CSOs, human right defenders disapprove of national human rights candidates

A network of civil society organisations and human rights defenders have issued a joint statement, calling on Thai lawmakers not to approve the appointment of the candidates to Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

On Tuesday, 4 August 2015, 33 human rights defenders and civil society organisations, such as the Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)Thai Volunteer Service (TVS), Development Foundation for Minorities and Ethnic Groups, and Union of Civil Liberty (UCL), issued a joint statement to urge the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) not to approve the list of seven NHRC candidates.

According to the statement, most of the NHRC candidates do not seem to have knowledge and experience in human rights.   

The statement pointed out that the process to select the new set of NHRC commissioners was not in accordance with the Paris Principles, which state that national institutions must maintain independence and transparency.

“The selection process of the NHRC commissioners this time did not include concrete procedures to determine whether or not individual candidates have experience in defending rights and freedoms of the people,” said the group’s statement.

The statement added “from the lessons of the selection process for the second set of NHRC commissioners, it is clear that the selection of those who do not have solid experience in defending human rights would have devastating effects on the rights and freedoms of the people.”

Last month, the NHRC announced a list of seven candidates to replace the incumbent commissioners who have been in office since June 2009. The NHRC candidates now await the approval of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) in about 30 days.

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 hard-core 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).

According a leaked classified document whose source requested Prachatai not to show the document and to respect their anonymity due to privacy concerns, 12 of the 17 members of the committee authorized to screen the behaviour and ethical backgrounds of the new candidates to the NHRC are four-star military officers.

Last year, the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the International Coordinating Committee on National Human Rights Institutions (ICC), an independent international association of national human rights institutions (NHRIs) which monitors the performance of national human rights institutions worldwide, downgraded Thailand’s NHRC from A to B, citing the agency’s poor performance and partiality.