Although the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of Thailand has not yet posted the details of its new subcommittees on specific issues to its website, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained details of their current membership.
Among the subcommittees, the one on administration of justice is of special importance, as it deals with police abuses, which are rampant in Thailand and on which the AHRC has reported for some years. The former commissioner who held the post as the chairman of that subcommittee was active in his efforts to promote and protect human rights in accordance with the commission's mandate during a period of intense difficulty both for the commission and for Thailand.
However, the new commission's mandate appears to be aimed at protecting the perpetrators of abuses rather than the victims. Accordingly, a former assistant commissioner general of the Royal Thai Police, Police General Vanchai Srinuwalnad, has been placed in charge of this subcommittee, on the ironic basis that he is the one among the commissioners who knows the most about the subcommittee's affairs.
Unsurprisingly, the police general-cum-human rights defender has appointed other people to the subcommittee who know much about the topic by virtue of similar backgrounds. They include two more policemen, Police Major General Boonlert Nanthawisit and Police Captain Yotrangsan Ekphapant, and from the army, General Surin Phikulthong. Altogether, out of 18 posts on the subcommittee, around half have been filled by or are designated for government officials and commission staff. So far only one member of the committee is a woman.
Not only does the NHRC of Thailand apparently not find it strange that a police officer should be put in charge of monitoring and reporting on police abuses, but also it is equally unperturbed that he should in turn set up a subcommittee consisting of other police and state officials. Although this bizarre composition does not appear to be problematic for the NHRC, it again makes a mockery of international standards, the Paris Principles on National Human Rights Institutions, under which the commission is supposed to be independent and pluralistic.
The Asian Human Rights Commission reiterates its earlier call for the NHRC, Thailand to have its status as an institution in compliance with the Paris Principles downgraded and its rights to participate in international forums revoked. It also asks all international partners and interlocutors of the commission to seriously review their relationships with an agency in which the subcommittee responsible for dealing with police abuses is itself being managed by and comprised of policemen.
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.