Thai citizens take stock of human rights developments in their country
In Thailand, local people have been encouraged to express how they relate to the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), almost 60 years after Thailand, together with other countries at the United Nations General Assembly, adopted this groundbreaking human rights document.
Their voices were printed in a publication entitled “Dignity and Justice for All of Us: Our Voices are Heard in Thailand”, published on the eve of Human Rights Day 2008.
The publication aims to take stock of the progress that has been made, but also to identify human rights challenges the Thai population is facing nowadays.
The interviews were conducted by a consultancy team from Chulalongkorn University. The project had been established by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Country Team, the National Human Rights Commission and the Royal Thai Government.
In one of the accounts, a woman who suffered physical abuse by her husband shares her experience as a victim of domestic violence.
Although domestic violence is illegal in Thailand, it is often tolerated by individuals and communities, she says. “These attitudes mean that even if a victim stands up for her own rights, she is often criticized or marginalized by her community.”
She began to claim her rights when she was told that no one has the right over her body without her consent. “I now realize my rights and have reclaimed my dignity as a human person,” she says.
Commenting on the right to seek asylum, 25-year-old Pornchit speaks out on the situation in Thai refugee camps. Pornchit fled Myanmar eight years ago while he was still in high school. Today, he works as an English teacher at Tham Hin Refugee Camp. For him, life at the camp is merely temporary.
“We are very well provided with food, medicine, shelter and other facilities. But what is lacking is the opportunity to see the outside world,” he says.
His students who were born in the camp have a severely limited view of the world. He believes they should get the opportunity to learn about the outside world through television and the internet.
“As refugees, we are lucky to receive support and to be hosted here, but as human beings, we do not enjoy equal rights with other human beings,” he explains.
Thailand’s Minister of Justice, Somsak Kiatsuranont, noted that the publication ”will be of immeasurable importance,” since it “provides an account of the implementation progress related to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as challenges faced by the Thai society”.
All statements were presented in relation to the 30 articles of the UDHR. These individual accounts were complemented with the information gathered in a series of workshops in Khon Kaen, Songkhla and Bangkok.
The activity was part of a year-long campaign that included public awareness activities by the Government of Thailand and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, such as the distribution of an updated translation of the UDHR.