Justice Ministry preparing national human rights action plan

Human rights should not have to take a back seat to economic growth, and so the Ministry of Justice is formulating a human rights national action plan in response to the rising number of complaints from members of the public stemming from the growing power of state agencies and the clout of big business in development projects.

Pitikan Sithidej, director-general of the Department of Rights and Liberties Protection at the Ministry of Justice, told a seminar last week that the plan would address abuses by government agencies and private businesses. She delivered that news to the audience that most needed to hear it: representatives of 55 government and state agencies who attended the National Dialogue on Business and Human Rights 2018: Human Rights System Management held in Bangkok last week.

Pitikan said that the number of complaints about human rights abuses associated with development projects has been rising in recent years. The plan, she said, would require state agencies and private corporations to respect human rights and provide remedies to communities and members of the public who have suffered rights violations and other harm because of development projects and other actions by public and private sectors.

The dialogue was held roughly a week before a visit to Thailand by the Working Group on Business Enterprises attached to the United Nations Human Rights Office, which was scheduled to take place between March 25 and April 4.

Thailand’s representative to the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, agreed that the numbers of human rights complaints arising from development projects are a cause for concern.

“Government and state enterprise agencies need to know what risks they face and find tools to mitigate them to comply with the principles on business and human rights,” said Seree Nonthasoot, the Thai representative.

Ekniti Nitithanprapas, chief of the State Enterprise Policy Office, stood firmly behind the proposed plan at the seminar. He called on the Ministry of Finance to play a proactive role in promoting human rights by reminding investors of their responsibilities towards communities and individuals when implementing investment projects.