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Human Rights Committee considers the report of Thailand

Human Rights Committee

14 March 2017

The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Thailand on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Presenting the report, Charnchao Chaiyanukij, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand, said that Thailand highly appreciated civil society efforts made in submitting the shadow reports, which reflected not only their useful assessment, but also a fair amount of civil society space in the country even during the political transitional period.  Thailand had become a party to the Covenant twenty years earlier.  Following the submission of the 2005 Report, the country had undergone a period of conflict and turmoil. As series of political protests had polarized Thai society. The recent crisis and political deadlock had ended by military intervention in May 2014, with the view of restoring public order.  The people believed in democracy as well as the universal concept of human rights. Thailand was fully committed to respecting human rights. 

In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts raised concerns about the 2014 interim Constitution; child trafficking; domestic violence; migrant workers; gender equality; arbitrary detention of human rights defenders; stateless persons; the independence of the National Human Rights Commission; asylum seekers and, in particular alleged repatriation of the Rohingya and Uighur asylum seekers; the death penalty including for crimes including narcotics trade; prison and detention centre conditions; and military courts procedures.  The use of force, and instances of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance since the 2014 measures adopted by the military administration were also of concern to Experts.  In particular, Experts were worried about the sharp increase on the number of proceedings and detentions under the lèse–majesté and state of emergency acts, as well as under provisions on sedition, on criminal defamation, the Public Assembly Act, the Computer Crime Act, the Referendum Act and various National Council for Peace and Order orders.

In concluding remarks, Mr. Chaiyanukij thanked all members of the Committee for their questions and comments and the constructive dialogue, stating that implementation was the key, and what was needed the most was to cultivate a culture that fostered the respect for human rights and lawfulness. 

Ahmad Amin Fathalla, Committee Vice-Chairperson, in closing remarks, thanked the Delegation for the lengthy discussion, remarking that some of the questions to still be answered included the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and child labour.

The delegation of Thailand consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the Steering Committee for Southern Border Provinces Administration, the Royal Thai Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of the Interior, the Office of the Attorney-General, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Digital Economic and Society, the Office of the National Security Council, and the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. to consider the third periodic report of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CCPR/C/BIH/3).
 
Report

The second periodic report of Thailand can be read here: CCPR/C/THA/2.
 
Presentation of the Report

CHARNCHAO CHAIYANUKIJ, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand, stated that, as the Government of Thailand had been compiling the report and preparing for the presentation in front of the Committee, it had received useful information and had learnt from representatives from civil society.  Thailand highly appreciated civil society efforts made by submitting shadow reports, which reflected not only their useful assessment, but also a fair amount of civil society space in the country, even during the political transition period.

Thailand had become a party to the Covenant twenty years earlier.  Following the submission of the 2005 report, the country had undergone a period of conflict and turmoil. As series of political protests had polarized Thai society. The recent crisis and political deadlock had ended by military intervention in May 2014, with the view of restoring public order.  The people believed in democracy as well as the universal concept of human rights. Thailand was fully committed to respecting human rights. 

Summarizing the numerous efforts Thailand had undertaken towards the promotion and protection of human rights since 2005, Mr. Chaiyanukij underlined the continuous progress in terms of ratifying relevant international human rights instruments, including the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (2007); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008) and its Optional Protocol (2016) ; the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2013); the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communication procedure (2012); and in 2016, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Labour Organisation Convention N. 187 on Occupational Safety and Health, as well as the International Labour Organisation Maritime Labour Convention (2016).  Thailand had also withdrawn reservations and interpretive declarations to different human rights instruments.

Among other initiatives, Mr. Chaiyanukij noted that the third National Human Rights Plan (2014-2018) was more comprehensive than the previous one and had identified key issues and 15 target groups.  A resolution had been adopted on the Guidance and Measures to address Legal Status Problems and Problems of Stateless Persons in Thailand, of which 80,000 stateless children and young adults could benefit from their eligibility. Thailand continued to promote the rights of women, including through Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s advocacy of the “Bangkok Rules” aiming to eliminate discrimination against women prisoners.
 
Questions by Experts

An Expert asked which constitution was currently in force - the 2014 Interim Constitution, which was inconsistent with the Covenant, or the draft Constitution? Would the draft Constitution better protect the rights of the Thai people and, if so, in what way?

