THAILAND does not have a particularly impressive human rights record. The country continues to sustain controversies and global outrage for corruption, human trafficking, censorship, restrictions of freedom of expression, and government linked abuse.
While the nation has deep-rooted and intricate social and political issues, human rights groups admit that the country is making progress. Although Thailand has taken steps in the right direction, there are still major concerns with violations that clearly don’t meet international human rights standards.
“Human rights are a work in progress in Thailand,” said Amy Smith, Executive Director of Fortify Rights. “Now is the time for Thailand to remedy past violations and fortify the future of human rights in the country.”
According to a report new released Wednesday by Fortify Rights titled A Work In Progress: Thailand’s Compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Thai authorities have yet to properly fulfill their international legal obligations to protect civil and political rights.
Conducted from 2014 to 2017, the report illustrates disturbing continuances of violations and mistreatments under the NCPO (ruling junta). Investigation conducted by Fortify Rights details in-depth testimony from eyewitnesses and survivors of abuse.
The report documents killings with impunity, arbitrary detentions, violations of free speech and assembly, violations against refugees, vast amounts of human trafficking, and unchecked attacks on human rights defenders.
During a panel discussion Wednesday, in which the report was presented; Angkhana Neelaphaijit, a National Human Rights Commissioner and wife of disappeared human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit, described the importance of protecting human rights defenders. She also highlighted the potential dangers of Thailand’s legislative Article 44, a law that has been criticised as broad, and dangerously far reaching.
“Protecting human rights defenders is our key strategy,” says Neelaphaijit. “Article 44 has been used in others areas with violations of accountability, and transparency”.
Additionally, the report indicates that there have been physical attacks on human rights defenders by unknown perpetrators. Unfortunately, threats to human rights defenders are not rhetorical, or used simply as scare tactics. Human rights defenders have been attacked physically for doing their job. In regional areas especially, threats and attacks are much more likely to occur.
In the remote northeastern province of Loei, environmental activists for the Khon Rak Ban Kerd Group (KRBKG) and the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT), have experienced both violent attacks, and criminal charges.
“Human rights defenders play a critical role in rights-respecting societies,” said Amy Smith. “Rights defenders should be protected and championed, not harassed and imprisoned.”
Another vital point reviewed in the report demonstrates collusion between government entities and human-trafficking syndicates. Thai officials have been found increasingly complicit in human trafficking situations, and according to survivor testimonies collected by Fortify Rights, the scope of trafficking of Rohingya and Bangladesh nationals is much larger than originally estimated.
Sutharee Wannasiri, a human rights specialist with Fortify Rights described the risks with new amendments to Thailand’s Computer Crime Act during the session on Wednesday. She also expressed alarm with the state of detention centers that currently house hundreds of Rohingya survivors of human trafficking and refugees, survivors that are currently being held indefinitely.
As standards may indeed be improving in Thailand in some areas, it is pivotal to maintain accountability in others where much work is still vitally needed.
“Fortify Rights is concerned with the indefinite detention of Rohingya refugees, along with the deplorable conditions inside these immigration detention centers,” says Wannasiri. “We urge Thailand to end indefinite detention of refugees, and improve conditions inside the detention facilities to meet with international standards.”