The National Human Rights Commission was established in Thailand in 1997 (Nathan, 2018). This was when the country had a democratic government. The rights were incorporated into the constitution, a total of 40 in all were established compared to the 9 the previously recognized. With that, Thailand then became one of the few first countries to adopt the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1984 into its constitution.
At that time, the country was visibly committed to making sure human rights worked for its citizens. However, this seized to be the case until September 2006 when the 1997 constitution was abrogated. This was after another of the several military coups that happened in the state. So, for the new government to run, a new interim constitution was imposed and this lasted till 2007 when an improved version, that still retained human rights, was approved.
Another constitution was again approved in 2016 following another military coup in 2013. This is currently the constitution Thailand uses and gladly, it still recognizes human rights as it was in the two previous constitutions of 1997 and 2007 respectively.
But despite this constitutional recognition of the national human rights and the existence of a national commission of human rights, Thailand’s government can still be described as one of the few in Asia with the utmost disregard for the fundamental rights of its citizens (Selby, 2018). Observers around the world have noted the constant infringement of the social, civil, political, cultural and economic rights of the people.
The National Human Rights Commission has greatly suffered as a result of extra-governmental activities. Despite the government’s pledge in 2018 to defend the fundamental rights of its citizens, members of The National Human Rights Commission keep on resigning with the claim that they have been unable to perform their duties as they ought to because of the great influence of the government on the activities of the commission.
Government authorities have been an instrument for the military’s extra-governmental activities. On orders, the authorities have been conferred with the power to warn and punish media agencies on sharing sensitive issues or criticisms against the monarchy and military. Threats of serious sanctions and closure have also been passed to the agencies to hinder them from sharing any sensitive issues as it relates to the activities of the junta. A confirmation of this occurred in 2018 when some media outlets were shutdown of forces off the air for failing to obey these regulations. The right to freedom of expression is trampled on; it is quite difficult to openly express one’s opinion about the current rulership as serious punishment will follow if one fails to comply “appropriately” with the government’s intentions (Human Rights Watch, 2019).
The authorities have also occasionally disrupted academic gatherings and public discussions about the democracy of the state and the issue of human rights in Thailand. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, a popular academic, and human rights’ defender was arrested in August 2019, along with four others of those that participated in the July 2017 International Conference on Thai Studies, held in Chiang Mai province. They were all tried and charged with the violation of the state’s regulation against public assembly of more than 5 participants, and also for the display of symbolic opposition signs (the Hunger Games three-finger salute) against the military rule.
The right to freedom of assembly and association is also infringed upon, panels and seminars are regularly being shut down by authorities, always on the orders of the NCPO. An organization, the Rohingya Peace Network of Thailand, organized a seminar on the 25th of August to celebrate the first anniversary of the violence in Rakhine, a state in Myanmar. But it was also shut down, with the claims that it will affect the relationship that exists between the two regions.
Activities fighting for the course of human rights have also been tried and charged with illegal assembly and some other serious cases like sedition, disruption of security and so on.
Even the international communities have expressed their concerns. Even the US Department of State released a report in 2015 detailing the concerns they have about the way human rights of the people of Thailand are being trampled upon despite the constitutional recognition and the presence of the National Human Rights Commission in the country.
Cases of abduction, especially of Thailand’s key human rights activists have continued to occur. Even though in 2012, the country signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, forced disappearance and torture continue to happen. There’s been the case of the sudden disappearance of Somchai Neelapaijit and Porlajee “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, who are both powerful individuals of human rights activities. Issues like human trafficking, gender inequality, drug abuse, insurgency, violence, also continue to occur in Thailand because of the authoritativeness and non-accountability of the government.