Thailand Reports to UN on Human Rights, Amid Criticism

Pimuk Rakkanam
160511-TH-UPR-620.jpg Human rights groups representatives discuss Thailand’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, May 11, 2016.

Thai officials Wednesday presented their nation’s periodic report on human rights to a U.N. body reviewing Thailand’s performance in that area, but without commenting on criticisms leveled at the junta over arrests of government critics and restrictions on free speech.

“We hope we will all learn together from the review today,” Justice Ministry Permanent Secretary Chanchao Chaiyanukij told a United Nations Human Rights Council (OHCHR) hearing in Geneva, as it opened a hearing into Thailand’s National Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report on human rights.

“You need to take human rights into consideration when formulating policies,” he went to say. “However, the protection and promotion of human rights is not the sole work of the government, but of society as a whole.”

Thailand submitted the report to the council in February, and is one of 14 U.N. member-states undergoing a four-year review of their human rights records by the council. The U.N. body is expected to issue its non-binding recommendations for Thailand on Friday.

The Thai delegation will then announce which of the U.N.’s recommendations it will accept, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said after Wednesday’s hearing.

OHHCR last reviewed Thailand’s human rights performance in 2011, when a civilian-led government was in power.

While “several countries commended Thailand” for promoting economic, social and cultural rights, the MFA noted in statement that “concerns were expressed” at the session over freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly and other issues. But the ministry did not say more.

During the hearing Thailand was criticized by other nations and rights groups over its rights record under the junta, which seized power two years ago.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) was among rights advocacy groups that slammed the junta on Wednesday.

“The Thai government’s responses to the U.N. review fail to show any real commitment to reversing its abusive rights practices or protecting fundamental freedoms,” John Fisher, the Geneva director of HRW, said in a press release.

“While numerous countries raised concerns about the human rights situation in Thailand, the Thai delegation said nothing that would dispel fears of a continuing crisis.”

Social media arrests

The hearing occurred amid Thailand’s recent arrests of nine people over social media posts that took aim at the government and monarchy. Among those charged in recent days was the mother of an activist.

On Tuesday, Thailand freed on bail eight of these people – activists who were arrested on April 27 over social media posts that allegedly criticized the junta and a controversial draft constitution that will be up for a national referendum on Aug. 7, Reuters reported.

In its written report to the OHCHR, the Thai government spelled out its views on free speech.

“Thailand fully respects freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of assembly as they form basic foundation of a democratic society. However, freedom of expression shall be exercised in a constructive manner and does not insult any faith or belief system, be they religions or main institutions. In addition, freedom of expression should also be exercised in an appropriate context, which means time, place and manner, and shall not disrupt social order and security,” the report stated.

It also touched on Lese-Majeste, Thailand’s strict royal defamation law, under which the junta has carried out many arrests for perceived slights against the monarchy.

“The Thai monarchy is highly revered and has been a pillar of stability in the country. The Lese-Majeste law is part of the Criminal code and gives great protection to the rights or reputations of the King, the Queen, the Heir apparent, or the Regent. … It is not aimed at curbing people’s rights to freedom of expression or academic freedom,” the report said.

US deplores woman’s arrest

A recent case involving Lese-Majeste was the arrest of Patnaree Charnkij, the mother of pro-democracy activist Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwit. Last week, she turned herself in to police on an arrest warrant for allegedly defaming the monarchy via Facebook and violating Thailand’s computer-crimes law.

Patnaree’s attorney, Arnon Nampa, said his client was charged for not dissuading another user of the social media network from posting messages online that could be construed as defamatory to the royal family. She has since been freed on bail, but her arrest has drawn criticism from the United States, one of Thailand’s key allies, and elsewhere.

“We are troubled by the recent arrests of individuals in connection with online postings, and the detention of Patnaree Charnkij, the mother of a political activist. The arrest and harassment of activists and their family members raise serious concerns about Thailand’s adherence to its international obligation to protect freedom of expression. These actions create a climate of intimidation and self-censorship,” said Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

“We urge the government to allow for an open and inclusive debate on Thailand’s political future,” she added.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.