CONCLUDING observations by a United Nations human rights body have criticised Thailand’s lack of protection and redress for human rights defenders, women and other vulnerable groups, who are victims of rights abuses in the military-run state.
After almost a month of hearings, the UN Human Rights Committee published its findings on the civil and political rights record of Thailand in Geneva on Tuesday.
The committee welcomed Thailand’s introduction of legislation covering gender equality, access to justice and a third National Human Rights Plan for 2014 to 2018. It also welcomed Thailand’s ratification of international UN Conventions on disability, child rights, and torture.
But the committee raised many concerns regarding Thailand’s military-led government, the so-called National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), and its implementation of an interim Constitution in 2014.
It notes hundreds of people have been jailed since 2014’s military coup for exercising their right to freedom of assembly and expression.
During the hearings this month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesman Ravina Shamdasani told Thailand’s delegation the military-appointed Parliament’s decision not to criminalise forced disappearances and torture was “very worrying.”
The concluding report reinforced this point, arguing Thailand’s current “criminal legislation does not adequately ensure acts of torture and enforced disappearance” are fully criminalised.
The Human Rights Committee was “particularly concerned about reports of torture and other ill-treatment, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances” against human rights defenders. There have been at least 82 recorded cases of forced disappearances in Thailand since 1980.
Women’s rights were a major focus of the committee’s report, which cited the existence of legal gender discrimination justified on the basis of religion and national security.
The OHCHR noted high rates of domestic violence against women, citing low rates of reporting to authorities due to perceptions such crimes were a “private affair.” It was also concerned about a lack of participation of women in political life, business and the public sector, including police.
Earlier this month, international NGO Fortify Rights released a parallel report on Thailand’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report similarly documents governmental killings with impunity, arbitrary detention, violations of free speech and assembly, violation of refugee rights, human trafficking, and unchecked attacks on human rights defenders.
Fortify Rights executive director Amy Smith said:
“Human rights are a work in progress in Thailand,”
“Now is the time for Thailand to remedy past violations and fortify the future of human rights in the country.”
The committee also expressed concern regarding “reports of discrimination and violence against LGBTI, indigenous and stateless people.”
Earlier this month, a soldier killed a 17-year-old ethnic Lahu activist in northern Thailand. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said members of the military were rarely prosecuted for human rights violations during anti-drug operations, usually against ethnic minorities.
“Ethnic minorities in Thailand will never have full equality as long as those acting on their behalf face grave risks every day. Killings such as this are not investigated properly,” HRW said.
The Human Rights Committee on Tuesday expressed its concern for impunity for such crimes, with slow progress investigating abuses by security forces, including shootings of civilians during the political violence in 2010.
Thailand was also accused of forcibly repatriating refugees and asylum seekers in need of international protection without adequate assessment of their protection needs.