used various techniques to weaken labor union association and collective bargaining efforts. These included replacing striking workers with subcontractors, which the law permits when strikers continue to receive wages; threatening union leaders and striking workers; pressuring union leaders and striking workers to resign; dismissing union leaders, citing business reasons; prohibiting workers from demonstrating in work zones; and inciting violence to get a court warrant to prohibit protests. In some cases employers filed lawsuits against union leaders and strikers for trespassing, defamation, and vandalism. Some employers also transferred union leaders and striking workers to different, less desirable positions or inactive management positions (with no management authority) to prevent them from leading union activities. There were reports some employers supported the registration of competing unions to circumvent established unions that refused to accept the terms of agreement proposed by employers.

B. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, except in the case of national emergency, war, martial law, or imminent public calamity.

The government updated various laws to strengthen its regulations against human trafficking, including forced labor. In January the third amendment of the antitrafficking law expanded the defined means of exploitation to include retention of identity documents and use of the accumulated debt burden. The amendment strengthened both the imprisonment and monetary penalties for the worst forms of child labor and other forms of human trafficking. The prescribed penalties were sufficiently stringent to deter violations and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape.

In 2016, 14 migrant workers filed a complaint with the NHRCT alleging forced labor, confiscation of documents, abusive working and living conditions, excessive overtime, unlawful salary deductions, and limited freedom of movement. In September the Supreme Court upheld a labor court’s decision, ordering their employer, Thammakaset Company, to pay 1.7 million baht ($52,000) in unpaid overtime wages. In October the 14 workers were indicted, arrested, and released temporarily on bail on charges of criminal defamation, which carry maximum prison sentences of 18 months, a maximum fine of 30,000 baht ($919), or both. The 14 workers entered not guilty pleas.

Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

C. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment

The law regulates the employment of children younger than 18 and prohibits employment of children younger than 15. Children younger than 18 are prohibited from work in an activity involving metalwork, hazardous chemicals, poisonous materials, radiation, and harmful temperatures or noise levels; exposure to toxic microorganisms; operation of heavy equipment; and work underground or underwater. The law also prohibits children from work in hazardous workplaces, such as slaughterhouses, gambling establishments, places where alcohol is sold, massage parlors, entertainment venues, sea fishing vessels, and seafood processing establishments. The law provides limited coverage to child workers in some informal sectors, such as agriculture, domestic work, and home-based businesses. Self-employed children and children working in nonemployment relationships are not protected under national labor law, but they are protected under the Child Protection Act and the third amendment of the Antitrafficking in Persons Act of January.

Violations of the law may include imprisonment or fines. Parents the court finds were “driven by unbearable poverty” are exempt from the law. In February the government amended the Labor Protection Act on child labor to strengthen penalties on employing child laborers younger than 15 or child laborers between the ages of 15 and 18 in hazardous work.

Government and private-sector entities, particularly medium and large manufacturers, actively advocated against the use of child labor through public awareness campaigns and bone-density checks to verify their age for identifying potential underage job applicants.

The DLPW is the primary agency charged with enforcing child labor laws and policies. In 2016 nearly one-half (47 percent) of labor inspections were targeted in high-risk sectors for child labor, including seafood processing, garment, manufacturing, agriculture, construction, gas stations, restaurants, and bars. Violations included employing underage child labor in hazardous work, unlawful working hours, and failure to notify the DLPW of employment of child workers. The amended labor protections, which impose high monetary penalties per each child laborer employed, were sufficient to deter violations. Nonetheless, there were reports some employers use inaccurate bone-density records to verify the age of child laborers.

Observers noted several limiting factors in effective enforcement of child labor laws, including: insufficient labor inspectors, insufficient interpreters during labor inspections, ineffective inspection procedures for the informal sector or hard-to-reach workplaces (such as private residences, small family-based business units, farms, and fishing boats), and lack of official identity documents or birth certificates among young migrant workers from neighboring countries. Moreover, a lack of public understanding of child labor laws and standards were also important factors.

Children from Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and ethnic minority communities were engaged in labor in informal sectors in the country, including farming, fishing, restaurants, street vending, auto services, food processing, manufacturing, construction, domestic work, and begging. Some children engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including in commercial sexual exploitation, child pornography, as well as production and trafficking of drugs (see section 6, Children). Factors contributing to child labor can include poverty, family commitment, distance from schools, parents’ occupations, and importance placed on education by parents.

Limited reports continued that insurgent groups in the southernmost provinces recruited children to commit arson or act as scouts or informants.

Also see the Department of Labor’s Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor at www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings.

D. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation

Labor laws did not specifically prohibit discrimination in the workplace regarding race, sex, gender, disability, language, political opinion, religion, age, social origin, national origin or citizenship, sexual orientation or gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, or social status. Effective September 2016 the law imposes penalties of imprisonment, fines, or both for anyone committing gender or gender identity discrimination, including in employment decisions. Another law requires workplaces with more than 100 employees to hire at least one worker with disabilities for every 100 workers.

Discrimination with respect to employment occurred against LGBTI persons, migrant workers, and women (see section 7.e.). Government regulations require employers to pay equal wages and benefits for equal work, regardless of gender. Union leaders stated the wage differences for men and women were generally minimal and were mostly due to different skills, duration of employment, types of jobs, as well as legal requirements, which prohibit the employment of women in hazardous work. Nonetheless, a 2016 International Labor Organization (ILO) report on migrant women in the country’s construction sector found female migrant workers consistently received less than their male counterparts, and more than one-half were paid less than the official minimum wage, especially for overtime work. Discrimination against persons with disabilities occurred in employment, access, and training.

Persons of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities faced frequent discrimination in the workplace, partly due to common prejudices and a lack of protective laws and policies on discrimination. A 2014 ILO report found discrimination at all stages of the employment process, including education and training, access to jobs, advancement opportunities, social security, and partner benefits. Transgender workers reportedly faced even greater constraints, and their participation in the workforce was often limited to a few professions, such as cosmetology and entertainment.

E. Acceptable Conditions of Work

Effective January 1, there were four rates of daily minimum wage depending on provincial cost of living, including 300 baht ($9.19) for eight provinces, 305 baht ($9.34) for 49 provinces, 308 baht ($9.43) for 13 provinces, and 310 baht ($9.50) for seven provinces. This daily minimum was three times higher than the government-calculated poverty line of 2,644 baht ($81) per month, last calculated in 2015.

The maximum workweek by law is 48 hours, or eight hours per day over six days, with an overtime limit of 36 hours per week. Employees engaged in “dangerous” work, such as chemical, mining, or other industries involving heavy machinery, may work a maximum of 42 hours per week and may not work overtime. Petrochemical industry employees may not work more than 12 hours per day and may work continuously for a maximum period of 28 days.

The law requires safe and healthy workplaces, including for home-based businesses, and prohibits pregnant women and children younger than 18 from working in hazardous conditions. The law also requires the employer to inform employees about hazardous working conditions prior to employment. Workers do not have the right to remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardy to their employment.

Legal protections do not apply equally to all sectors. For example, the daily minimum wage does not apply to employees in the public sector, SOEs, domestic work, nonprofit work, and seasonal agricultural work. Ministerial regulations provide household domestic workers some protections regarding leave, minimum age, and payment of wages, but they do not address minimum wage, regular working hours, social security, or maternity leave.

A large income gap remained between formal and informal employment, with workers in nonagricultural sectors earning an average of three times more than those in the agricultural sector. According to government statistics, 55 percent of the labor force worked in the informal economy, with limited protection under labor laws and the social security system.

There were reports daily minimum wages, overtime, and holiday pay were not well enforced in small enterprises, in some areas (especially rural or border areas), or in some sectors (especially agriculture, construction, and sea fishing). Labor unions estimated 5-10 percent of workers received less than the minimum wage; however, the share of workers who received lower than minimum wage was likely higher among unregistered migrant workers. Unregistered migrant workers rarely sought redress under the law due to their lack of legal status to work and live in the country legally.

The DLPW enforces laws related to labor relations and occupational safety and health. The law subjects employers to fines and imprisonment for minimum wage noncompliance, but enforcement was inconsistent. There were reports many cases of minimum wage noncompliance went to mediation in which workers agreed to settlements for owed wages lower than the daily minimum wage. Convictions for violations of occupational safety and health regulations include imprisonment and fines.

