Thai Senate expands power of Human Rights Commission

Thailand’s Human Rights Commission is getting more muscle. The Senate approved a request last week from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to grant it the power to act as a mediator in local human rights conflicts, a role it had in the past but was not included in the current constitution.
The Kingdom established its NHRC in 2001 under provisions of the 1997 constitution. After the watchdog began working, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called it a “model for human rights commissions in Southeast Asia.”
But Thailand has passed two charters since that time, one in 2008 and one in 2016. In the most recent constitution approved by voters in a national referendum, some of the Commission’s former powers were not yet included.
Since then, members of the Commission have pushed to be able to do more. Last week, they met with success, as acting Chairwoman Prakairat Tonthirawong informed NHRC members that the Senate had agreed to revive its role as a mediator in disputes.
The power to mediate gives the Commission the ability to resolve cases and disagreements before reaching a court of law.
Prakairat said the lack of mediating authority was a significant hindrance to the timely protection of rights. It also prevented providing remedies to those affected by rights violations, she said.
The Sub-Committee on Accreditation of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions also backed last week’s change, she said.
While no country has a spotless record on human rights, Thailand has generally been viewed favorably on the issue. The Kingdom also served as President of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) from 2011 through 2013.