What was the status of the new National Women’s Development Plan?  Could the delegation give more information on the Gender Equality Curriculum? Could statistical data be provided on the percentage of women in the three branches of government, as well as in the police force?

Was the amendment of Section 277 of the Criminal Code regarding the illegal sexual relations between children also applicable to adults if the perpetrator was an adult?

Another Expert referred to the Gender Equality Act of 2007, and inquired if the Committee established to that effect had received any complaints.

Were lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people also allowed into military service?

What was the status of the National Policy Framework for Protection Children from Bullying and Sexual Harassment in Schools?

Referring to the data on domestic violence, an Expert said that no information had been received on the number of convictions, sentences imposed and compensation awarded in that regard.  The Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act 2007 would be replaced by the Draft Law on Protection of Persons within the Family. Was that true, and, if so, was this Draft Law already adopted? Did it contain a definition of sexual violence? Would the victims of domestic violence be better protected under the Draft Law and in what way?

Another Expert asked questions regarding the interim Constitution which lacked protection for human rights and granted sweeping powers to the National Council for Peace and Order, including to exercise legislative, executive and judicial powers. It had been used to issue a number of orders that restricted rights under the Covenant. Additionally, members of the Council were immune. Could the delegation comment on that point?  How did the State party plan to conduct the review of the Constitution? Would it implement inputs from civil society and independent experts? What was the status of the new Constitution, and could details be provided as to the most recent February 2017 amendments to the draft Constitution?

Raising the issue of migrants, the Expert said that those who had been legalized were prevented from returning to their countries of origin.  Could the delegation comment on such claims?  From 2009 until present, 15 complaints had been filed. Could the delegation report on the actions with regard to those complaints?

Regarding arbitrary detention and protection of human rights defenders against harassment, reprisals and attacks, the Expert noted that the question on recent detentions, carried out as “attitude adjustments” and “re-education programmes”, had not been answered.  Could more information be provided regarding those two?

Since the military coup in 2014, there had been an increase in the number of cases of harassments and attacks against human rights defenders and political activists. The Government had issued orders to curb their activities. Those who expressed dissent faced reprisals.  A series of laws gave discretionary powers to the authorities to arrest such persons.  

Another Expert inquired about the National Human Rights Commission, and, more specifically, whether it was in accordance with the Paris Principles, and whether its recommendations were given a full and timely follow up.  Allegedly, the draft Constitution had new provisions regarding the National Human Rights Commission. The Constitution also set up a Commission that would follow-up the National Human Rights Commission’s work and efficiency.  Did it have the competence to file cases to courts, and was it accessible to the public through a hotline number?  The composition of the Commission, its structure and finances were of concern. Would they reflect the principle of pluralistic representation set out by the Paris Principles? Would all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations, trade unions, professional organizations, universities, parliamentarians, be reflected in the representation?

Regarding the use of force, question was asked on concrete measures to address and investigate violations by State actors and prosecute those responsible.  Concern was voiced over the effects of the interim Constitution that would establish a de facto impunity for military personnel.

Instances of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance had been recorded, including unlawful shooting of citizens during the 2010 political violence. Since 2014, the military administration had adopted measures that significantly lessened the protection of human rights, including the martial law of 2014, the 2008 Internal Security Act, and other emergency acts. What measures were in place to fight impunity by police and authorities, including torture, forced disappearances, and killings? Was the State party in the position to provide statistics on the effective and genuine proceedings on the violations of human rights? Had any body been established to investigate and prosecute such acts? Was a physical examination of the persons in detention established in order to collect evidence with regard to torture? If the burden of proof was on the complainant, it would be extremely difficult to prove.  How many cases of prosecution against State officials on the basis of Article 48 of the Constitution had been filed?

Another Expert asked whether the 2014 derogation entailing the suspension of Covenant rights, were still in force and, if so, in regard to which provinces? The martial plan on detention without judicial review for 30 days was not in line with the Covenant.  Allegedly, since 22 May 2014, the number of detentions for the crime of lèse–majesté had dramatically increased.  Could information be provided regarding the relationship between the state of emergency and the enhanced application of lèse–majesté?  Had cases been transferred from civilian courts to military courts? What was the connection between the state of emergency and changes to the responsibility (impunity) regime? With the end of the martial law, to what extent was the state of emergency still relevant?

