Thailand says ready to commit to protecting human rights despite previous record of arrests

Thailand is ready to commit to promoting and protecting human rights in the country and abroad, the government said on Monday, ahead of the UN’s upcoming Third Cycle Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

“The government is committed to working with the international community to voluntarily declare its commitments, consider feedback and listen to proposals,” said Ratchada Thanadirek, the deputy spokeswoman for the government.

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva will review the Thai government’s human rights performance on November 10.

The UPR takes place every four and a half years with all UN member states’ human rights records reviewed. The first cycle was between 2008 and 2011 and the second cycle was between 2012 and 2016. The current third cycle is between 2017 and 2022.

Ratchada said the current administration is working to revise its laws to match the international human rights instruments, including anti-torture law, laws against inhumane punishments, and laws that protect against enforced disappearance.

The government is looking at the possibility of ratifying the International Labour Organization’s Convention 189 which protects domestic workers’ labor rights, she said.

The government is working to strengthen its universal healthcare system, eliminate statelessness and protect the rights of stateless people in terms of education, social protection, and considering their citizenship, she said.

The government will also listen to proposals that match with the government’s policies including anti-corruption efforts, reduction of income inequality, anti-human trafficking efforts, promotion of gender equality and the adoption of Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws, she said.

Arbitrary arrests

The statement comes at a time when the Thai government is being criticized at home and abroad for its arbitrary arrest and detention of pro-democracy protesters.

Over a dozen student protesters have been arrested and denied bail for leading street protests against the Prayut Chan-ocha administration and calling for reform of Thailand’s conservative institutions.

Films, art exhibitions, and even nationally recognized artists have been punished and/or censored by the government for speaking in support of the demonstrators or on political issues.

The government says that the arrests and detention of protesters were not an abuse of rights and merely the enforcement of existing laws.

The Prayut administration has implemented a Covid-related state of emergency protocol that bans large-scale gatherings. This emergency act has been used to detain, arrest, and crack down on unarmed protesters.

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