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Human rights in Thailand

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Title: Human rights in Thailand  
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Human rights in Thailand

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

The current (2007) Constitution, drafted by a body appointed by the then military junta, states at Article 4: "The human dignity, rights, liberty and equality of the people shall be protected."[1] Articles 26 to 69 set out an extensive range of specific rights in such areas as criminal justice, education, non-discrimination, religion and freedom of expression.

The 2007 enactment reinstated much of the extensive catalogue of rights explicitly recognized in the People's Constitution of 1997. That Constitution outlined the right to freedom of speech, freedom of press, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement within the country and abroad.

The 1997 Constitution was abrogated in September 2006 following a military coup. The military regime imposed an interim constitution which had effect until the current version was approved a year later by referendum.


  • Constitutional guarantees 1
  • Infringement of human rights 2
    • Human trafficking 2.1
    • Rights of the press and right to assembly 2.2
    • Infringement in the South of Thailand 2.3
    • Deaths relating to the 2003 war on drugs 2.4
  • Burmese refugees 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Constitutional guarantees

Many new rights were introduced in the 1997 Constitution. These include the right to free education, the rights of traditional communities, and the right to peacefully protest coups and other extra-constitutional means of acquiring power, the rights of children, the elderly, handicapped people's rights, and equality of the sexes. Freedoms of information, the right to public health and education and consumer rights are also recognized. A total of 40 rights, compared to only nine rights in the Constitution of 1932, were recognized in the 1997 Constitution.[2]

Infringement of human rights

In general, the Thai government reportedly respects the rights of its citizens. However, the U.S. Department of State has noted significant concerns in several areas.[3]

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is a major issue in Thailand. This includes misleading and kidnapping men from Cambodia by traffickers and selling them into illegal fishing boats that trawl the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. These men are promised better paid jobs but instead forced to work as sea slaves as much as 3 years.[4] Children trafficking is also another major issue in Thailand forcing kidnapped children as young as four to use as sex slaves in major cities like Bangkok and Phuket. Such activities are especially rife in rural areas of Thailand.[5]

Rights of the press and right to assembly

In the wake of the 2006 Thailand coup d'état, the right to free speech and travel has been seriously eroded. The military has implemented a ban on political meetings and does not allow for any criticism of them in the media. Political activities of all types were also banned. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) noted that Thailand's media environment—prior to the coup considered one of the freest and most vibrant in Asia—had quickly deteriorated following the military ousting of Thaksin Shinawatra. It noted the closure of around 300 community radio stations in Thai provinces, the intermittent blocking of cable news channels (particularly whenever news on Thaksin and criticism of the coup came up), and the suspension of some Thai websites devoted to discussing the implications of military intervention to Thai democracy. SEAPA also noted that while there seemed to be no crackdown on journalists, and while foreign and local reporters seemed free to roam, interview, and report on the coup as they saw fit, self-censorship was a certain issue in Thai newsrooms.

Infringement in the South of Thailand

Several problems have been reported in the Southern provinces, relating to the South Thailand insurgency. Some 180 persons are reported to have died there while in custody in 2004. In a particularly high-profile case, Muslim human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit was reportedly harassed, threatened, and finally forcibly disappeared in March 2004 following his allegations of torture by state security forces.[6] In 2006, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stated that he believed that Somchai was dead and that state security forces appeared to be responsible.[7] Five policemen were eventually charged in Somchai's death, though the trial only resulted in one conviction that was overturned on appeal in March 2011.[8] The verdict was denounced by the Asian Human Rights Commission,[9] and Somchai's wife Angkhana declared her intention to continue to appeal the case to the Thai Supreme Court.[8]

Deaths relating to the 2003 war on drugs

The government's antidrug war in 2003 resulted in more than 2,500 extrajudicial killings of suspected drug traffickers.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24] Prison conditions and some provincial immigration detention facilities are characterized as poor. In 2004 more than 1,600 persons died in prison or police custody, 131 as a result of police actions.