The Expert expressed his appreciation regarding the de facto moratorium on the death penalty, however it was still on the books related to crimes which were not the most serious crimes, including narcotics trade. He also expressed regret regarding the 2008 executions, notwithstanding the Committee’s recommendations. How many persons were on the death row, and how many of those were related to drug-related crime issues?

Could the delegation provide information on prison conditions? Was the proper treatment of prisoners with mental disabilities ensured, and what measures were in place so that they would be treated in accordance with the human rights standards? Solitary confinement and restraints were allegedly used as a form of punishment. Could information be provided on that, and on the alleged sexual harassment in prisons? What monitoring mechanisms were in place to oversee prison conditions, and did lawyers have easy access to all facilities, including military prisons?

Another Expert inquired about the status of the draft law on torture and enforced disappearances. Did the Government plan to resubmit the draft law and within what time frame?   Allegedly the definition of two crimes in that draft law were not in line with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Response in writing was requested on those two issues. 

Had the National Legislative Assembly ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and, if so, when would it be in force?  Regarding use of force, torture and illegal killings, there was no consolidated data nationally. If there was, could the delegation send it? Could specific information be provided regarding death while in custody, enforced disappearances, and status of inquiry of several specific human rights defenders? Would the State party invite the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances?

What were the plans to transfer civilian cases from the military to civilian courts?
 
Replies by the Delegation

Regarding women in the police force, the delegation replied that the percentage of police women generals was growing. There were 17 women police generals out of a total of 507. Additionally, from over 3,000 police superintendents, there were above 200 women. There were 630 women who had graduated from the Police Academy.

Freedom of expression was clearly defined under the law, the delegation stated.  Restrictions were possible only in the case of those who intended to cause violence, and were in accordance with the Covenant exceptions referring to maintain public order.  Regarding the demonstrations, the Public Assembly Act had been adopted and was effective as of August 2016.  Public assemblies were easily granted permission, provided that they did not block hospitals and other public facilities of importance.  Until now, there had been 53 requests to organize public assembly, all of which had been accepted.

The Government spared no efforts to increase the rights of migrant workers. There were 1.3 million documented migrant workers from three neighboring countries, including 900,000 migrant workers who had received a certificate of identity or temporary passport from the country of origin, and another 400,000 legally imported migrant workers.  Documented migrant workers were authorized to work. Apart from that, there were an estimated 1.4 million illegal migrant workers. Those were pink card holders, and were protected by the Labour Protection Law of 1998.  They were eligible for social security, as long as they had identity documents from their countries of origin. They were provided medical assistance regardless of whether or not they had identity documents. The Government had consulted with the authorities of the three neighboring countries in order to speed up the national qualification process with the aim to regularize the pink card holders, so that they could benefit from all social protection schemes.

The National Human Rights Commission had been founded with the 1997 Constitution, and had been first accredited in 2004. The Government recognized the importance of a strong Commission.  The International Coordination Committee had recommended in 2014 that the National Human Rights Commission be downgraded, due to its selection process and other qualifications that were not in line with the Paris Principles. The Constitutional Drafting Committee was in the process of drafting an Organic Law in order to enhance the National Human Rights Commission as in accordance with the Paris Principles. It had organized a public hearing, with the participation of civil society, academia, political parties, media and other interested individuals. A sizeable budget had been allocated for the Commission. 

Regarding gender equality, in the national Legislative Assembly, six percent of representatives were female, while in the judiciary, over 17 percent were female. Violence against women was still a challenge, because violence caused by spouses was still socially acceptable and viewed as a private affair. The official data of 2015 suggested that out of 256 cases, 204 victims had decided to file complaints, while 52 had decided not to file complaints.  Marital rape had been criminalized. The issue of violence against women had gained increased attention. The Government was aware of the need for data, and in January 2017 the Protection of the Family Act had been submitted to the Legislative Assembly, and would replace the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act.  It would put in place more comprehensive measures, which would cover sexual harassment, as well as provisions to protect victims of domestic violence.

The Gender Equality Curriculum had been developed by two Ministries, and was focused on Social Studies Subjects. Currently the revision of textbooks was underway in order to make them gender-sensitive. They were likewise working with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to develop a handbook aimed at preventing gender-based violence among students in secondary schools. The handbook had been translated, and teachers had been trained to that effect.

