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Thailand: a joint statement of NGOs to 55th Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Geneva

55th Session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Geneva, 1 – 19 June 2015

Initial and Second Periodic Report of THAILAND

A joint statement of NGOs – Correction

Dear Excellency, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

This is a joint statement by various Thai civil society groups who have
submitted Alternative Reports to the Committee. What follows are some of
the key concerns and dynamics in Thailand’s Human Rights landscape today.
We hope to present the committee with both an overview and a complement to
our reports, as the situation is in constant flux, and deteriorating.

Firstly, the on-going national reforestation programme is affecting poor
communities because the Army and forestry officials have been evicting poor
people from the land they have settled. The National Human Rights
Commission has received more than 44 urgent requests for intervention by
communities at threat of eviction since the beginning of the programme one
year ago. Not only evictions, but the authorities have also been cutting
down the agricultural trees planted by farmers. Furthermore, changes to
legislation on ‘Reserved Forest Areas’ will see such land become more
accessible to private, corporate entities for economic exploitation. The
military government should repeal NCPO No.64/2014 and 66/2014 and stop
arrests relating to allegation of land encroachment and stop threatening
local communities to evict or move out prior to consultation and verifying
the land location with participatory approaches. The National Reforestation
Programme is a tool for the junta to evict poor people, and pursue
favourable opportunities and treatment for established corporations.
Moreover, the broader land rights issue and redistribution of land to the
poor and landless people has been worsening by the military effort to
reforestation except all existing legislative and administrative mechanism.
Criminal and civil charges has been increasing dramatically with harsh
punishment. Furthermore between 22 May 2014 and 1 April 2015, the martial
law has been used as tool to lead all operation arbitrarily. Up to day the
affected individual and committee has not yet been compensated.

Secondly, regarding land rights, more than 60 land rights activists have
been killed in Thailand since 2003 and other prominent activists and their
families have suffered forced disappearances. This makes Thailand one of
the most dangerous country in Asia to defend and advocate for land rights.

The extent of the land rights problems is such that, 811,892 families
don’t have land and 1.5 million families have to rent out arable land for
agricultural use. Research shows that 90% of land documents in Thailand is
concentrated in the hands of 50 individuals and legal persons.
Community-based Human Rights Defenders are at the forefront of rural and
poor people’s struggle to enjoy rights of self-determination over natural
resources in their areas. But, across Thailand, community-based Human
Rights Defenders are facing threats and intimidation from both state and
non-state actors. Such threats range from hired gunmen raiding villages at
night, extrajudicial killings, repeated death threats, defamation lawsuits
by companies and authorities, legal harassment campaigns, manipulation of
media stories by local authorities, and more. The work of Human Rights
Defenders is also being criminalised by the restrictions on civil and
political rights such as the new Assembly act which recently introduced by
Military government . Yet, new mining concessions are being granted, new
gas and oil exploration is starting, and local communities are excluded
from all decision-making processes. We ask the committee to pay specific
attention to the criminalization of Human Rights Defenders for their
legitimate work in monitoring, promoting and defending Human Rights in
Thailand. Furthermore, authorities should suspend reform on natural
resource management legislation until democratic and representative
legislative structures have been elected. It is also important to reiterate
that supporting and enhancing Women Human Rights Defenders working on land
rights and natural resources management is the best way to redistribute
land, social and economic power to women, especially for the Women Human
Rights Defenders who are facing higher security risks, unjust division of
labour in the home based on gender discrimination and social stigma for
taking leadership roles.

Thirdly, the military government’s reform is also removing the state
institutions which are there to safeguard Human Rights in Thailand, as we
can see with the planned merger of the National Human Rights Commission
with the Office of the Ombudsman.

It is important to remind ourselves that the Southern Border Provinces of
Thailand remain under martial law, as they have been since January 2004.
From 2004 to 2013, a total of 22,979 people were reported as physically
affected by violence in the southernmost provinces, 7,567 of whom died
(more than 6,000 deaths are directly attributed to the violent conflict).
Also, the families of people who have been arbitrarily arrested or arrested
on national security grounds face discrimination and stigmatisation at
school and in the workplace. Women are left as breadwinners, but also in a
situation of insecurity and psychological pressure from and on the
children. State support programmes aimed at people who have suffered from
the violence in the south don’t cover the families of the people who have
been arbitrarily detained. Furthermore, the military government should make
every effort to protect ethnic Malay Muslim women and empower them to join
local administrative organizations, by adopting the provisions of UN
Security Council No. 1325. The state should protect the rights of teachers
and public health workers to work in armed conflict areas, ensure access to
health services for families, women and children, particularly reproductive
health and rights, maternal health for pregnant women, alleviation from
drug addictions and disease, such as HIV/AIDS, and guarantee the rights of
ethnically Malays Muslim women to access to justice. The military
government must stop child marriage, forced marriage and gender base
violence, despite the fact that Thailand ratified and enacted the
Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), it is
still legal to discriminate against women if it serves a national security,
religious, or safety concern.

Fourthly, The emerging concern of the state-sponsored and systematic Human
Rights persecution against the Rohingya people, require that the countries
in the region implement a binding agreement to put in place the immediate
protection of the Rohingya and a long-term solution. We would like to urge
the Committee to seek urgent clarification on how the recent regional
summit hosted by Thailand brought about meaningful action on the root
causes of persecution against the Rohingya in the country of origin, the
transit country and the country of destination. The discrimination faced by
the Rohingya is spread across the region as the Rohingya are at high-risk
of being sold into forced labour in the fishing industry, including with
the collusion of high-level state officials.

Fifthly, repeated violations and intimidation against the livelihoods of
Indigenous Peoples in Thailand, namely by destroying the specific means of
subsistence of Indigenous Peoples. The marginalization and exclusion of
Indigenous People benefits the economic development model which the Thai
state is, often violently, imposing on peoples who have different
livelihoods and means of subsistence.

Sixthly, education is a basic rights as well as a means to acquire
economic, social and cultural right.  We request the committee to raise
concern and give recommendations to the Thai military government to adopt
and implement a rights based approach to education as guided in UNESCO
document of A Human Rights based Approach to Education for All. The
military government should also take steps to effect the ratification of
UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education as recommended by the
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child -the 59th session in 2012.

Based on all these issues raised we, as civil society organisations, are
here to call for democratic and just governance which will enable people,
particularly the most marginalized, to participate in local and national
institutions and to make free and informed decisions over their own lives,
their communities, and their futures.

Supported by
1.      Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
2.      Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
3.      People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
4.      Justice for Peace Foundation (JPF)
5.      Community Resources Centre (CRC)
6.      Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights
7.      Highland People Task Force
8.      Indigenous Education Network (IEN)
9.     Network of Indigenous Peoples of Thailand (NIPT)
10.     Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
11.     Franciscans International
12.     Forum Asia
13.     International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

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