Rights expert quits NHRC ahead of new commissioners’ appointment

An expert on civil and political rights who serves as an advisor to Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has resigned, saying that most of the candidates for commissioner are not qualified.

Yatsipha Suksai, an expert on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and an advisor to the NHRC submitted a resignation letter to the human rights agency on 23 July 2015.  

In her letter Yatsipha said that she does not believe that the candidates to the NHRC who are now pending the approval of the National Legislative Assembly in about 30 days would be able to safeguard human rights in the country effectively.

“Currently, the human rights situation has changed and the candidates to the NHRC have been selected. However, these candidates might not be able to protect human rights effectively,” wrote Yatsipha in her resignation letter.

The human rights expert concluded that resigning from her post in the NHRC is the only way to express her dissatisfaction with the situation.

She said that under the current special political circumstances, the NHRC should act as an agency where people can seek assistance when the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) violates human rights. It should issue complaints to the NCPO if abuses of human rights occur and at the same time educate people about their rights through the media and other means.

Yatsipha said that the NHRC as an organisation has not been active enough in protecting human rights. She added that there should be a consensus from the NHRC on the NCPO’s arbitrary arrests and detentions under martial law after the 2014 coup d’état, but the rights agency merely summoned NCPO representatives to give information on the matter to a sub-committee.

The civil and political rights expert further said that out of the seven NHRC candidates, only one [Angkhana Neelapaijit, a well-known human rights defender on women’s rights and campaigner against enforced disappearance and torture] seems to have a thorough background in human rights.

On Tuesday, 21 July 2015, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand announced a list of seven candidates to replace the incumbent commissioners who have been in office since June 2009.

One of the seven candidates, Baworn Yasinthorn is the leader of an ultra-royalist group calling itself Citizens Volunteer for Defence of Three Institutes Network.

In April 2010, the ultra-royalist group filed charges under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, against Wuttipong K., aka Ko Tee, a hardcore red shirt leader from Nonthaburi Province, for allegedly defaming the Thai King during an interview with Vice News.

Prior to the 2014 coup d’état, Baworn was also a prominent supporter of People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

The current set of NHCR candidates was selected by only five people, comprising the President of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), the President of the Supreme Court, the President of the Constitutional Court, and individuals selected from the General Assembly of Supreme Court Judges and the General Assembly of Administrative Court Judges.