Medium and large factories often applied government health and safety standards, but overall enforcement of safety standards was lax. In the informal sector, such protections were substandard. NGOs and union leaders noted the main factors for ineffective enforcement as an insufficient number of qualified inspectors, overreliance on document-based inspection (instead of workplace inspection), lack of protection for workers’ complaints, lack of interpreters, and failure to impose effective penalties on noncompliant employers. A 2016 policy change allowed the government to address a chronic shortage of interpreters for labor inspections and identification of victims of trafficking. The Ministry of Labor doubled the number of registered interpreters during the year. These served mostly at fishing port inspection centers and in multidisciplinary human-trafficking teams. The Department of Employment took steps to increase awareness of migrant workers’ basic rights through briefings at three Post-Arrival and Reintegration Centers established in heavily trafficked border crossing areas.

The country has universal health care for all citizens, and social security and workers’ compensation programs to insure employed persons in cases of injury or illness and to provide maternity, disability, death, child allowance, unemployment, and retirement benefits. Registered migrant workers in both the formal and informal labor sectors and their dependents are also eligible to buy health insurance from the Ministry of Public Health.

NGOs reported many construction workers, especially subcontract workers and migrant workers, were not in the social security system or covered under the workers’ compensation program, despite requirements of the law. While the social security program is mandatory for employed persons, workers employed in the informal sector, temporary or seasonal employment, or self-employed may also contribute voluntarily to the workers’ compensation program and receive government matching funds.

NGOs reported several cases of the denial of government social security and accident benefits to registered migrant workers due to the failure of employers to fulfill mandatory contribution requirements or because of the failure of migrant workers to pass nationality verification.

Workers in the fishing industry were often deemed seasonal workers and therefore not required by law to have access to social security and accident compensation. The lack of sufficient occupational safety and health training, first aid, and reliable systems to ensure timely delivery of injured workers to hospitals after serious accidents further made fishery workers especially vulnerable. NGOs reported several cases of migrant workers who received only minimal compensation from employers after suffering disability or disfigurement on the job.

NGOs reported poor working conditions and lack of labor protections for migrant workers, including those near border-crossing points. In June the Ministry of Labor announced the Royal Ordinance Concerning the Management of Foreign Workers’ Employment to regulate the employment, recruitment, and protection of migrant workers. The decree imposes heavy civil penalties for employing or sheltering unregistered migrant workers, while strengthening worker protections by prohibiting Thai employment brokers and employers from charging migrant workers additional fees for recruitment. The draft decree also bans employers from withholding migrant worker documents and disallows those convicted of labor and antitrafficking laws from operating employment agencies. Nevertheless, advocates awaited potential changes to the decree after a 180-day stakeholder consultation period expiring in January 2018. Between July and September, 797,685 undocumented migrant workers took steps to register or adjust their documentation or legal status, and 198,332 employers submitted registration documentation to the Department of Employment.

Labor brokerage firms used a “contract labor system” under which workers sign an annual contract. By law businesses must provide contract laborers “fair benefits and welfare without discrimination”; however, employers often paid contract laborers less and provided fewer or no benefits.

NGOs noted local moneylenders, mostly informal, offered loans at exorbitant interest rates so citizen workers looking for work abroad could pay recruitment fees, some as high as 500,000 baht ($15,300). Department of Employment regulations limit the maximum charges for recruitment fees, but effective enforcement of the rules remained difficult and inadequate due to workers’ unwillingness to provide information and the lack of legal documentary evidence regarding underground recruitment and documentation fees as well as migration costs. Exploitative employment service agencies persisted in charging citizens working overseas large, illegal fees that frequently equaled their first- and second-year earnings.

In 2016, the latest year for which data was available, there were 89,488 reported incidents of diseases and injuries from workplace accidents. Observers said workplace accidents in the informal and agricultural sectors and among migrant workers were underreported. Employers rarely diagnosed or compensated occupational diseases, and few doctors or clinics specialized in them.


2007 constitution of Thailand

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand, Buddhist Era 2550 (2007) (Thai: รัฐธรรมนูญแห่งราชอาณาจักรไทย พุทธศักราช ๒๕๕๐ RTGS: Ratthathammanun Haeng Ratcha-anachak Thai Phutthasakkarat Song Phan Ha Roi Ha Sip ) was the constitution of Thailand which was in effect from 2007 to 2014.

On 19 September 2006, the Royal Thai Armed Forces staged a coup d'état against then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, abrogated the 1997 constitution and formed a junta called Council for Democratic Reform (CDR). The 2006 interim constitution was then promulgated by King Bhumibol Adulyadej upon advice of the CDR leader, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. The interim constitution established a Constitutional Convention (CC) and charged it with the duty to draft a new constitution before presenting the draft to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), a legislature replacing the National Assembly abrogated by the CDR. [1] The CC set up a constituent committee to draw up the draft. The committee consisted of thirty five members, of whom 25 were selected by the CC itself and the other 10 were selected by the CC upon advice of the CDR. [2]

After the draft was approved by the CC and the NLA respectively, a national referendum was organised by the Election Commission on 19 August 2007, allowing the people to approve or deny the entire draft. [3] 56.69 percent of the voters voted in favor of the draft, 41.37 percent voted against it and 1.94 percent were invalid votes. [4] King Bhumibol Adulyadej signed it into law on 24 August 2007 and it came into force immediately. [5] [6]

Two amendments were made to this constitution, both in 2011. The first amendment modified the composition of the House of Representatives. [7] The second revised the criteria governing the conclusion of treaties. [8]

On 22 May 2014, the National Council for Peace and Order, a military junta which staged a coup d'état against the caretaker government, repealed the constitution, save the second chapter which concerns the king. [9] The constitution was repealed and replaced by an interim constitution on 22 July 2014. [10]


Authoritarian Culture and the Struggle for Human Rights in Thailand

Human rights issues related to the historical and cultural attributes of Asia are now being bandied about in the international arena as the so-called "Asian Way of Human Rights." Thailand has not openly joined these Asian countries—especially China, Malaysia, and Singapore—in promoting a discourse about an Asian Way of Human Rights. The Thai government, nonetheless, seems to agree to some extent with that discourse, which is related to trade and economic competition between Asia and the West, and borrows the idea to justify a policy of "constructive engagement" with the dictatorial government of neighboring Myanmar.

Thailand is generally regarded as an established Buddhist society. But in reality the basic tenets of Buddhism—that is, moral enlightenment with wisdom and loving kindness—have not been upheld in practice in Thai society, particularly by the ruling elite. Rather, an authoritarian culture, which places power over reason and wisdom, has been dominant. The distortion of religious tenets occurs because religion exists not in a vacuum but within a sociopolitical context. What religion is believed to be at any given time or to say on any specific matter is the product of competing human perceptions and prevailing socioeconomic forces.

Authoritarian ideas in Thailand stem directly from the cult of divine kingship going back to premodern times. This cult existed side by side with Dharmist legal and political philosophy, contributing to a double standard in Thai legal and political philosophy. On the one hand, there were laws that constrained the unjust power of the king. But there were also laws that upheld the godlike status of the king, endowing him with the power to exercise his will however he pleased. The combination of a Hindu notion of divine kingship and a feudal absolute monarchy reinforced authoritarianism as the dominant political culture of ancient Thai society. This culture has survived into the present, where it has clashed with a modern culture of democracy and human rights.

Prior to the nineteenth century, Thai society as a "duty-based" society had no experience with the Western concept of human rights. Western ideas about freedom and liberty were imported to Thailand during the reign of King Chulalongkorn the Great (1868–1910) when the American Constitution was translated into Thai and made available to the public. After that publication, Preedee Panomyonk, a lawyer and a leader of democratic change in Thailand, brought the idea of human rights to wider public attention in his textbook on administrative law. Later, his ideas of human rights developed into the Declaration of the People s Revolutionary Committee in 1932, thereby establishing the first democratic system in Thailand.

The 1932 Declaration marked the introduction of human rights into Thai culture. Its roots, however, were not deep enough to withstand the sway of the entrenched authoritarian culture. The newly born human rights thought was held hostage to the complexity and prolonged power struggle that followed the revolution. Even Preedee Panomyonk was forced to temporarily leave Thailand during the power struggle after being charged with communist involvement. Thailand s first anticommunist law was enacted shortly thereafter in 1933. Then a cycle of coup d états took place that exposed the lack of commitment to human rights. A number of unjust laws were enacted, including martial law decrees, the Anti-Communist Law, the Law on Special Tribunals for Political Trials, and the Censorship Law. After a 1947 coup and following the total collapse of Preedee s minority progressive wing, right-wing political groups led by Field Marshall Piboonsongkram and Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat moved toward a more overtly authoritarian style of politics.