Regarding the Emergency Decree on Public Administration and its use in the Southern Provinces, the delegation said that it had been applied in order to ensure peace and order. The main purposes were to authorize officers to arrest those who instigated violent incidents. Violent attacks against civilians and officers still existed. The Government was evaluating the possibility of replacing that decree with another Act.  The relaxation of the Spatial Security Law had been put in place. The Government was thus restricting and relaxing laws proportionately and in accordance to the progress of security. The martial law was applied only to 31 provinces, and was enforced by border provinces, where trafficking was prevalent.  

Regarding the question on the alleged 30-day detention period of civilians under the martial law, the delegation said that the information was incorrect.  The law permitted only seven, and not 30 days of detention. The Emergency Decree permitted the detention of suspects only for seven days, but could be extended up to 30 days.

The delegation informed that the interim Constitution of 2014 was currently in place. Section 4 guaranteed liberties of the people. That included the customary practices in courts, whereby standards had to be upheld. The draft Constitution had been approved in August 2016 by referendum, and expanded the scope of liberties and freedoms.
 
Follow-up Questions by Experts

One Expert regretted that the delegation had not responded to all questions, including the provisions of the Constitution that violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Other Experts regretted not having received any answers on the death penalty, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, conditions of detention, the crime of lèse–majesté and the level of violence in the southern provinces which justified the use of emergency measures.  

An Expert wished to have information on a number of cases involving victims of enforced disappearances, including Sompachai Neelapaijit and Porlajee Rokchongchaeroen, alias Billy.
 
Replies by the Delegation

Responding to the question on the death penalty, one member of the delegation estimated the number of people sentenced to death in Thailand to be 194. Of those, 92 were convicted due to drug-related crimes, while none were related to bribery offences. Persons sentenced to death could apply for royal pardon once the conviction was final.

In the case of enforced disappearances, the delegation explained that investigations had been opened into the case of Sompachai Neelapaijit, but in his case for 11 years no evidence had been found. The family of the deceased victim had received reparations. Regarding the case on Porlajee Rokchongchaeroen, who was missing since 2014, there was insufficient evidence to bring the suspect to justice.

The delegation said that the Draft Act on Prevention and Suspension of Torture and Enforced Disappearance was being reviewed, and it would include a public review.  Several acts had to be discussed and amended, and it would take a while to complete that process.

Thailand was considering ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and was undergoing consultations with civil society to that effect.  Positive feedback had been received. While enacting legislation for the Optional Protocol was not required, a National Preventative Mechanism was, and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand had been identified for that purpose. Training on human rights was ongoing, and over 30,000 law officers had been trained.

On the treatment of prisoners, the Bangkok Rules were being applied as well as other international standards. Prisoners had access to medical care. The New Penitentiary Act of 2017 did not allow any act of torture or physical punishment. The size and form of handcuffs followed international standards. Given that over 70 percent of prisoners were in prison because of drug-related crimes, appropriate penalties for those offences had been installed.  The Government ensured that pre-trial detainees were separated. As of 10 March 2017, 63 detention facilities were involved in the project of creating separate pre-trial detention facilities, one of which was already in operation.

There was a positive trend regarding the entry into military service of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex persons, following a 2011 ruling.  Everyone had the right to serve in the military service, the delegation stressed.

The Government ensured that human rights defenders and lawyers could carry out their work in safety.  Appropriate measures to protect human rights defenders, as well as create a positive public attitude towards them, had been undertaken. The revision of the National Council for Peace and Order decisions was also in place.

The Government of Thailand was very observant regarding the issue of the use of force by public authorities, and had distributed a book entitled “Study Guide on the Practical Performance of Human Rights for all Police in Thailand”. Additionally, it had had organized a workshop and a seminar. Human rights training was implemented in the military curricula. Military personnel were obliged to carry a guidebook on conduct in their pockets.  Thailand followed the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors Adopted by the  United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, in Havana, Cuba. 

The level of violence in the Southern Provinces had decreased, however bombings, shootings and other violence still disrupted the everyday life of people. Therefore, the Government still had the state of emergency in place in those areas.

Regarding specific individuals who had been beaten by security forces, the military court had found two officers guilty and had sentenced them to six months of prison, with an obligation to pay reparations to the victims of over 5,000 USD. Regarding the person who had faced torture while in prison and had died in prison, the case had been submitted to the Attorney-General, and the case would further be referred to the court.