The Nation (an English-language newspaper in Thailand) reported on November 27, 2007:

"Of 2,500 deaths in the government's war on drugs in 2003, a fact-finding panel has found that more than half was not involved in drug at all. At a brainstorming session, a representative from the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) Tuesday disclosed that as many as 1,400 people were killed and labelled as drug suspects despite the fact that they had no link to drugs. ... Senior public prosecutor Kunlapon Ponlawan said it was not difficult to investigate extra-judicial killings carried out by police officers as the trigger-pullers usually confessed."[22][23]

The January 24, 2008 edition of The Economist reported:

Yet a panel set up last year by the outgoing junta recently concluded the opposite: over half of those killed in 2003 had no links to the drugs trade. The panel blamed the violence on a government "shoot-to-kill" policy based on flawed blacklists. But far from leading to the prosecutions of those involved, its findings have been buried. The outgoing interim prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, took office vowing to right Mr Thaksin's wrongs. Yet this week he said there was insufficient evidence to take legal action over the killings. It is easy to see why the tide has turned. Sunai Phasuk, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, a lobbying group, says that the panel's original report named the politicians who egged on the gunmen. But after the PPP won last month's elections, those names were omitted.[24]

The New York Times reported on April 8, 2003:

Since the death of 9-year-old Chakraphan, there have been frequent reports in the Thai press of summary executions and their innocent victims. There was the 16-month-old girl who was shot dead along with her mother, Raiwan Khwanthongyen. There was the pregnant woman, Daranee Tasanawadee, who was killed in front of her two young sons. There was the 8-year-old boy, Jirasak Unthong, who was the only witness to the killing of his parents as they headed home from a temple fair. There was Suwit Baison, 23, a cameraman for a local television station, who fell to his knees in tears in front of Mr. Thaksin and begged for an investigation into the killing of his parents. His stepfather had once been arrested for smoking marijuana, Mr. Suwit said. When the police offered to drop the charge if he would admit to using methamphetamines, he opted instead to pay the $100 fine for marijuana use. Both parents were shot dead as they returned home from the police station on a motorbike. Mr. Suwit said 10 other people in his neighborhood had also been killed after surrendering to the police.[11]

Burmese refugees

Burmese refugees in Thailand can stay in one of the refugee camps along the border with Burma, which protect them from arrest and summary removal to Burma but they lack freedom to move or work. Or, they can live and work outside the camps, but typically without recognized legal status of any kind, leaving them at risk of arrest and deportation. From 2005 to 2011, more than 76,000 Burmese refugees were resettled from the border camps to third countries, though the total number of camp residents has remained at about 140,000. [25][26]

Camp refugees who venture out of the camps are regarded by the Thai government as illegal aliens and are subject to arrest. Thai police or paramilitaries regularly apprehend camp residents and either return them to camp if the refugees pay sufficient bribes, or send them to one of Thailand’s Immigration Detention Centers and then deport them to Burma.[27][28] Refugees in the camps find themselves subject to abuse and exploitation at the hands of other refugees. Refugees working as camp security as well as camp leaders and camp residents with hidden connections to ethnic armed groups inside Burma all wield power in the camps.[29][30]

In a Thursday, March 14, 2013 online Yale University news story article from the Yale School of Public Health, by Michael Greenwood, that profiled research (published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics) by Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology postdoctoral research associate Dr. Kathryn Falb, Ph.D., along with the American Refugee Committee, it was stated that using "quantitative surveys with over 1,200 women, found a strong correlation between women who were victimized during the conflict while in Burma ... and subsequent levels of intimate partner violence (IPV). ..." (8% experienced domestic abuse), which calls for more preventive work in the Thailand refugee camps. For more information, please see the link to the online news release.[31]