During the post–World War II period the United States had significant influence in the political events of Thaiand though not always to the benefit of human rights. The economic policy of state capitalism of the Piboonsongkram government had strengthened its authoritarian rule, but because this policy ran counter to the free market interests of the U.S. by impeding the growth of global capitalism, the United States put its support behind the pro-American Field Marshall Sarit. In 1958, Field Marshall Sarit s coup toppled the Piboonsongkram government, resulting in a prolonged period of absolute dictatorship. This represented the cornerstone of the American imperialist strategy to extensively influence Thailand s economy and politics up until 1973. Economic planning under the American model of industrialization and modernization emphasized economic growth over equity and received support during this period from the Investment Promotion Law as well as the Anti-Labor Strike Law, which was passed in the form of a military decree. The dictatorial government cited national security from both external and internal threats to justify its comprehensive infiltration into political and economic life, actions that were encouraged by the American strategy of containment to prevent the spread of communism in Asia.

A surge in the human rights discourse in Thai society followed the October 14, 1973 popular uprising that successfully overthrew the reigning authoritarian regime of Field Marshall Thanom Kittikajorn. The overthrow scattered the conservative political and economic forces, creating more political space for the middle class and the capitalists. The market structures that permitted the development of human rights in the West during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were also present in Thailand at this time. In addition, the popular movement for democracy and the eventual collapse of the Communist Party of Thailand also served as a catalyst for the development of human rights. But before the fruits of this development could ripen, the people of Thailand had to endure more brutality and bloodshed. Thai society experienced devastation in the massacre of students and demonstrators in October 1976 at Thammasat University and in the events of "Bloody May" from May 17 to 20, 1992.

The Bloody May incident revealed the continuance of an authoritarian culture and the strength of conservative interest groups in Thai society, especially within the middle class, that challenge human rights. It is important to note that this authoritarian culture is buttressed by a system of patron-client relationships, remnants of Thailand s feudal era. These patron-client relationships created a hierarchical system within various sectors of society, especially the military, the elected government, and the rural areas, that has resulted in corruption and vote buying prevalent in rural areas today. The 1992 crisis was quickly resolved by the intervention of King Bhumipol, the resignation of General Suchinda as prime minister, and the promulgation of a general amnesty. The restoration of democracy, however, has not left Thailand free from the threat of authoritarian rule.

The continuing influence of "authoritarian groups" in Thailand is evident not only in the political sphere but also in the current direction of social development, modernization, and rapid industrialization. Despite the high rate of economic growth, the prolonged problem of inequitable income distribution will likely remain unresolved or even worsen. The gradual collapse of the agricultural sector as a result of tremendous migration of labor toward the industrial and service sectors has increased the exploitation of women and children labor. While sustainable development and human-based strategies of economic and social development are much debated at economic planning meetings and in research papers, the realization of these ideas is impeded by persistent economic, political, and cultural structures. These structures remain strongly attached to the old economic growth paradigm that emphasizes achievements in life related to "having" many secular goods rather than being a "good" human.

*1* This is an edited excerpt from "The Authoritarian Culture, State Security Law and the Asian Way of Human Rights: Thailand at the Cross Road," prepared for the International Conference on National Security Laws in the Asia-Pacific, Seoul, Korea, November 22-24, 1995.


Foreign policy issues

As an emerging industrial nation, Thailand is an important player in the Southeast Asia region. As the only alliance of the West on mainland Southeast Asia, Thailand’s relations with the neighboring states of Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia have long been characterized by low-threshold military conflicts. Since the 1990’s and under the Thaksin Shinawatra government, however, trade and investment relationships in the “ Greater Mekong Subregion ” have been in the foreground. The financially strong Thailand invests in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, among other things, in the energy sector, in telecommunications and in agribusiness. Thailand also plays a leading role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN. Relations with China are of increasing importance – both economically and politically.

Internationally, Thailand pursues a liberal economic policy and is represented in relevant organizations such as the WTO, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Historically good relations with the West are continued today with the USA, the EU and also Germany. The focus is on economic relationships, which are to be deepened with new trade and investment agreements. Some of these bilateral negotiations are viewed critically, partly because stricter patent rights could make access to HIV drugs more difficult. The negotiations between the EU and Thailand in particular are closed led to increased protests by civil society and the FTA Watch network. But military-strategic aspects also play a role. In the “war on terror”, Thaksin sent troops to Iraq and police to southern Thailand. Under his repressive policies, a simmering dispute over autonomy exploded in the provinces of Patani and Narathiwat.

The domestic polarization also affected relations with neighboring countries, as the conflict over the Preah Vihear temple shows. The temple was built under the Khmer ruler Suyarvarman II in the 12th century. When UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site in 2008, the Yellow Shirts organized a demonstration for the ” return of the temple ” to Thailand. The situation escalated to the border war between Thailand and Cambodia in which dozens of soldiers died. The recent coup and the ongoing violation of basic human rights have isolated the military junta from foreign policy. The EU has suspended official visits to and from Thailand and the signing of trade agreements. Prayuth tries to break this isolation with visits to the ASEM meeting in Milan 2014 and Paris 2018. In Milan he was received by hundreds of demonstrators, which the regime denies as being invented. Protests also took place in Paris and London in 2018. Donald Trump, however, “is honored” to meet the dictator Prayuth in 2017.


Contents

Private, adult, consensual, and non-commercial sodomy was decriminalized in Thailand in 1956. [10] However, same-sex attraction and transgender identities were still seen as socially unacceptable. Through the Penal Code Amendment Act of 1997 (Thai: พระราชบัญญัติแก้ไขเพิ่มเติมประมวลกฎหมายอาญา-(ฉบับที่-14)-พ.ศ.-2540 ), the age of consent was set at fifteen years regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

In 2002, the Ministry of Health announced that homosexuality would no longer be regarded as a mental illness or disorder. [11]

In 2007, the Thai Government expanded the definition of a sexual assault and rape victim to include both women and men. [12] The government also prohibited marital rape, with the law stipulating that women or men can be victims. [12]

In September 2011, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Sexual Diversity Network, an NGO, proposed draft legislation on same-sex marriage and sought the Thai Government's support for the law. [15] [16] Instead, in December 2012, the Government formed a committee to draft legislation providing legal recognition for same-sex couples in the form of civil partnerships. [17] On 8 February 2013, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights held a first public hearing on the civil partnership bill, drafted by the committee's chairman, Police General Viroon Phuensaen. [18]

In September 2013, the Bangkok Post reported that an attempt in 2011 by Natee Teerarojjanapong, president of the Gay Political Group of Thailand, to register a marriage certificate with his male partner had been rejected. [4]

By 2014, the civil partnership bill had bipartisan support, but was stalled due to political unrest in the country. [19] In the second half of 2014, reports emerged that a draft bill called the "Civil Partnership Act" would be submitted to the junta-appointed Thai Parliament. It would give couples some of the rights of heterosexual marriage, but was criticized for increasing the minimum age from 17 to 20 and omitting adoption rights. [20]

Thai opinion polls have consistently favoured legal recognition of same-sex marriages. [3] [2] [21]

In 2017, Thai government officials responded favourably to a petition signed by 60,000 people calling for civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Pitikan Sithidej, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department at the Justice Ministry, confirmed she had received the petition and would do all she could to get it passed as soon as possible. [22] The Justice Ministry convened on 4 May 2018 to begin discussions on a draft civil partnership bill, titled the "Same Sex Life Partnership Registration Bill". Under the proposal, same-sex couples would be able to register themselves as "life partners" and will be granted some of the rights of marriage. [23] [24] [25] The bill was discussed in public hearings between 12 and 16 November, where a reported 98% expressed support for the measure. [26] [27] On 25 December 2018, the Cabinet approved the bill. [28] [29] [30]

On 8 July 2020, the Cabinet approved a new draft of the bill. It will now be introduced in the National Assembly. [31] [32]

In June 2020, Move Forward Party deputy Tunyawat Kamolwongwat introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. [33] The public consultation on the bill was launched on 2 July. [34] [35]

Only married couples may adopt in Thailand. Single women (not men) may adopt in limited circumstances. [36] The draft legislation working its way through the Thai bureaucracy in late 2018 would ensure only property and inheritance rights and some other rights of same-sex couples, but not their rights to public welfare, tax benefits or child adoption. [3] [6]

Thailand had long been a popular destination for surrogacy arrangements. In 2015, however, the Thai Parliament passed a law banning foreigners from travelling to Thailand to have commercial surrogacy arrangements. Only married couples as Thai residents are allowed to make commercial surrogacy contracts. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is restricted to married couples. [37]

None of the various Thai constitutions has mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity. Natee Theerarojnapong, of the Human Rights Commission, and Anjana Suvarnananda, a lesbian rights advocate, campaigned unsuccessfully for the inclusion of "sexual identity" in the Interim Constitution of 2006 and the Constitution of 2007. [12] The 2007 Constitution did contain a broad prohibition of "unfair discrimination" based on "personal status" and promises to respect various civil liberties in accordance with "state security" and "public morality".

The Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 (Thai: พระราชบัญญัติความเท่าเทียมระหว่างเพศ พ.ศ.๒๕๕๘ ) was passed on 13 March 2015 and came into force on 9 September 2015. [38] This act bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and was the first law in Thailand to contain language mentioning LGBT people. Under the law, discrimination against a male, female or "a person who has a sexual expression different from that person's original sex" is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 baht. [39] [40] However, the law specified an exception for "education, religion and the public interest", which was strongly criticised by women's rights groups. [41]

Sex reassignment operations have been performed in Thailand since 1975, and Thailand is among the most popular destinations globally for patients seeking such operations. [42]

Transgender people are quite common in Thai popular entertainment, television shows and nightclub performances, however, transgender people lack various legal rights compared to the rest of the population, [43] [44] and may face discrimination from society. [4] [45]

Transgender people face substantial barriers to employment, including full-time work, executive positions or promotions, according to 2015 research for the International Labour Organization. [46] Discrimination in job applications also often discourages transgender people from seeking further employment opportunities or entering the job market. The research also found that they are faced with "daily discrimination and humiliation" which often cuts short their careers. [46] An editorial in the Bangkok Post in 2013 noted that "we don't find transgenders as high-ranking officials, doctors, lawyers, scientists, or teachers in state-run schools and colleges. Nor as executives in the corporate world. In short, the doors of government agencies and large corporations are still closed to transgender women." [43]

In 2007, the Thai National Assembly debated allowing transgender people to legally change their names after having a sex change operation. [5] Post-operation male-to-female transgender government employees are not granted the right to wear female uniforms at work, [47] and are still expected to perform military service. [5] Specific cases of inequality include a hospital which refused to allow a transgender woman to stay in a woman's ward, even though she had undergone sex reassignment surgery. [5]

In 2014, a Matthayom 1 textbook was criticized for discrimination and lack of gender sensitivity, due to a description of transgender people as suffering from gender confusion, khon long phet (คนหลงเพศ), [48] and illustrations in the textbook featuring performances by transgender dancers. [48] Critics argued that the word long (หลง: 'confused') had negative connotations, and that "transgender" or kham phet (ข้ามเพศ) was more suitable. [48] It was reported that officials at the Ministry of Education would investigate the matter. [48]

In July 2019, a proposal to regulate sex changes for transgender individuals was presented to the National Assembly. Among others, the proposed bill would allow those who have undergone sex reassignment surgery to change their legal gender on official documents. It also covers name changes, marriage rights and military conscription. [49] [50]

In 2005, the Thai Armed Forces lifted their ban on LGBT people serving in the military. Prior to this reform, LGBT people were exempted as suffering from a "mental disorder".

In May 2009, the Thai Red Cross reaffirmed its ban of men who have sex with men (MSM) becoming blood donors, despite campaigns to change this policy. [51]


The Fight for Democracy in Thailand

The unprecedented mass protests against the monarchy show no signs of flagging.

Tyrell Haberkorn &squarf October 21, 2020 Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute in Bangkok on October 20, 2020 (Mladen Antonov/AFP via Getty Images)

In the early morning hours of October 15, plainclothes police knocked on the door of the hotel room where student activist Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, known by her nickname “Rung,” was resting after two days of protests in Bangkok. They read the charges out to Rung and another activist, Nutchanon Pairoj, and informed them of their rights. Rung tore up her arrest warrant before the police forcibly carried her and Nutchanon from the room in wheelchairs, down the service elevator, and out the backdoor of the hotel. In arresting them and others last week, the Thai authorities seemed to hope to end the movement calling for an end to dictatorship and reform of the monarchy by locking its leaders away behind bars. But as the mushrooming protests this past weekend and early this week illustrate, the tactic has failed. What began as a student movement questioning the role of the monarchy in Thailand has swiftly turned into one in which the people are taking up a new role and placing themselves, not the king, at the center of the political system.

Rung’s arrest came as no surprise. Every day since August 10, she has awaited a knock on the door. That evening, she stood on a protest stage at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus and inaugurated the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) by reading a ten-point declaration. Surrounded by falling glitter, the bespectacled Rung demanded limits on the exercise of authority by the king, including an end to royal endorsement of coups public audits of royal finances and the abolition of restrictions on speech about the monarchy. The forthright declaration broke political and social ground by speaking what has been unspeakable since the nominal but incomplete end of absolute monarchy in Thailand on June 24, 1932. A combination of performative reverence for the former king, Rama IX, which historian Thongchai Winichakul has characterized as hyper-royalism, and the country’s harsh lèse majesté law has silenced criticism, or even questions, until now. For daring to speak, Rung has been charged with sedition, using sound amplification equipment without a permit, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act, the Emergency Decree, and the Communicable Diseases Act.

Following the most recent coup, on May 22, 2014—the thirteenth since the end of the absolute monarchy—General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his junta, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), presided over the most repressive regime since the counterinsurgent Cold War regimes of the 1960s and 1970s. The coup took place as the transition in rule from an aging Rama IX to his son, who does not command the same respect, loomed. Under the NCPO, dissidents were relentlessly threatened, surveilled, and imprisoned. The harshest punishments were reserved for those who criticized the monarchy, with a record thirty-five-year sentence meted out for ten Facebook posts in one case. After Rama IX’s death in 2016 and the beginning of the reign of Rama X, prosecutions went down but republican critics in exile began to be murdered and disappeared.

After the March 2019 elections, which were plagued by extensive interference by the military junta, failed to bring a promised return to democracy, youth and other citizens began organizing in dissent, first online and then in the streets. Flouting the proscription against speech about the monarchy, Twitter became a lively location of discussion ranging from complaints about traffic delays caused by the movement of royals around Bangkok to asking if the monarchy served any purpose at all. Secondary and university students across the country held protests in early 2020 with many demands, including an end to authoritarianism in education and rights for LGBTQ students, with the broader goal of creating a democracy in the country in which they were coming of age. The coronavirus pandemic and strict controls by the military-dominated government in mid-March shut down the wave of growing street protests.

In June 2020, government critic Wanchalearm Satsaksit disappeared in exile—the ninth exile to be allegedly murdered while living or traveling in Cambodia, Laos, or Vietnam. All nine cases remain stalled with little hope of the perpetrators being identified and brought to justice. For many observers, the failure to resolve in any of these cases suggests the involvement of the monarchy, but the lèse majesté law forecloses investigation into the king. Until Wanchalearm’s disappearance, this fear also kept public action around the cases limited to family and a small group of human rights activists. But the ninth disappearance, which came after many weeks without domestic transmission of COVID-19, sparked a return to the streets with demands focused on solutions to long-standing violence and injustice. Their actions reflected their recognition that if citizens cannot question the powerful—whether they wear the green of the military or the gilt of the monarchy—without risking arrest or death, then other forms of permissible political participation lack meaning.

During the eighty-five days between July 18 and October 10, there were at least 246 protests in sixty-two provinces around the country, with the savvy and verve of the organizers reflected in the presence of cartoon hamsters singing songs against dictatorship, fantasy movie and book tie-ins, and a replica and hologram projection of a now-missing monument to the end of the absolute monarchy. Three consistent demands emerged: cease intimidation of critics of the government, begin drafting a new constitution, and dissolve parliament. Reform of the monarchy was added to the picture after UFTD’s August 10 declaration. During this same period, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights , at least sixty-five activists were charged with crimes and 179 were followed, harassed, or intimidated following their dissident actions in the streets or online.

As protests grew in size and the calls for reform of the monarchy were put in clear, explicit, and detailed terms, arrests of protest leaders, including the arrests of student activist Panupong Jadnok and lawyer-poet Arnon Nampa , began. Each time someone was arrested, they were released shortly in the face of outrage and increased protests outside the police stations, courts, and prisons where they were held.

But it is the series of daily protests that began last week, on October 13, the anniversary of Rama IX’s death, that have locked the people, the state, and the monarchy into a battle unprecedented in Thai history.

The first volley took place on when protesters threw paint and yelled “release our friends” as Rama X’s car drove toward the Grand Palace for ceremonies marking his father’s death. He had recently arrived in Thailand with his wife and mistress from Germany, where he prefers to spend his time. (Bringing an end to his extraterritorial rule, as well as the significant public funds that support his lavish European lifestyle as ordinary Thais suffer under an economy ravaged by the pandemic, is one of UFTD’s demands.) A portion of the protesters, including Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, a lawyer and former student activist who was released in 2019 after spending two and a half years in prison for sharing a BBC news article about Rama X, were quickly rounded up.

The following night, protesters marched to Government House and were dispersed by police in the early hours of the morning. At 4 a.m. the next morning, a severe state of emergency was declared, criminalizing public demonstrations of five or more persons and giving the authorities extensive powers of arrest, search, and detention. A few hours later, the police arrested Rung and Nutchanon, along with other activists throughout the country, including fellow UFTD organizer Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. Most of the warrants, including Rung’s, were dated from protests in August and September. The authorities perhaps thought they were waiting for an opportune moment, but they miscalculated. The arrests have failed to shut down the movement.

Before being remanded, Rung penned a letter on a piece of paper she adorned with a line drawing of a rainbow (Rung means “rainbow” in Thai) that read: “If today I am not able to return to you, do not lose heart. I was prepared to sacrifice this for our struggle. You do not need to worry about me. Keep your morale up in the current situation. Everyone may see that the leaders are disappearing one by one. But in truth, we are with you always, we are with you in the form of ideals.”

On the evening of October 16, tens of thousands of people, mostly secondary school and university students in uniform, massed in Ratchaprasong, Bangkok’s shopping and financial district, in violation of the state of emergency decree. Repression was swift, with high-powered water cannons laced with chemicals deployed against the students. But like the arrests, the repression that night only caused the movement to expand. Outraged statements and declarations, including from those who previously leaned royalist or avoided politics, such as physicians, condemned the use of chemical agents against peaceful, unarmed protesters.

A series of fluid, leaderless protests inspired by last year’s Hong Kong protests took place across Bangkok and throughout the provinces over the weekend. They were all peaceful, all organized without the program of fiery speeches that characterized earlier protests, and were marked by care: protesters distributed raincoats, helmets, and snacks to one another. They occupied key intersections as they chanted and sang old and new Thai protest songs.

The confluence of criticism of the monarchy and the demonstration of concern and solidarity for fellow citizens portends an unprecedented democratic future in Thailand. The people are putting themselves in harm’s way for one another, rather than harming fellow Thais to defend the monarchy as they did on October 6, 1976, calling for the abrogation of democracy and a coup to protect the monarchy as they did prior to the September 19, 2006 coup, or sitting at home quietly as the army killed red-shirt protesters, who were often cast as not-quite-loyal-enough, in April and May of 2010.

Still, as the protests enter a second week, the outcome is far from certain. The people’s courage is not waning, and they continue to make real the ideals that Rung left them before being put behind bars. A new announcement that a military base has been designated as a detention center for those who protest in defiance of the emergency decree has not kept the people off the streets. On Monday afternoon, UFTD gave the government an ultimatum , calling for the prime minister and cabinet to resign immediately, revise the constitution in line with the people’s demands, reform the institution of the monarchy, revoke the emergency decree, and release all those being held. By Monday evening, TLHR reported that of the at least eighty-seven people arrested since October 13, only eight were still behind bars. Rung herself was slated for release on bail Tuesday morning, but was immediately re-arrested along with Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak on another set of charges before being sent to the court for another remand hearing likely on Wednesday.

The government is threatening harsh measures, but has enforced them unevenly. On Monday morning, censorship of four major independent media outlets and a student activist Facebook page was announced on Tuesday, a court ordered Voice TV off air. The other four continue to broadcast and disseminate news. Thailand’s history of coups and violence backed by the institution of the monarchy, which pushed people into the streets, means that they remain unsafe today. That won’t change until the monarchy is no longer at the center of political life.

Tyrell Haberkorn is Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow. She is the author of several books on Thailand, including most recently In Plain Sight: Impunity and Human Rights in Thailand (2018).


U.S. Relations With Thailand

The U.S.-Thai alliance benefits both our nations and supports peace and prosperit y in the Indo -Pacific . The first documented contact between the United States and Thailand was recorded in 1818. The first agreement signed with Thailand was the 1833 Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Since World War II, the United States and Thailand have significantly expanded diplomatic, security, and commercial relations and people-to-people ties. As of 2021, the United States commemorates nearly 190 years of friendly and formalized diplomatic relations with Thailand.

The United States and Thailand remain parties to the 1954 Manila Pact of the former Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which, together with the Thanat -Rusk communiqué of 1962 and the 2020 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance, constitutes the foundation of the U.S.-Thai defense alliance. In 2003, the United States designated Thailand a m ajor n on-NATO Ally.

U.S. Assistance to Thailand

Our partnership with Thailand is bilateral and regional in scope. U.S. support is geared toward promoting regional security and prosperity infectious disease prevention , treatment , and research combatting emerging pandemic threats humanitarian assistance for displaced persons combatting transnational crime , including conservation crimes support for civil society and the promotion of democracy and human rights.

The United States supports Thailand’s leadership in the Mekong region through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP ) as a development partner of the Mekong River Commission and a s a development partner of the Ayeyawady -Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), a partnership between the five Mekong – region countries to coordinate infrastructure development. Through the MUSP, the U.S. collaborates with Thailand and other Lower Mekong countries to strengthen transboundary economic connections and address emerging challenges, such as resource management, transnational crime, transparency and good governance, and human resource development.

The nine U.S. law enforcement agencies operating in Thailand with their Thai counterparts reflects the importance we place on Thailand as a partner and regional law enforcement leader. The U nited States and Thailand jointly operate the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, which since 1998 has provided training to more than 2 2 ,000 criminal justice sector officials from across Southeast Asia on topics such as counter-narcotics, countering trafficking in persons, cybercrime, and wildlife trafficking.

Thailand and the United States co-host Cobra Gold, the Indo-Pacific region’s largest annual multinational military exercise. Since 1950, Thailand has received U.S. military equipment, essential supplies, training, and other assistance in the construction and improvement of facilities. We have $2. 85 billion in ongoing Foreign Military Sales and an annual slate of more than 400 joint military exercises and engagements.

U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers, active in Thailand since 1962, focus on English teacher training in primary schools and youth life skills development. For more than 60 years, U.S. agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have partnered with Thai counterparts to safeguard the health of American, Thai, and international communities through medical research and innovation. Since 2017, USAID’s HIV/AIDS programs have benefitted more than 65,000 Thais, while U.S. assistance over the past 20 years has contributed to a decline in malaria deaths in the country of over 90 percent.

To control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand, the United States has committed nearly $ 8 .5 million to provide supplies for laboratories and frontline health care workers , increase communications to communities , and support response capacity as well as food security in all nine camps on the Thailand-Burma border hosting refugees from Burma . USAID environment programs conserve biodiversity, expand the use of data to inform policy decisions, including air quality, counter wildlife trafficking, and promote access to safe, affordable, reliable, and modern sources of energy.

The U.S. government funds several exchange programs which connect Thai youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders to their counterparts in the United States and the ASEAN region, engag ing them on strategic priorities ranging from civic engagement to economic sustainability. Thailand’s alumni community from U.S. government exchange programs is robust, as more than 6 ,000 Thais have visited the U nited S tates under the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), and other programs. YSEALI’s local network in Thailand has grown to over 16,000 members since its inception in 2013.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The IMF estimates Thailand’s GDP at $538.7 billion (April 2021), making it the largest economy in Mainland Southeast Asia, second largest in ASEAN, and larger than some members of the G20. Thailand is currently the United States’ 19th-largest goods trading partner, with $48.8 billion in two-way goods trade during 2020. The United States contributed $17.7 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Thailand in 2019, making it the third-largest foreign investor after Japan ($70 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).