The independence of the judiciary was guaranteed by the interim Constitution of 2014. Judges were independent according to the law.  The military procedure was governed under military law.

On the independence of the judiciary in the military courts, the delegation informed that judges must have practiced law in the military judicial system for no less than 20 years. The right to a fair trial was guaranteed. The court would never launch proceedings if the defendants were not represented by an appropriate lawyer.  The court was required to appoint a lawyer to defendants who could not afford their own. Many cases of detention had been attended by the family of the victim as well as civil society organisations.

With regard to domestic violence and violence against women, the proposed amendment to remove the clause whereby a victim of sexual abuse between 13 to 15 years of age was allowed to marry her offender, regardless of his age, was currently under review by the Ministry of Justice. On domestic violence, from 2010 to 2015, a total of 356 complaints had been filed under the Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence Act. In 2015 alone, 238 cases had been filed, while over 100 were in the process of prosecution, and over 30 were compromised.  If the perpetrator and the victim reached an agreement and wished to settle, the police officer and the court could order the perpetrator to cover medical and other expenses of the victim.

Bullying and violence in schools was being tackled through preventive and other measures. The non-violence concept had been integrated in the curricula. A student protection centre was available in schools, a guidebook was being followed, and each school had to develop an action plan to that effect.  Twelve regional centers had also been set up to supervise provincial centers.

The lèse–majesté law was not a separate act.  Rather, it was section 112 of the Criminal Code and was in place since 1956 with amendments from 1976. The Thai Monarchy represented stability in Thailand. The delegation was wearing black today as they were still mourning the passing of the King the previous year. The lèse–majesté law gave protection to the King or the Queen, and it was not aimed at curbing the freedom of expression. Facts and evidence had to be gathered to establish the case before it could be screened and brought by the Prosecutor. Persons charged for lèse–majesté were entitled to the same rights as persons charged for other criminal offences, including right to a fair trial, right to an appointed legal counsel, and the request for a royal pardon.

Regarding questions on the National Council for Peace and Order, the delegation informed that the aim had been to stop the ongoing political conflict and put an end to the deep division in Thai society.  The Council attempted to reconcile the different parties to the conflict and present an escalation of the situation. It also invited some persons who had a tendency to commit crimes or instigate violent political conflict.  The persons held by the National Council for Peace and Order had the right to accept a lawyer, see a doctor upon request, and communicate with family members.  They had the right to participate in the political process, including to run as candidates in the next general elections, unless they were faced with criminal charges regarding the criminal law.

On conditions in migration detention centres, the following year another center, 30 km from Bangkok, would be completed, with professional facilities and much better overall conditions. The Government worked together with the relevant international organisations and civil society to improve conditions.  Women and children were separated from men.  Relevant non-governmental organizations were allowed to seek bail for certain migrants who had been persecuted in their countries of origin.
 
Questions by Experts

On the issue of detention related to emergency situations, an Expert asked that a clarification be given on whether the emergency decree that allowed for the extension for detention from seven to 30 days was still in place. Could the court see the detainee during that extension?  Was the 2015 amendment of the Military Court Act allowed for charges within the military system up to 48 days? Could those powers also be applied to civilians?

Despite the zero tolerance policy and the 2008 act, and the number of investigations, human trafficking was still a problem, namely in the fishing industry, sex industry, domestic work factories, agriculture industry. In 2015, a specialized court had been established on the trafficking in persons as well as on new measures for litigation against perpetrators. Could specific information be provided? What was the interface between the old and new procedures, and had improvements been seen? What were the effects of the new provisions? Could the delegation provide specific information on the allegation that migrant workers might be deported without an effective screening regarding trafficking?  Inability of trafficking victims to complain as co-plaintiffs had to also be addressed.

On freedom of expression and defamation, the Expert lamented that online surveillance was not comprehensively regulated in Thailand. The storing of metadata by communications services providers was of concern.  What were the conditions to extend storing of such data, and was there judicial oversight on it? The monitoring of social media for the purposes of identifying prohibited speech, including the lèse–majesté offence.  Was it true that the military was involved in the scouting of social media and that the Technology Crimes Oppression Division of the police were enforcing the crime of lese-majesty?  Was it true that over 5,000 websites been shut down?

A clarification was sought on sedition charges because a person was mocking the Prime Minister. Could a clarification be provided on the restrictions of certain academic courses whose contents were viewed as unacceptable?

