Government unveils plan to better protect human rights

Thailand’s government has drawn up a two-year plan to raise the level of the Kingdom’s human rights protections, placing it on its national agenda and strategic development plan, including putting pressure on Thai investors to respect human rights when operating in foreign countries.

The plan drafted by the Ministry of Justice will be submitted to the Cabinet of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and is expected to receive quick passage, followed by an official promulgation on International Human Rights Day on December 10. Referred to as a “road map,” it contains specific action plans that will commit the government to reducing the number of human rights violations in the country.

At a seminar on the new plan held in Bangkok last week, Pitikan Sithidej, the head of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department at the Ministry of Justice said a greater awareness and more respect for human rights must be woven into the way of thinking and the work of both the government and the private sector.

She attributed some of the past failures to protect rights on a lack of coordination between government agencies, and an unclear vision of human rights and government responsibilities. Government agencies “must take actions that they may never have imagined,’’ she said.

As an example, she said the Ministry of Transport needs to adopt policies that ensure transportation systems are accessible to people with disabilities across the entire nation, not just in a few select areas. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, she added, must do more to respect the rights of local peoples in their efforts to protect the environment. A number of cases have arisen in past years where forest dwellers have been evicted and even arrested for using resources in areas they have been living in or using for as long as anyone can remember.

Vithit Muntarbhorn, a Thai who is a noted international rights campaigner and the first United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, praised the government’s road map and said it should include civil and political rights for it to be sustainable.

He said Thailand’s human rights situation has definitely improved over time and many issues have been dealt with successfully.

Also last week, government agencies involved in overseeing Thai foreign investment met with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to discuss how to implement Cabinet resolutions calling on Thai investors to respect the rights of local people in the countries and areas where they invest.

The agencies included the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Commerce Ministry, the Transport Ministry, the Board of Investment of Thailand, the Bank of Thailand and the National Economics and Social Development Board Office.

“We understand the importance of protecting human rights of people in the countries where we invest, because their well-being is as important as that of the Thai people,” said Natapanu Nopakun of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.