The U.S.-Thailand Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in 2002 and provides the strategic framework and principles for dialogue and cooperation on trade and investment issues between the United States and Thailand. In the most recent U.S.-Thailand TIFA meeting, the two sides reaffirmed the importance of working together to strengthen the bilateral trade relationship and discussed a full range of issues, including those related to General System of Preferences reviews, agriculture, customs, intellectual property protection and enforcement, and labor.

Thailand’s Membership in International Organizations

Since becoming a member of the United Nations in 1946, Thailand has played many active roles in UN-related activities, most notably in peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations. Thailand is also a founding member of ASEAN and served as ASEAN Chair most recently in 2019.

Thailand and the United States participate in a number of the same international organizations, including the UN, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Thailand will also host APEC in 2022.

Bilateral Representation

Other principal officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List . The United States Mission to Thailand maintains an E mbassy in Bangkok and a C onsulate -G eneral in Chiang Mai .

Thailand maintains three Consulates-General in the United States in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, and a Trade Center in Miami.

Thailand’s Embassy in the United States is at 1024 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20007 Tel.: (202) 944-3600.

More information about Thailand is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:


Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape of men and women is illegal, although the government did not always enforce the law effectively. The law narrowly defined rape as acts in which male sex organs were used to physically violate victims, thereby leaving victims assaulted by perpetrators in other ways without legal remedies. The law permits authorities to prosecute spousal rape, and prosecutions occurred. The law specifies penalties for conviction of rape or forcible sexual assault ranging from four years’ imprisonment to the death penalty as well as fines.

NGOs said rape was a serious problem and that victims underreported rapes and domestic assaults, in part due to a lack of understanding by authorities that impeded effective implementation of the law regarding violence against women.

According to NGOs, agencies tasked with addressing the problem were underfunded, and victims often perceived police as incapable of bringing perpetrators to justice.

Domestic violence against women was a significant problem. The Ministry of Public Health operated one-stop crisis centers to provide information and services to victims of physical and sexual abuse throughout the country. The law establishes measures designed to facilitate both the reporting of domestic violence complaints and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Moreover, the law restricts media reporting on domestic-violence cases in the judicial system. NGOs expressed concern the law’s family unity approach put undue pressure on a victim to compromise without addressing safety problems and led to a low conviction rate.

In May the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security reported a doubling of reports of domestic violence after the COVID-19 emergency decree in April. In response the ministry added more staff to its hotline section to manage the increasing number of calls.

Authorities prosecuted some domestic-violence crimes under provisions for assault or violence against a person, where they could seek harsher penalties. The government operated shelters for domestic-violence victims, one in each province. The government’s crisis centers, located in all state-run hospitals, cared for abused women and children.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No specific law prohibits this practice. NGOs and international media reported Type IV FGM/C occurred in the Muslim-majority south, although statistics were unavailable. There were no reports of governmental efforts to prevent or address the practice.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is illegal in both the public and private sectors. The penal code specifies a fine and a jail term of one month for sexual harassment, while abuse categorized as an indecent act may result in a fine and a maximum 15 years’ imprisonment. Sexual harassment in the workplace may be punished by modest fines. The law governing the civil service also prohibits sexual harassment and stipulates five levels of punishment: probation, docked wages, salary reduction, suspension, and termination. NGOs claimed the legal definition of harassment was vague and prosecution of harassment claims difficult, leading to ineffective enforcement of the law.

Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: The constitution provides that “men and women shall enjoy equal rights and liberties. Unjust discrimination against a person on the grounds of differences in origin, race, language, sex, age, disability, physical or health condition, personal status, economic or social standing, religious belief, education or political view, shall not be permitted.”

The Ministry of Social Development and Human Security took steps to implement legislation mandating gender equality by allocating funding to increase awareness about the law and promote gender education and equality, and by hearing from complainants who experienced gender discrimination. Since 2016 the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has received 58 complaints and issued judgment in 44 cases gender discrimination was ruled in 23 cases. The majority of cases related to transgender persons facing discrimination (see section 6, Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity). Human rights advocates expressed concern about lengthy delays in reviewing individual discrimination complaints and a lack of awareness among the public and within the ministry’s provincial offices.

Women generally enjoyed the same legal status and rights as men but sometimes experienced discrimination, particularly in employment. The law imposes a maximum jail term of six months, a fine, or both, for anyone convicted of gender discrimination. The law mandates nondiscrimination based on gender and sexual identity in policy, rule, regulation, notification, project, or procedure by government, private organizations, and any individual, but it also stipulates two exceptions criticized by civil society groups: religious principles and national security.

Women were unable to confer citizenship to their noncitizen spouses in the same way as male citizens.

Women comprised approximately 12 percent of the country’s military personnel. Ministry of Defense policy limits the percentage of female officers to not more than 25 percent in most units, with specialized hospital or medical, budgetary, and finance units permitted 35 percent. Military academies (except for the nursing academy) refused admission to female students, although a significant number of instructors were women.

Since 2018 women have been barred from applying to the police academy. Activists criticized this as contrary to the aims of legislation promoting gender equality and formally petitioned the Office of the Ombudsman to urge the decision be revisited. The police academy continues to accept only male applicants. The Royal Thai Police listed “being a male” as a requirement in an employment announcement for police investigators and other positions the NHRCT and the Association of Female Police Investigators objected publicly to this requirement. The Committee Examining Gender Discrimination, an agency under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, filed a petition to the Office of the Ombudsman, which responded that the committee did not have standing to file the petition. Despite this, the Royal Thai Police did accept some female police investigators in 2019.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is conferred at birth if at least one parent is a citizen. Birth within the country does not automatically confer citizenship, but regulations entitle all children born in the country to birth registration, which qualifies them for certain government benefits regardless of citizenship (see section 2.g.). The law stipulates every child born in the country receive an official birth certificate regardless of the parents’ legal status. In remote areas some parents did not obtain birth certificates for their children due to administrative complexities and a lack of recognition of the importance of the document. In the case of hill-tribe members and other stateless persons, NGOs reported misinformed or unscrupulous local officials, language barriers, and restricted mobility made it difficult to register births.

Education: An NCPO order provides that all children receive free “quality education for 15 years, from preschool to the completion of compulsory education,” which is defined as through grade 12. NGOs reported children of registered migrants, unregistered migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers had limited access to government schools.

Child Abuse: The law provides for the protection of children from abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment carry harsher penalties if the victim is a child. The penalties for raping a child younger than age 15 range from four to 20 years’ imprisonment and fines. Those convicted of abandoning a child younger than age nine are subject to a jail term of three years, a fine, or both. The law provides for protection of witnesses, victims, and offenders younger than age 18 in abuse and pedophilia cases. Advocacy groups stated police often ignored or avoided child-abuse cases.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum legal age for marriage for both sexes is 17, while anyone younger than 21 requires parental consent. A court may grant permission for children younger than 17 to marry.

In the Muslim-majority southernmost provinces, Islamic law used for family matters and inheritance allows the marriage of young girls after their first menstrual cycle with parental approval. In 2018 the Islamic Committee of Thailand raised the minimum age for Muslims to marry from ages 15 to 17. A Muslim younger than 17 may marry with a written court order or written parental consent, which is considered by a special subcommittee of three members, of which at least one member must be a woman with knowledge of Islamic law.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age for consensual sex is 15. The law provides heavy penalties for persons who procure, lure, compel, or threaten children younger than 18 for the purpose of prostitution, with higher penalties for persons who purchase sexual intercourse with a child younger than 15. Authorities may punish parents who allow a child to enter into prostitution and revoke their parental rights. The law prohibits the production, distribution, import, or export of child pornography. The law also imposes heavy penalties for sexually exploiting persons younger than 18, including for pimping, trafficking, and other sexual crimes against children.

Child sex trafficking remained a problem, and the country continued to be a destination for child sex tourism, although the government continued to make efforts to combat the problem. Children from migrant populations, ethnic minority groups, and poor families remained particularly vulnerable, and police arrested parents who forced their children into prostitution. Citizens and foreign sex tourists committed pedophilia crimes, including the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and production and distribution of child pornography.