The role of the Monarchy in Thailand was not problematic for the Committee. However, the concern the Committee had was in regard to the lèse–majesté provisions, which were very broad in their scope and application. The Expert referred the delegation to General Comment 34 on that point.  Of concern was the handcuffing of persons  perceived as criminals, the fact that they were not being released on bail, and the very severe punishment for up to 60 years.

Another Expert asked the delegation to address Section 34 of the draft Constitution, which granted sweeping powers and no judicial review to the National Council for Peace and Order orders.  Could Section 34 of the draft Constitution reflect the right to seek, receive, and impart information, as laid out in the Covenant?  Could the section on curbing freedom of peace full assembly, association when national security and public order were of concern, stipulate the necessity and proportionality test as in the Covenant?  The restrictions to voting and standing for election stipulated in the draft Constitution excluded a significant percentage of the Thai population, including Buddhist clergy, prisoners and persons with mental disabilities.  Could the delegation provide information as to how the restrictions be considered reasonable and be justified under the Covenant? 

The Committee had received information that since May 2015 freedoms of expression and assembly had been significantly curbed.  It was concerning that certain articles were used to detain human rights defenders who expressed public opinion. Could the delegation explain how those restrictions met the obligations under Article and 21 of the Covenant?

The delegation was also asked to respond to questions regarding the re-adjustment programme.

Another Expert was concerned about the arrest and detention of over 200 persons who expressed their dissatisfaction to the military rule. He recalled General Comment 35 of the Committee, according to which arbitrary arrest for the expression of freedom of expression, religion or assembly was contrary to the Covenant.  The Committee raised the cases of three activists. What was the number of people arrested between 2015 and 2017, and the number of individuals convicted and penalties issued against them?  Were there any legislative plans on lifting the restrictions on freedom of assembly in that context? In particular, the Expert asked for the number of criminal penalties imposed by the Public Assembly Act for those who failed to notify of their intention to hold a public assembly.  Was there a procedure in place for those who wanted to appeal the denial of public assembly?

Regarding the deportation of asylum seekers for unlawfully entering or staying in the country, there were reports of the persistent practice of returning those persons to their countries of origin, contrary to the international law.  Of concern was the return of the Uighur people to China and the Rohingya people to Myanmar, both of whom were prosecuted in those countries.  Children were allegedly separated from parents in the deportation places, and subject to sexual abuse. What measures were in place to prevent children from suffering such abuses?  What was the basis for such deportations? Allegedly, those repatriated had not had the chance to contest the order.

The phenomenon of child labour remained widespread. The delegation was asked to provide an estimated number of children under 15 that were actually working in Thailand in different areas, including agriculture, sugar industry, sugar-cane farming, shrimp and seafood processing sector, and competitive boxing. What measures were adopted to prevent those types of exploitation of children?

Another Expert welcomed the screening process of over one million migrants, and asked for more information regarding that procedure. What was the practical solution for the overcrowding of the internally displaced centres? Could the delegation provide information on the Uighur and the Rohingya asylum seekers and why some were repatriated and others not?

Further information was sought on the question of statelessness, which affected a large number of persons in Thailand, namely 2.3 million people. Allegedly, many of those were indigenous peoples who lived in remote areas, near the borders, and with dramatic consequences on rights for those who lacked nationality. How did registration occur? Why was there an administrative fine for a family that did not register a child 30 days after the child was born? Why were DNA tests necessary?

On the rights of minorities, Thailand used the term ethnic groups and not indigenous peoples. Was the term “indigenous” used in Thailand? It seemed that prejudice and stereotyping remained in Thailand to denote tribal peoples. What measures were deployed to counter those stereotypes?  Was the right to property and land ownership of those peoples upheld? Was free prior and informed consultation of indigenous communities on the use and exploitation of their land upheld?

Another Expert noted the encouraging cooperation between the Government and the regional office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights.  Regarding the Gender Equality Act of 2015, which upheld the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, what was the process to review the Act and determine whether it was effective in eliminating discrimination against those categories of persons?

An Expert wished to have more information regarding the transfer of civilians to military courts, He also reiterated to the delegation that it was important that no legal measures were undertaken against non-governmental organisations that cooperated with the Committee.
 
Replies by the Delegation

The delegation stated that the Government was working hard to ensure that all allegations of torture in the southern provinces were prosecuted.

