Thai Human Rights Commission Slated For 'Downgrading'

Anti-coup activists criticize National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at an award ceremony on 12 Dec 2014.

BANGKOK – A major international human rights body has flagged Thailand's national human rights commission for a "downgrading," citing its questionable role in tackling civil rights issues.

According to the report released today by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC), Thailand's Office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) should be downgraded from its current status of "A" to "B."

The report of international rights commissions accreditation was compiled in October 2014. 

The ICC notes that, due to a limited selection process, the NHRC composes of only "officials from a very small number of public institutions, with no clear representation, or a requirement for consultation with key stakeholder groups or
civil society."

The committee also criticises the NHRC for delaying its report on the 2010 political unrest until three years have elapsed, despite the fact that more than 90 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the clashes between Redshirt demonstrators and the security force, and numerous human right abuses were reported throughout the turbulent period of April-May 2010. 

Furthermore, the NHRC is yet to complete and publish a report into alleged serious human rights violations related to anti-government protests that erupted in late 2013, says the ICC, which is a global network of international national human rights commissions.

The independence of the NHRC is similarly questioned in the ICC report, with the committee expressing concern that 'staff members of the NHRC were displaying publicly their political affiliations whilst undertaking official functions."

The NHRC is required to follow all recommendations prescribed by the ICC in its report in the next year, or risk being downgraded in late 2015.

If the NHRC is actually downgraded to "B" status, the commission will not be able to vote or hold governance in ICC meetings, the ICC website warned. A "B" status will also strip the NHRC of its ability to take the floor under agenda items and submit to the United Nations' Human Rights Council. 

The ICC report followed a wave of criticism anti-coup activists have heaped on the NHRC in recent months, faulting the commission for its perceived collaboration with the military junta that seized power on 22 May 2014. Anti-coup activists say they are disappointed by the NHRC's half-hearted rebuke of the coup and the junta's subsequent crackdown on freedom of expression.

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Anti-coup activists protesting the NHRC on 12 December 2014. One sign read: "You are fired, NHRC." Another mockingly asked, "Are you still alive, Amara?"

The commission's responses are a stark contrast to other international human rights agencies, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, which have repeatedly criticised the junta’s suspension of civil liberties.

In her latest public speech, at the annual human rights award ceremony on 12 December, NHRC director Amara Pongsapitchaya did not explicitly condemn the junta’s ongoing ban on political expression, only noting that anti-coup activists and the junta view human rights differently.

"The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) thinks we have to sacrifice personal rights to protect the rights of all citizens, while the anti-coup faction believes personal rights and political rights cannot be infringed at all," Amara said at the cerremony.

Critics of the NHRC also accuse the agency of harbouring a bias against the Redshirt movement, which supported the former government toppled in the coup.

The NHRC's 2013 report about the military crackdown on Redshirt protesters in 2010 was slammed by Redshirt supporters and human rights activists for its glaring omission of security officers' use of force against unarmed protesters, despite a number of court inquests blaming some of the civilian deaths on the soldiers. 

Instead, according to the NHRC narrative, Redshirt protesters "violated human rights" by staging a protest in downtown Bangkok, which "forced" the government at the time to enact emergency laws and send in armed troops to disperse the rallies. 

Related news: NHRC Accused Of Whitewashing Authorities' Hands In 2010 Crackdown

 

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly identifies the United Nations (UN) as the publisher of the accreditation report. The report is in fact compiled by the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (ICC)

 

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