Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia with a population of approximately 68.8 million, is undergoing a human rights crisis. In May 2014, a military coup d`état occurred, signaling additional political instability and human rights violations within the nation. Here are top 10 facts about human rights in Thailand.
10 Facts About Human Rights in Thailand
- According to the Human Rights Watch, “The military junta under Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha has banned political activity and public assembly, enforced media censorship, arbitrarily arrested dissidents, and detained citizens in military facilities.”
- One of the most recent violations among the top 10 facts about human rights in Thailand involves the treatment of fishing industry workers. In March 2018, the Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Hidden Chains Human Rights Abuses and Forced Labor in Thailand’s Fishing Industry” to raise awareness and promote change at the governmental level. Many fishing industry workers initially join freely but are later held in forced labor and abusive working conditions. The Human Rights Watch urged Thailand’s government to implement legislation against forced labor and provided recommendations for more comprehensive inspections of fishing ships.
- As early as 2004, the laws of war were repeatedly violated by insurgents in Thailand. Also known as international humanitarian law, the laws of war prohibit attacks on civilians.
- In July 2018, the Human Rights Watch reported insurgents’ use of landmines. Victims included ethnic Thai Buddhists and Malay Muslims along the southern border. In response to insurgent attacks, the Thai government also violated laws of war.
- In July 2016, 14 Burmese migrant workers filed a complaint regarding poor working conditions and forced labor at the Thammakaset chicken farm. Following their complaint, the workers faced defamation charges. However, the magistrates’ court acquitted the workers, finding that “the workers had filed their complaint in good faith in order to protect their rights, as guaranteed by the Thai constitution and international conventions.”
- As of 2017, approximately 105 people were charged and arrested for lese majeste, in other words, “insulting the monarchy.” Much of the dialogue occurs online, resulting in arrests, convictions and imprisonments. For example, in June 2017, a man was sentenced to prison for 35 years based on ten Facebook posts.
- The Thai government reinstated the death penalty after a brief nine halt. On June 18, 2018, a 26-year-old man was executed. According to Brad Adams, the Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch, “Thailand’s resumed use of the death penalty marks a major setback for human rights.”
- The Thai government denied claims of torturing Muslims detained in southern Thailand; however, TIME identified the Reconciliation Promotion Centre as the primary camp for the Thai government’s detention and interrogation.
- In 2006, an estimated several hundred villagers were forced to leave their lands following the announcement of the creation of a 19,100-acre sugar plantation in Cambodia. The sugar plantation was supported by Thai sugar giant Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd. (KSL) and this land grabbing signaled possible human rights violations. A complaint was issued and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) confirmed the human rights violation.
- Thai companies run coal mines in countries such as Myanmar. Natalie Bugalski, the Legal Director of Inclusive Development International, explained, “Coal mines are known to be among the highest-risk projects in terms of human rights, environmental and social impacts…the companies have completely failed in their duty to consult with local communities and carry out human rights due diligence.” THE NHRCT received a complaint regarding this violation.
Thai Progress in Human Rights
The Thai government agreed to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against torture. This agreement was recorded by the Universal Period Review. The agreement is a step in the right direction.
Although the top 10 facts about human rights in Thailand are of great concern, future improvements can be seen through Thailand’s acknowledgment of recommendations by the Universal Period Review. In addition, Thailand’s poverty headcount ratio has since declined from 42.3 percent in 2000 to 10.5 percent in 2014, a fact geared towards a more optimistic future.
– Christine Leung