On the questions regarding stateless persons, it was explained that there were 2.5 million foreign nationals, of whom 400,000 stateless persons. Thailand attached a great importance to stateless persons. Identification certificates for nearly 500,000 stateless persons had been issued.  Those were entitled to a birth and death certificate regardless of their status. To further address the issue of statelessness, and to promote the rights of stateless persons in Thailand, it was estimated that approximately 110,000 children would be granted nationality. It was true that a fine was imposed if a child was not registered up to 30 days after it was born.

Restrictions to vote and to run for elections for persons with mental disabilities were set forth on reasonable criteria and based on the General Comment to that effect.  Regarding restrictions for religious monks, for Thai society, Buddhist priests and monks played an important role in providing spiritual support for society, and were expected to be moderate and neutral, and thus not associated with politics. The delegation explained that a person who was detained was disenfranchised only temporarily. Their right to vote would be granted when the person was freed.  Persons who unlawfully manipulated elections were also disenfranchised.  The Government was working to ensure proper voting rights for persons with disabilities, as well as for Thai citizens abroad.

The extension period of the detention for 30 days under the state of the emergency was still possible, and was used on a case-by-case basis.

The Computer Crimes Act was to enter into force in May 2017, and was not aimed to be used for security reasons.  Instead, it was intended to crackdown on illegal activities and strengthen the implementation of other laws, including the Criminal Code on Child Pornography of 2015. That law amended the previous Computer Crimes Act of 2007.  The right to privacy was protected under the law, and any violation of that would be prosecuted as a criminal offence.

As to the use of children in boxing, the delegation explained that it was a popular national sport tied to the history of Thailand. The Act regulating that sport allowed children under 15 to participate only if they were equipped with specific gear, and only for special purposes such as national award ceremonies. Children were not allowed to have a financial incentive for boxing. 

The effectiveness of the Gender Equality Act would be reviewed through a five-year review mechanism which had been put in place by the Government.  

In 2016, the Government had continued to pursue measures to counter trafficking in human beings, which had been a top national priority since 2014.  A total budget of 98 million USD had been allocated for that purpose for 2017, which was an increase from approximately 70 million compared to the previous year.

Recent laws had strengthened the rights of migrants and migrant workers, and measures were being undertaken to bring the violators to justice. In the fishing industry, ten cases were currently under investigation, 21 under the Office of the Attorney, and five had been convicted for a crime.  Numerous food processing factories had been ordered to stop activities due to trafficking. 46 migrant workers had received assistance. Agreements had been signed with neighboring countries in order to promote legal employment and prevent human trafficking.

The issue of land disputes and rights was a long-lasting one. A National Council for Peace and Order act involving the encroachment of public land aimed at addressing it.  Evictions were not carried out arbitrarily. The Government put in place consultation mechanisms, as well as relocation assistance.

The use of the term “ethnic groups” instead of “indigenous peoples” was in order to avoid the connotation with colonialism of the latter term, a delegate explained.

The recent anti-coal power plant rally involving thousands of persons was proof that the right to freedom of association was upheld.  The anti-coal project had been put on hold.

There over 100,000 asylum seekers from Myanmar currently in Thailand. The return of those persons on a voluntary basis was taking place in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Persons from Pakistan, Syria and other countries were also hosted in Thailand. In January 2017, the Cabinet had set up a screening procedure to differentiate between economic migrants and those who sought genuine protection.  Thailand had a no child detention policy.

Concluding Remarks

CHARNCHAO CHAIYANUKIJ, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of Thailand, thanked all members of the Committee for their questions and comments and the constructive dialogue. The delegation had tried its best to provide the Committee with as much information as possible within the time available.  The dialogue would mean nothing if they had simply been talking about human rights in the room. It would be meaningful if they truly believed in them and translated their words into actions that made a difference on the ground.  Implementation was the key. What was needed most in the world was to cultivate a culture that fostered the respect for human rights and lawfulness.  The delegation looked forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations.  The summary of the dialogue together with the Committee’s concluding observations would certainly be submitted to Cabinet for consideration and for implementation at the domestic level.

AHMAD AMIN FATHALLA, Committee Vice-Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the lengthy discussion, and pointed out that some questions had remained unanswered, including on the freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, child labour, and the right to continue education at the same time.  In addition, he welcomed the fact that elections would be held the following year, which was a positive step towards democracy.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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