There were numerous reported cases of rape and sexual harassment of girls, often in school environments. In May police arrested five teachers and two alumni of a school in Mukdahan Province for repeatedly raping a student, age 14, over the course of one year. Another student, age 16, subsequently alleged being raped by the same group of teachers and alumni. The teachers were fired from their jobs and had their teaching licenses revoked. They were charged with sexual assault and released on bail as the investigation continued. In August the parents of a fifth-grade student at a school in Kalasin Province filed a complaint against a teacher, age 57, for molesting their child. In October, five eighth-grade students filed complaints against the director of a school in Khon Kaen Province for sexual assault. Investigations into both cases continued.

The government made efforts throughout the year to combat the sexual exploitation of children. In July the Ministry of Education opened a center to protect students from sexual exploitation by teachers and other educational personnel. The center developed a set of measures to prevent and suppress sexual assaults against students, and provided protection and compensation to the victims. In its first month the center handled at least 16 cases, leading to the revocation of teaching credentials, suspension from duty of perpetrators, or both.

Displaced Children: Authorities generally referred street children to government shelters located in each province, but foreign undocumented migrants avoided the shelters due to fear of deportation. As of November the government estimated 30,000 street children sought shelter nationwide. In November the NGO Foundation for the Better Life of Children reported approximately 50,000 children were living on the streets, 20,000 of them foreign born. The government generally sent citizen street children to school, occupational training centers, or back to their families with social-worker supervision. The government repatriated some street children who came from other countries.

Institutionalized Children: There were limited reports of abuse in orphanages or other institutions.

International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

Anti-Semitism

The resident Jewish community is very small, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/ .

Persons with Disabilities

The constitution prohibits discrimination based on disability and physical or health conditions. The law provides tax benefits to employers employing a certain number of persons with disabilities, such as special income-tax deductions to promote employment of such persons.

The government modified many public accommodations and buildings to accommodate persons with disabilities, but government enforcement was not consistent. The law mandates persons with disabilities have access to information, communications, and newly constructed buildings, but authorities did not uniformly enforce these provisions. The law entitles persons with disabilities who register with the government to free medical examinations, wheelchairs, and crutches.

The government’s Community-based Rehabilitation Program and the Community Learning Center for Persons with Disabilities project operated in all provinces. The government provided five-year, interest-free, small-business loans for persons with disabilities.

The government maintained dozens of separate schools and education centers for children with disabilities and operated occupational and career development centers for adults with disabilities. The law requires all government schools nationwide to accept students with disabilities, and a majority of schools taught students with disabilities during the year. The government also operated shelters and rehabilitation centers specifically for persons with disabilities, including day care centers for autistic children.

Organizations for persons with disabilities reported difficulty in accessing information about a range of public services.

Some disability rights activists alleged that government officials, including from the National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities at the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and private companies often contracted with organizations for persons with disabilities to recruit employees with disabilities, an arrangement that could allow dishonest officials and the staff of such organizations to keep a portion of the wages intended for those workers.

Indigenous People

Stateless members of hill tribes faced restrictions on their movement, were not permitted to own land, had difficulty accessing bank credit, and faced discrimination in employment. Although labor law gives them the right to equal treatment as employees, employers often violated those rights by paying them less than their citizen coworkers and less than minimum wage. The law further bars them from government welfare services but affords them limited access to government-subsidized medical treatment.

The law provides citizenship eligibility to certain categories of hill tribes who were not previously eligible (see section 2.g.). The government supported efforts to register citizens and educate eligible hill-tribe members about their rights.

Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

No law criminalizes expression of sexual orientation or consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.

The LGBTI community reported that police treated LGBTI victims of crime the same as other persons except in the case of sexual crimes, where there was a tendency to downplay sexual abuse or not to take harassment seriously.

The law does not permit transgender persons to change their gender on identification documents, which, coupled with societal discrimination, limited their employment opportunities.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) and NGOs reported that LGBTI persons experienced discrimination, particularly in rural areas. The UNDP also reported media represented LGBTI persons in stereotypical and harmful ways resulting in discrimination.

Legislation mandating gender equality prohibits discrimination “due to the fact that the person is male or female or of a different appearance from his or her own sex by birth” and protects transgender students from discrimination. The country’s Fourth National Human Rights Plan, covering the period 2019-22, was approved by the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board in March and by the cabinet in June. The plan includes LGBTI persons as one of 12 groups in its action plan.

NGOs and the United Nations reported transgender persons faced discrimination in various sectors, including in the military conscription process, while in detention, and because of strict policies in place at most schools and universities that require students to wear uniforms that align with their biological gender. Some universities relaxed dress codes during the year, partly in response to student-led protests that called for reforms in the educational system. In June, Thammasat University announced it would allow students to wear uniforms that match their chosen sexual identity while also outlining a code of conduct that prohibits bullying, insulting, discriminating, or intimidating behavior by faculty or students towards LGBTI students.

In May 2019 the Ministry of Education introduced a new curriculum incorporating discussion of sexual orientation and gender diversity for grades one to 12 this followed two years of advocacy by the LGBTI community. NGOs continued to encourage the Ministry of Education to make the curriculum compulsory, and continued to work with the ministry on curriculum development and to organize training courses to prepare teachers to teach it effectively.

HIV and AIDS Social Stigma

Some social stigma remained for persons with HIV/AIDS, despite intensive educational efforts by the government and NGOs. There were reports some employers fired or refused to hire persons who tested positive for HIV.


Thailand Human Rights - History

ASEAN: Decades of Achievements

Since its inception in 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has made a number of achievements towards regional peace, stability, and prosperity. Thailand has played an active role in ASEAN from the very beginning. Thailand is one of the founding members of ASEAN, together with Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. The ASEAN Declaration, or Bangkok Declaration, was signed on 8 August 1967 at Saranrom Palace, Bangkok. As stipulated in the Bangkok Declaration, ASEAN was established with an aim to promote peace and stability, and accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in a spirit of equality and partnership. Over the years, ASEAN has gradually evolved and expanded to include Brunei Darussalam (1984), Viet Nam (1995), Lao PDR and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).

From a loose association in 1967, ASEAN has transformed into a rule‐based regional organization with the entry into force of the ASEAN Charter in 2008 and earned worldwide recognition as a dynamic regional grouping.

The peace and stability that the Southeast Asian countries have been enjoying today to a large extent, largely due to ASEAN’s role as a forum that promotes and fosters trust and confidence amongst its Member States. ASEAN has successfully maintained peace, stability and security in the region through the various frameworks and mechanisms, such as Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) (1971), Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) (1976), and Southeast Asian Nuclear‐Weapon‐Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ) (1995). To further enhance regional cooperation in political and security issues, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was established in 1994, which now comprises 27 participating countries including all major regional players and serves as a forum for constructive dialogue and consultation to promote confidence‐building and preventive diplomacy in the region.

On the economic front, ASEAN has made an important milestone in regional economic integration with the conclusion of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) Agreement in 1992. Since then, ASEAN has continuously pursued closer economic cooperation in trade, services and investment, and moved towards a single market and production base to increase the regional competitiveness. Furthermore, ASEAN Leaders have agreed to start negotiating on the RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) which will encompass 6 Dialogue Partners, i.e. China, Japan, Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

ASEAN has also enjoyed functional cooperation in many areas, such as education, disaster management, health, environment, rural development, and science and technology (S&T), to name just a few. Such cooperation has helped increase regional resilience and enabled us to respond effectively to challenges such as pandemics (SARS), natural disasters (2004 tsunami and 2008 Cyclone Nargis), and other transboundary challenges such as haze and drugs.

With regard to external relations, ASEAN has cultivated close cooperation in numerous fields in the frameworks of ASEAN+1 (with its 10 dialogue partners, i.e. Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, United States, and European Union), ASEAN+3 and the East Asia Summit (EAS). With the participation of Russia and the United States in 2011, the EAS now includes a number of key global players. Three out of five Permanent Members of the UNSC and eight members of the G20 are now part of the EAS.

Thailand’s Contribution to ASEAN

ASEAN has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of Thailand’s foreign policy. Thailand attaches great importance to enhancing cooperation within ASEAN frameworks to build trust and confidence among ASEAN Member States, as well as to promote peace, stability and prosperity in the region.

Thailand’s contribution to ASEAN has been continuous and active. Under our chairmanship in 2008‐2009, the ASEAN Charter entered into force and transformed ASEAN into a truly rule‐based organization. Thailand is thus fully committed to the effective implementation of the ASEAN Charter, which is vital to the ASEAN community‐building process.

