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Thailand’s Rule of Law & Human Rights

The 2007 Constitution guarantees the human dignity, rights and liberties and equality of the people. However, key human rights issues remain a concern, including freedom of religion, freedom of expression, access to information, and community rights. For example, lèse majesté laws criminalize criticisms of the royal family and royal policies and are often used a tool to curtail freedom of expression, public opinion, and internet freedoms.

The Office of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT), which came into existence in 1999 and began operating in July 2001, is an independent organization established by the 1997 Constitution with a mandate for the promotion and protection of human rights. NHRCT prepares reports of human rights violations that include specific details of the violations and suggestions for appropriate remedial measures. In order to conduct its investigations, NHRCT has the power to demand relevant documents or evidence from any person or summon any person to give statements of fact. While the Commission has no power to enforce or sanction a violator’s non-compliance, it can bring cases to the Court of Justice, Administrative Court and Constitutional Court for review.

Other national institutions relevant to the promotion and the protection of human rights and rule of law include the Office of the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman Thailand, the Law Reform Commission, the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Parliamentary Committee on Vulnerable Groups Affairs, the Constitutional Court of the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Office of the Election Commission of Thailand. There are also several bodies within the Senate, including the Committee on Good Governance; Committee on Human Rights, Rights and Liberties and Consumer Protection; Committee on Justice and Police Affairs; Committee on Political Development and Public Participation.

Thailand is a signatory to the Rome Statute and party eight of nine international human rights treaties, namely, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its three Optional Protocols, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Thailand is a signatory to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CPED).

Despite constitutional guarantees of human rights, various human rights challenges were reported and highlighted during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) session in October 2011. Especially of concern was the situation of vulnerable groups, notably migrant workers and their families. The Report of the UPR Working Group also focused on the ongoing security issues in the southern part of Thailand which involved protracted violence. The Government aims to address this matter through reconciliation and other peaceful means. The Report also highlighted alleged restrictions imposed on the freedom of expression, especially through the use of the lèse majesté laws.

Thailand accepted 134 UPR recommendations which include, among others:

  • Ratify or accede to international treaties including the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, and Palermo Protocol;
  • Withdraw all reservations to Article 16 of the CEDAW and Article 18 of the CRPD;
  • Include a definition of torture, which in line with Article 1 of CAT into the Criminal Code, enactment of legislation criminalizing torture;
  • Issue standing invitations to all special procedures;
  • Provide capacity building of law enforcement personnel through human rights trainings;
  • Adopt necessary measures to eradicate and eliminate violence against women and negative stereotyping;
  • Take efforts to eradicate human trafficking and child pornography.

Since 2003, eight visits of the UN special procedures have been undertaken at the invitation of the Thai Government, including the visits of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders (2003), Special Rapporteur on trafficking (2011), and Special Rapporteur on safe drinking water and sanitation. However, to date, Thailand has yet to allow the visit of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions although a request has been made four times in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

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