Move Forward aims to introduce legislature that will protect indigenous peoples

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The Move Forward Party (MFP) will introduce a bill to seek protection for ethnic groups in Thailand, the party leader said Wednesday.

“We are looking to solve problems related to nationality, farming land, education, and healthcare for our indigenous brothers and sisters,” MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat told reporters after meeting with representatives of ethnic groups at parliament.

Pita added that he would take a close look at a previous draft put together by an association of indigenous peoples.

The Council of Indigenous Peoples Bill was drafted by the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT). It seeks to set up a formal indigenous peoples’ council that will be tasked with the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights, especially their rights to self-determination.

The Bill aims to create a mechanism to solve human rights problems that are related to indigenous people without disrupting their way of life and allowing participation from representatives of ethnic groups.

According to the Indigenous Media Network’s report in December 2020, there are at least 30 ethnic minority groups and none of them are recognized as formal ethnic groups.

Many indigenous people are currently facing various human rights problems including citizenship, access to basic welfare, land rights, and diminishing cultural identity, the network said.

Professor Yongyuth Surbthayat, a member of the drafting committee, said on Wednesday that indigenous people have lost many rights and benefits in the past and he hopes that the Bill will pass into law so that indigenous people will have a tool that will allow them to participate in the protection of their rights.

“Currently, the existing laws and state measures are not providing enough protection for ethnic groups,” he said. “They are losing their identity and they are being discriminated against which is alienating them from society,” he said.

Thailand is one of the 143 signatories of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which guarantee fundamental rights for indigenous people including the right to self-determination, the right to nationality, the right to own property, the right to be free from discrimination and the right to participate in a decision-making process that would affect their rights.

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