Another important document adopted during Thailand’s Chairmanship in 2009 is the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009‐2015) which lays down a series of actions to guide our community building efforts in all three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political‐Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio‐Cultural Community. Thailand believes that progress in all the three pillars will support a strong ASEAN community building process beyond 2015.

In the political and security field, Thailand is committed to working with ASEAN Member States to maintain a peaceful and stable regional environment, which is vital for continued economic development and growth in this region. Thailand has been at the forefront of regional efforts in building trust and confidence through the various existing mechanisms and frameworks such as the TAC, the EAS, the ADMM and ADMM Plus, as well as the ARF. We have worked actively with our ASEAN colleagues to promote preventive diplomacy and ascertain that all existing dispute settlement mechanisms truly function.

Thailand has also played an important role in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region, as testified by the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) under our chairmanship in 2009. Thailand has also actively participated and supported the involvement of relevant stakeholders in the region in the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, which was adopted by ASEAN Leaders at the 21st ASEAN Summit.

In the economic field, Thailand sees regional economic integration as a means to ensuring sustainable and equitable growth in the region, enhancing competitiveness of ASEAN Member States, and contributing to our integration into the global economy. Thailand has been a strong advocate for ASEAN’s regional economic integration, which has taken shape since the inception of AFTA in 1992. Thailand will continue to play an active role in deepening regional economic cooperation through the development of the RCEP, which will represent the size of half of the global market and help further boost the collective vibrant economic potential in East Asia.

With 10 countries of ASEAN becoming one community, enhanced connectivity within and beyond our region is vital. Therefore, Thailand proposed the concept of enhanced ASEAN connectivity in a comprehensive manner, comprising physical, institutional and people‐to‐ 4 people connectivity. The implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity is one of the top priority areas in ASEAN.

In the socio‐cultural field, Thailand is a strong proponent of a people‐centred ASEAN Community as envisioned by the ASEAN Charter. Under our chairmanship, Thailand has initiated the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting with representatives of ASEAN Inter‐Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), civil society organizations (CSOs) and youth to increase their interaction with ASEAN and promote their involvement in the community‐building process.

Thailand will also continue to work closely with our ASEAN colleagues to further enhance regional cooperation in various socio‐cultural areas, such as disaster management, education, narrowing development gap, environment, public health, as well as building an ASEAN identity, in order to achieve a caring and sharing society in ASEAN.

ASEAN Community by 2015: Challenges and Way Forward

Regional integration is at the heart of our ASEAN Community efforts. Thailand sees the emerging ASEAN Community as another important milestone in an evolving process towards closer regional integration.

The ASEAN Community is envisioned to be a peaceful, stable and prosperous community that can effectively address present and future challenges, play a constructive role in the global community and make meaningful contributions to regional and international peace and security.

In today’s globalized world with intertwined economic interests and uncertain security environment, a peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN Community is both economic and strategic necessity. A strong and successful ASEAN is in the interests of countries both within and outside Southeast Asia.

ASEAN is a diverse region in terms of geographical locations, political systems, level of economic development, and historical and cultural backgrounds. ASEAN Member States should work to translate the diversity into advantages and opportunities. To achieve this, Thailand believes that it is of vital importance to maintain unity and cohesiveness in ASEAN, and look 5 beyond our national interests for long‐term regional interests. ASEAN also needs to manage its relations with major powers in a balanced, constructive and transparent manner to build trust and confidence. As such, ASEAN will continue to maintain its centrality in the evolving regional architecture.

Meanwhile, ASEAN should continue its outward looking policy to remain an important pillar of peace and stability, as well as economic growth in the wider East Asia and Asia‐Pacific region.

ASEAN’s efforts to deepen regional integration and cooperation should aim towards the long‐ term goal of building an integrated East Asian region. ASEAN should utilize the various existing processes such as ASEAN+3 and the EAS to realize the vision of an East Asian community with ASEAN as the driving force. This will promote shared economic interest and contribute to sustainable peace and long‐term stability in the region.


THAILAND: Human Rights at Risk as State of Emergency Declared

Under the Emergency Decree on Government Administration in a State of Emergency (2005), the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decreed a State of Emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas on January 22, 2014. The Emergency Decree gives blanket powers to state actors to take a wide range of actions to resolve the State of Emergency, including making arrests, censoring the press, restricting movement and using armed force and will be in force for 60 days. The announcement of the Emergency Decree has come after over two months of protracted, contentious protests by the People’s Democratic Reform Council (PRDC) led by former deputy prime minister, Suthep Thaugsuban, against the government. The goal of these protests has been to oust the current government and replace it with an appointed council. At times the protests have become violent, particularly against those perceived as government supporters or other critics. While the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is aware of the threats posed to human rights, as well as the rule of law in a broad sense, by the PDRC protests, we would also like to condemn the declaration of the Emergency Decree and warn that it creates a legal vacuum in which the government can violate human rights in the name of security.

The protests of the PRDC are one more round in the ongoing political conflict that began with the September 19, 2006 coup in Thailand. This conflict, often framed in terms of the royalist-nationalist “Yellow Shirts” against the populist “Red Shirts,” is a heterogeneous conflict about who has a right to participate in the governance of the country. In total, since the protests began in November 2013, 10 people have been killed and over 100 injured. While these deaths and injuries are still being investigated, preliminary reports suggest that causes have included clashes between the PDRC and Red Shirt activists, clashes between the PDRC and state security forces, and instances of bombing and shooting in the area of the protests.

Although the PDRC is a new organization which emerged in late 2013, many of the leaders and participants are Yellow Shirts. This round began as protests in Bangkok against the draft amnesty bill in early November 2013 and then expanded to a wide call for the resignation of the PM Yingluck government and replacement of it by a royally-appointed People’s Council of “good people” to “reform” the country before holding new elections. On December 9, 2013, amidst the rising protests, PM Yingluck dissolved parliament and new elections were scheduled for February 2, 2014. The PDRC, however, was not satisfied. They have vowed to continue their protests occupying different parts of Bangkok and provincial halls until their demands for “reform” are carried out before new elections are held. The PDRC has not fully or clearly defined what they mean by “reform,” nor what would satisfy them enough to end their protests. Although the PDRC has claimed to be fully nonviolent, and has employed some tactics of civil disobedience, their rhetoric and actions also contain a violent undercurrent. In areas of Bangkok occupied by the PDRC, citizens who wish to enter the area may be prevented from doing so by the PDRC guards or subject to search and harassment. In a report carried by Prachatai online newspaper, two men who were detained by the PDRC describe being interrogated and viciously beaten because they were judged to be Red Shirts [ click here to read the Thai-language report]. The kind of violence these two men were subject to suggests that despite its claims to civil disobedience, the PDRC is becoming a para-state organization. In this respect it is not unique: since the 2006 coup, and particularly since 2009, there has been use of violence by para-military elements on all sides of the conflict. In addition to violating the human rights of those are victimized by this violence, this also damages the broader context of the promotion and consolidation of human rights and the rule of law, which all sides claim to support. The AHRC therefore calls on all civilian parties in this conflict to respect human rights and refrain from using violence.

The AHRC is concerned that the Emergency Decree may create the conditions for the government to violate rights, rather than protect them. The Emergency Decree gives authorities wide powers, including arbitrary arrest and detention, the setting of a curfew, and the curtailing of the circulation of news and other information. When the announcement was made on Monday, January 21, 2014, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul explained that the decree was being used in order to use the law to address the violations of law committed by the PDRC demonstrators and for democracy to progress in Thailand. As the AHRC has repeatedly documented in the case of three southernmost provinces of Thailand, which has been under the Emergency Decree since July 2005, the decree creates a dangerous legal vacuum in which arbitrary detention and torture have frequently occurred, and in which redress is frequently difficult (see AHRC End Emergency Decree in Thailand). In a statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in May 2010, the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), the sister organization of the AHRC, noted that the Emergency Decree was used by the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva government to arbitrarily detain and interrogate its critics (ALRC-CWS-14-01-2010). Despite the state intentions of the current government to use the Emergency Decree in the service of protecting democracy, the very form of the law makes this impossible. Therefore, the Asian Human Rights Commission also reiterates its calls, made since the time of the decree’s introduction, that this measure be revoked and for the government of Thailand to use only ordinary laws, consistent with international human rights standards, in dealing with political exigencies.


Watch the video: Universal Declaration of Human Rights