Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued its 29th
annual review of human rights situation around the world for the year 2019 (World Report 2019), which presents several human rights issues in Thailand in 2018.
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) has considered the report and found that it may contain incorrect or unfair descriptions about the human rights situation in Thailand. The NHRCT has thus examined them with a view to providing correct facts about the situation and disseminating them to the public in accordance with its mandate and responsibilities provided for in Section 247 (4) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand B.E. 2560 (2017) and Section 26 (4) together with Section 44 of the Enabling Act on the National Human Rights Commission B.E. 2560 (2017).
In general, the NHRCT found that some of the issues about the human rights situation in Thailand in 2018 contained in HRW report of 2019 are the same as those presented in its previous report, which the NHRCT had examined, found unfair or incorrect facts, and provided explanation. Those are issues related to enforced disappearance and torture, 2010 political protests, amendment of the NHRCT act and its impact on NHRCT independence, the unrest and unlawful practices in southern border provinces, and anti-narcotic policy. The NHRCT reaffirms the information provided on such issues as appeared in the NHRCT’s explanation no. 1/2018 of 18 April 2018.
The NHRCT has examined the remaining content of the HRW report of 2019 on the human rights situation in Thailand and wishes to provide explanation and additional information on the following points which it found incorrect or unfair as follows:
1. Free expression
1.1. A claim that the government delayed the lifting of severe restrictions on free expression, association, and assembly despite the announcement of a national election in February 2019.
Upon examination of the claim, the NHRCT found that on 11 December 2018 Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) issued Order no. 22/2018 on the engagement of people and political parties in political activities in the lead up to the election. The Order had nullified many orders previously issued by the NCPO Head, including decriminalizing any political assembly or demonstration of 5 or more persons as in Section 12 of the Order no. 3/2015. This has allowed people and political parties to engage in political activities from 11 December 2018 onward and the general election was successfully held on 24 March 2019.
1.2. A claim that at least 130 pro-democracy activists in Bangkok and other provinces faced illegal assembly charges - and in some cases, sedition - for peacefully demanding the junta’s promised election to be held without further delay and that all restrictions on fundamental freedoms be immediately lifted.
The NHRCT examined the claim and found that the nullification of Section 12 of the NCPO Head Order no. 3/2015 by the above-mentioned Order no. 22/2018 has resulted in the court disposing cases related to political assembly or demonstration of 5 or more persons. Moreover, it was found from the examination related to pro-democracy movements that in some cases where the authorities blocked the demonstration, the demonstration manager requested the administrative court to provide provisional remedial measures for the protection of freedom of peaceful assembly. This was the case of “We Walk...Walk for Friendship” organized by People Go Network in January 2018, in which the Central Administrative Court issued the order forbidding authorities from taking any actions that might obstruct the exercise of freedom of lawful assembly and instructing them to exercise their power under Public Assembly Act B.E. 2558 (2015) in facilitating the demonstration and maintaining public order and moral. As a consequence, the demonstration could be successfully held.
2. Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Migrant Workers
2.1. A claim that the government has launched a nationwide crackdown on illegal migrants and arrested more than 200 refugees and asylum seekers from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Pakistan. They have since been detained in squalid immigration lockups. More than 50 children have been separated from their parents.
NHRCT wishes to provide additional information on the separation of children from their parents that on 21 January 2019, relevant state agencies signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the determination of
alternative measures and approaches to detention of children in immigration detention centers to give effect to the government policy of
ceasing the detention of children. The MoU has the objectives of identifying the responsibilities of and providing guidelines for all concerned parties in their work to ensure no detention of children under 18 years in immigration facilities. The children and their mothers will be placed in Homes for Children and Families under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, or under the care of NGOs or civil society organizations while longer term assistance measures are being sought. With further examination, the NHRCT found that in a resolution of 10 January 2017, the cabinet endorsed the principle of having an immigration screening system developed. Concerned state agencies are in the process of drafting a regulation of the Office of the Prime Minister on the identification and protection of persons entering the Kingdom who cannot return to their country of residence B.E. ….
2.2. A claim that the influential National Fisheries Association of Thailand (NFAT) campaigned against ratification and implementation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188), which would ensure vulnerable fishing workers are sufficiently protected.
Upon examination of the claim, it was found that on 30 January 2019 Thailand ratified the International Labour Organization Convention No. 188 on Work in Fishing, which will become effective on 30 January 2020. As a result, Thailand is obligated to take necessary actions to protect the rights of workers in the fishing sector in accordance with the Convention’s provisions. The Fishing Worker Protection Act B.E. 2562 (2019) has been subsequently enacted to implement the Convention.