On 22 February 2017, Amnesty International launched the Report on the State of the World's Human Rights 2016 - 2017. This latest annual report provides a summary of human rights situations covering 159 countries in 5 regions around the world including Thailand.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged the launching of the report but found that the report does not fully reflect the positive developments in Thailand. In this regard, the Ministry wishes to clarify as follows:
1. The Government is committed to the implementation of the roadmap towards achieving sustained democracy, social harmony and lasting stability. Progress has been made such as the drafting of the Constitution and holding a Constitutional Referendum on August 2016, both of which have paved the way for general elections. The process were inclusive, allowing the general public, academia, the media and civil societies to express their opinions that were in good faith and consistent with the law on various channels such as public discussions and seminars across the country. The result of the referendum was accepted by all parties concerned, reflecting its inclusive process.
2. Thailand supports and values freedom of expression, and respects human rights in accordance with international practices, which is evident in the fact that the press can freely criticize the government. Nonetheless, as the government is obliged to maintain public order and prevent social divisiveness, the right to freedom of expression shall be exercised within the boundary of the law in a manner that does not disrupt public order and social harmony
or infringe upon others' rights or reputations, as stipulated in Article 19 (3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
3. The lAse-majeste law is part of Thailand's Criminal Code. It gives protection to the rights or reputations of the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent in a similar way libel law does for commoners in order to maintain national peace and stability. It is not aimed at curbing people's rights to freedom of expression and is not driven by any political agenda. Moreover, as with other criminal offences, proceedings on lAse-majeste cases are conducted in accordance with due legal process whereby the defendant has the right to contest the charges and the right to a fair trial, and those convicted for lAse-majeste are entitled to the right to file an appeal and the right to seek royal pardon in the same manner as those convicted for other criminal offences.
4. With respect to the justice system, the government has implemented legislative reforms to address various problems that have been accumulating over the years. Over 190 laws have been promulgated to address these issues, including social inequality and human rights. As peace and order have gradually been restored, the Head of the National Council for Peace and Order hence issued Order No. 55/2559 (2016), effective as of 12 September 2016, allowing proceedings regarding certain kinds of cases under the jurisdiction of the Military Court to return to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice. This is a reflection of the government's commitment to ease security measures for the protection of human rights in accordance with the rule of law and human rights principles.
5. Human right defenders in Thailand are entitled to fair trial without discrimination. As for the case of Mr. Andy Hall, on 3 November 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the decisions made by Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal to dismiss criminal defamation case against Mr. Hall filed by Natural Fruit Company Limited regarding his interview with Al Jazeera. Moreover, Thailand has signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED) in 2012 and is now in the process of passing the domestic legislation to ratify the ICPPED. The draft Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance has already been reviewed by the Office of the Council of the State
and endorsed by the Cabinet. The draft Act is currently under the consideration of the National Legislative Assembly.
6. There is positive development regarding the issue of displaced persons, especially those from Myanmar. Given the political developments in Myanmar, the Royal Thai Government has cooperated with the Myanmar Government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to facilitate the voluntary return of 71 Myanmar displaced persons in October 2016. The Joint Working Group co-chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the counterpart from Myanmar will soon meet to discuss the work on the eventual return of the remaining 102,000 individuals, which will be assisted by the UNHCR. The process will allow for the readiness of all sides to ensure sustainable return and reintegration. Moreover, on protection of irregular migrants, the Thai Cabinet also approved in principle in January 2017 the proposal to amend the Immigration Act and to set up a screening mechanism aiming to better look after those in genuine need of protection.
7. Thailand highly values the promotion and protection of human rights and freedom exercised within the boundary of the law. The Government is therefore committed to reform relevant laws and measures to continuously promote such protection. To this end, the Government welcomes concerns raised by all relevant sectors including the civil society and believes that constructive engagement on the basis of comprehensive and balanced information will lead to effective promotion and protection of human rights for all in the country.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand