Universal Periodic Review 39th Session
Review of Thailand - Third Cycle
10 October 2021
By: Alexandra Guy/GICJ
On November 10, during the 39th session of the UPR, the United Nations held the Interactive Dialogue of the third cycle of the UPR for Thailand. Thailand submitted its country report in August 2021. Taking into account recommendations made by Special Rapporteurs and treaty bodies experts, the Human Right Council and civil society organizations delivered reports with a compilation of different human rights issues in Thailand.
During the dialogue, participating delegations raised several issues that Thailand try to address and clarify in its answers. The main concerns tackled were related to the death penalty, the crimes of lese majesty, political rights, particularly the freedom of expression, migrants’ rights, especially migrant workers, treaty ratifications, children rights, LGBTQUIA+ persons rights and persons with disability rights. The country showed progress in the healthcare system and in the treatment of the elderly, but the situation of political rights is particularly alarming.
Geneva International Center for Justice calls for the respect of fundamental civil and political rights, for the end of child marriage and for the full inclusion of persons with disability and LGBTQIA+ persons in society.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a UN mechanism established in 2006 (Res. 60/251) to examine progresses made by countries in compliance with their obligations under international law. UN member States are examined during each cycle, the current one being the third cycle and lasting until 2022. Thailand was first reviewed in 2011, in 2016, and finally on November 10, 2021.
Thailand submitted its country report for the third cycle of the UPR in August 2021, in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21. They acknowledged their progress concerning the 187 recommendations they had accepted at the end of the second cycle.
Taking into account recommendations made by Special Rapporteurs and treaty bodies experts, the Human Right Council and civil society organizations delivered reports with a compilation of different human rights issues in Thailand. Concerns were raised on the country’s cooperation with international human right mechanisms and bodies, the national human rights framework, as well as the principles of equality and non-discrimination, environmental and business rights, political and civil rights, impunity and respect of the rule of law, slavery, rights to privacy and family life, workers’ rights, and the right to health and education. Further to this, attention was given to the rights of vulnerable groups, such as children, women, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, migrant, displaced persons, and stateless persons. Finally, the UN showed concerns on the specific human rights situation in the southern border provinces.
Discussion with UN experts
During this interactive dialogue, the floor was firstly given to Mr. Rongvudhi Virabutr (Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative and Charged of Affairs of the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN). Mr. Virabutr thanked the UN and the work of the troika during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi (Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs) focused on sustainability in all processes of improvement of the human rights situation in Thailand. He showed Thailand’s progress in several human rights areas, particularly in the protection of children, elderly people and in healthcare sector. Indeed, 98% of the Thai population now benefits from universal health coverage while the country is also working on enlarging the access to health for migrant workers. Concerning children, in cooperation with NGOs Thailand put in place actions to prevent violence against children and improve access to food and education. Moreover, Thailand revised the law on the prevention and eradication of prostitution, created two draft laws, one for the protection and preservation of the 62 ethnic groups in Thailand, and the other for the prevention and suppression of torture and enforced disappearance. To conclude, Mr. Thani Thongphakdi highlighted the country’s collaboration with the Working Group on business and human rights: they are the first country in the Asia pacific who prepared a National Action Plan on business and human rights.
In the ensuing debate delegations took the floor highlighting several human rights issues.
The Thai criminal categories raised concerns on several aspects. In its report, Thailand noted that its improvement toward the eradication of the death penalty was noticeable by the removal of death penalty for officials who committed wrongdoings or acts of corruption. However, delegations and civil society noticed that drug related crimes and murders were still punished by death sentences.
Madagascar and Letonia, among others, called for the implementation of a moratorium on the death penalty to progressively move towards its abolition, while New Zealand asked directly for its complete abolition. Thailand was also asked to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. As a reply, Thailand reiterated its willingness to eliminate the death penalty by increasing public awareness on the right to life and alternatives measures to the death penalty. Despite this, the majority of the population appears to be still in favor of its application.
Luxembourg, Norway and Australia noted that the criminalisation of lese majeste by section 112 and 117 of the penal code and the existence of the royal grace threatened the freedom of expression and other civil and political rights, including the right to equality before the law. In this regard, Thailand reiterated the sacred character of the royal family. Additionally, the country stated that any charge against authorities are dropped when who committed the alleged violation is not at risk of causing others.
Netherlands, Norway and Australia, among others, urged Thailand to change or drop the recent draft law related to NGOs as it threatens their freedom of expression. In clarifying, Thailand stated that the draft law aims to be a legal framework for NGOs and civil societies. Also, the draft law had only been approved for its principle and will be submitted to another public hearing and review.
The Czech Republic raised concerns about alleged violations against human rights defenders. In its defense, Thailand argued that human rights defenders are included in mediation, economy and investments policies, while also benefitting from protection, legal advice, assistance and awareness on new government actions. Concerns were also raised on the extreme limitations of the right to protest through the prohibition of any public gathering of more than five people. Such limitations has been justified by Thailand in the name of public order, respect of the rights and reputation of others, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the country considered the emergency decree in the southern border provinces as still necessary and based on proportionality. However, Thailand declared its gradual lifting by 2022 to 2027.
Thailand never ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture (CAT-OP), the Convention for the protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their families (CMW). Several member states urged Thailand to ratify important international treaties, particularly the CED, Japan and Ireland recommended. Noting at least 9 cases of enforced disappearance among Thai civilians, civil society recommended that the country to invite the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances on their territory. In this context, Thailand noted the importance of the draft Act on the Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance. Additionally, the country mentioned being considering the ratification of the CMW, after Iraq, Uruguay and Malaysia showed their concerns on the treatment of migrant workers, including their access to the health system. In an attempt to show its progress toward the inclusion of migrant workers in society, Thailand highlighted that health services were available for migrant workers not protected by their employers. In addition, it declared trying to widen the access to vaccination to migrant workers. To conclude, Thailand expressed their willingness to ratify the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
The rights of children, persons with disability and LGBTQIA+ persons were among the main discussed topics.
To protect children from fake news, illegal online activity, exploitation and child pornography, Thailand passed the Computer Crime Act in 2017. However, this act has been controversial because it is suspected to limit the freedom of expression, the United States noted, also considering that opponents to the government appear to be the target of such Act. Thailand clarified that the Computer Crime Act is in accordance with the National strategy to protect children and youth against the use of online platform and media by only suppressing illegal online activity. It reminded the delegations that any attempt to ban online content is reviewed and the anti-fake news center is in place to verify info posted on social media.
Regarding child marriage, the Bahamas delegation urged Thailand to put an end to such harmful practice by rising the threshold age to 18. Thailand accepted the recommendation and reiterated its willingness to make improvement to eradicate child marriage.
Several delegations recommended Thailand to reinforce their measures to protect persons with disability. Particularly, Sri Lanka and Togo denounced how stereotypes within community could be harmful for vulnerable children. In its reports, Thailand pointed out several measures put in place to protect persons with disability, such as the 3rd Educational Management Plan for Persons with Disabilities (2017-2021), the 5th National Plan on the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (2017-2021), the 2nd Healthcare Plan for Persons with Disabilities (2017-2021), as well as the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. However, Thailand did not provide any additional information during the Interactive Dialogue.
Thailand’s protection accorded to LGBTQIA+ persons is still unsatisfactory. The country stated that LGBTI+ persons would be allowed to register as “life-time partners'' if the draft Civil Partnership Act will be adopted. “Life-time partners'' would have certain civil and commercial rights as married couples have. While The Netherlands recommended allowing marriage for same-sex couples, Mexico expressed concerns on the treatment of LGBTQIA+ persons at work, in school and in the health system.
Position of Geneva International Center for Justice
Geneva International Center for Justice (GICJ) urges Thailand to take any necessary steps to improve the human right situation within the country. We urge Thailand to put a definitive end to the death penalty and to guarantee the freedom of expression by removing prohibition to protests, human rights defenders’ activities and opinions, including those regarding the royal family. We urge the country to improve the legislation to protect vulnerable groups, especially by prohibiting any form of violence against children, persons with disability and LGBTQIA+ persons. None of them should not be deprived of any fundamental human rights. To conclude, we urge Thailand to harmonize its legislation with international law and standards, and to ratify all UN treaties, particularly the CED, the CMW and the CAT-OP.
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