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The human rights community in Thailand is vibrant and strong, in spite of the fact that human rights defenders (HRDs) are subjected to threats, physical assaults, arbitrary detention, judicial harassment, and extrajudicial killings. HRDs who are most at risk include those working with migrants, particularly along the border with Burma, those who are fighting for economic, social, and cultural (ESC) rights, and human rights defenders who are working in the conflict zone of the three border provinces in Southern Thailand.
ESC rights defenders are most vulnerable in particular when working in remote areas, and have often very limited access to national and international NGOs in the capital. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has documented 35 cases of extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders in the period 2003 – 2012. Approximately 30 of those killed were HRDs working on economic, social, and cultural rights. Many of these cases have not been properly investigated by the authorities.
Freedom of expression is limited in particular by the use of the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste law (crime prohibiting the criticism of the royal family), which have been repeatedly used to target political activists, human rights defenders and other independent voices. A prominent labour rights defender was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in early 2013 for criticising the royal family.
Protests have been met with violent police repression. Several incidents have been reported in relation to peaceful protests of local communities against the construction of dams or oil pipelines, where the police used excessive force, and arrested and charged a number of protesters and human rights defenders. Trade unionists have also been prosecuted because of their work and charged with organising illegal assemblies.
The situation is critical in Southern Thailand, where violations against human rights organisations take place in a context of widespread impunity for the perpetrators – who are often government or military officials. Martial law remains in place in parts of the Southern border provinces. The emergency decree introduced in 2005 and still in force allows for persons to be held for 30 days without charge. HRDs in the South, particularly those working with the victims of the conflict, who are for the most part Muslim, report regular abuse of the law and emergency decrees and a general abuse of power by the authorities.
20 May 2013
27 March 2013
23 January 2013
21 January 2013
21 December 2012
Thailand: Human rights defenders Jittra Kotchadej, Boonrod Paiwong, and Soonthorn Boonyord to appear in pre-trial hearing on 23 December
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