Thailand Southern Sub-regional Workshop: building solidarity in Southern Thailand on the importance of ‘credible evidence’ for effective human rights documentation

Between 15-19 November 2016, UPR Info Asia, the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR and the Rights and Liberties Promotion Department of the Ministry of Justice co-organised Thailand’s second sub-regional workshop with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s financial support. The event “The Importance of Building Credible Evidence for Effective Human Rights Documentation throughout Thailand 2nd UPR Cycle” was held in Pattani, and gathered over 50 participants from Thailand’s Southern region. It aimed at engaging and energizing communities from the Southern region to monitor the UPR implementation phase while developing credible evidence to hold their government into account.  By bringing human rights based communities working on a diverse range of human rights issues, UPR Info Asia focuses on: (1) fostering an inclusive dialogue to ensure all human rights issues are considered equally throughout the UPR follow-up, and on (2) strengthening CSOs’ ability to assess governmental progress during this process.

During the five days, the workshop explored different ways of documenting and reporting rights violations, including through the international human rights monitoring mechanisms (i.e., UPR, Treaty Bodies, Special Procedures), Thai courts, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, and through the support mechanisms offered by the Ministry of Justice. In order to ensure fact-based and rigorous documentation of rights violations, the workshop also addressed techniques to collect credible evidence from the ground. In the South, the following issues are prevalent: land grabbing and eviction, natural resources management, the impact of business on human rights, torture, freedom of religion, sexual and reproductive health, and the rights of women, indigenous peoples and migrants.

The Southern region prominent human rights issues: following each session, participants shared their experience and raised awareness on the context in the South. Violations related to land include land evictions to establish private development projects, limited monitoring of illegal land usage, attacks and raids on communities, and governmental refusal to recognise villagers’ customary relationship to land. Cases of threats, intimidations and arbitrary detentions are prevalent in the region. Victims of faulty judicial proceedings (i.e. arrests or convictions of innocent persons) have limited access to compensation. Moreover, while reporting cases of torture to the National Human Rights Commission, victims fear the military’s access to confidential information and the risk of reprisals due to the national human rights institution’s lack of independence.

Concerning marginalized communities, forced sterilisation continues, preventing women’s full and informed decision-making on issues related to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, breaching their right to privacy. Women shared their personal experiences being ‘forced sterilised’ in medical settings by physicians not respecting medical ethics. They had not been provided any information, could not provide any consent, and can often feel isolated due to the stigmas associated with womanhood. In addition, refusal to grant citizenship to indigenous children restrains them from accessing fundamental rights and social benefits derived from this status, intensifying their exclusion and vulnerability.

Regarding the conflict in the South, participants indicated human rights violations mostly result from government and insurgents’ actions. As regards to impunity in the South, participants stressed on the importance for those supporting such activities and allowing violence to escalate to also be held accountable. Accordingly, it was observed that while human rights are undeniable, violations may occur at two levels: when the State infringes on people’s rights and liberties, and when a segment of society prevents another from fully enjoying their rights.

Creation of the Southern UPR Network. For the first time, participants from the Upper-, Mid- and Deep South of Thailand united to share experiences and collaborate towards the advancement of human rights in the South. The Southern sub-regional workshop enabled the creation of a Southern CSOs Network to monitor governmental compliance with the UPR recommendations until Thailand’s next cycle, the “Southern UPR Network”.  The network is currently working towards submitting information to the Human Rights Committee prior to Thailand’s review on its compliance with the ICCPR in March 2017. The network also aims to submit information to all human rights monitoring mechanisms at the international and national level to build credible evidence while monitoring the human rights situation on the ground.

The next sub-regional workshop will take place in Chiang Mai on 13-17 December for the Northern region, followed by Bangkok in January 2017.

Countries: Thailand