See also


  1. ^ [1] 2007 Constitution (unofficial translation)
  2. ^ Thanet Aphornsuvan, The Search for Order: Constitutions and Human Rights in Thai Political History, 2001 Symposium: Constitutions and Human Rights in a Global Age: An Asia Pacific perspective
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Forced to Fish: Cambodia's sea slaves". The Guardian Weekly, Jan. 30, 2009.
  5. ^ " New York Review", 25 June 2008
  6. ^ "'"Missing Thai lawyer 'harassed.  
  7. ^ "'"Missing Thai lawyer 'harassed.  
  8. ^ a b "Policeman acquitted in Somchai case". Bangkok Post. 12 March 2011. Retrieved 24 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "THAILAND: Verdict on Somchai's case--his wife, daughter could not be plaintiffs; not enough evidence to convict accused".  
  10. ^ "Thailand War on Drugs Turns Murderous, 600 Killed This Month -- Human Rights Groups Denounce Death Squads, Executions". Drug War Chronicle, Feb. 21, 2003.
  11. ^ a b "A Wave of Drug Killings Is Linked to Thai Police". By Seth Mydans. April 8, 2003. New York Times. [2]
  12. ^ Amnesty International report: Thailand: Grave developments - Killings and other abuses
  13. ^ Human Rights Watch. Detailed report: Thailand: Not Enough Graves: IV. Human Rights Abuses and the War on Drugs
  14. ^ Matthew Z Wheeler. "From Marketplace to Battlefield: Counting the Costs of Thailand's Drug War." [3] [4] [5]. May 28, 2003. ICWA Letters. Institute of Current World Affairs.
  15. ^ "Thailand: Not Smiling on Rights". July 18, 2005. Asian Centre for Human Rights. See page 24, the section called "Killings in the war against drugs".
  16. ^ "US-Thailand's 'License To Kill'. 2274 Extra-Judicial Killings In 90 Days". The Akha Journal of the Golden Triangle. By Matthew McDaniel. Vol. 1. No. 2. October 2003. Relevant section of journal 2: 2p6.pdf - Cover and first part of journal 2: 2p1.pdf - Link list for all parts of the journals.
  17. ^ Timeline of Thailand's "War on Drugs". July 7, 2004. Human Rights Watch.
  18. ^ "Letter from Asia; She Tilts Against Power, but Don't Call Her Quixotic." By Jane Perlez. July 7, 2004. New York Times.
  19. ^ Thailand 2003. Extrajudicial drug-war killings of innocent people. Photo gallery. Press/media links, and human rights reports.
  20. ^ "Institutionalised torture, extrajudicial killings & uneven application of law in Thailand". April 2005. See Annex 5 for a "Partial list of persons reported killed during the 'war on drugs' (revised)." Asian Legal Resource Centre. From Vol. 04 - No. 02: "Special Report: Rule of Law vs. Rule of Lords in Thailand".
  21. ^ Bangkok Post, August 3, 2007. "Kanit to chair extrajudicial killings probe".
  22. ^ a b "Most of those killed in war on drug not involved in drug". November 27, 2007. The Nation (an English-language newspaper in Thailand). [6]
  23. ^ a b "Southeast Asia: Most Killed in Thailand's 2003 Drug War Not Involved With Drugs, Panel Finds". November 30, 2007. Drug War Chronicle.
  24. ^ a b "Thailand's drug wars. Back on the offensive". January 24, 2008. The Economist.
  25. ^ "Thailand refugees". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Thailand". American Refugee Committee. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Thailand refugees". Human Rights Watch. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Thailand". American Refugee Committee. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Thailand". Refugees International. Retrieved December 23, 2012. 
  30. ^ "The Refugee Crisis in Myanmar (Burma)". Thai Freedom House. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  31. ^

External links

  • Freedom of expression in Thailand - IFEX
  • Asian Human Rights Commission - Thailand homepage
  • Rule of Lords Weekly column on human rights & the rule of law in Thailand and Burma
  • Royal Thai Police catalogue or torture and murder

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