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Draft NGO law could be used to suppress civil society, says Amnesty

Amnesty International raised concerns that the new NGO bill could be used to control civil society groups and called on the Thai government to withdraw the bill. 

Members of civil society organizations gathered at Government House in opposition to the bill (Picture from Amnesty International)

Ahead of a Thai Cabinet meeting on 28 December, Amnesty International urges the government to immediately withdraw the proposed Operation of Not-for-Profit Organizations Act, after reviewing a copy of the latest draft.

“In its current form the excessively restrictive law could easily be misused to obstruct the work of or even shut down a wide range of grassroots, national and international civil society groups in Thailand, threatening its status as a regional hub for local and international NGOs,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director.

“The list of prohibitions in the draft law are so broad, numerous and open to abuse that they could significantly impact the day-to-day operations of civil society.”

“Of the many problematic sections of the latest draft, one forbids not-for-profits from affecting ‘public order,’ ‘good morals’ or the ‘happy normal existence of other persons.’ All of these vague terms leave organizations at risk from authorities’ unchecked, discretionary power. In a country of 70 million people, any of these provisions could easily be applied arbitrarily to severely restrict freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and other human rights.”

“Amnesty International would like to stress the importance of a transparent and meaningfully inclusive consultative process and urge Thai authorities to seek more input from the public, not-for-profit organizations and their partners so that this law is in line with international human rights standards.”

“We call on the Thai government to withdraw the Draft Act immediately and reaffirm its constitutional and international human rights obligations.”

Background

The latest draft act of the Operation of Non-for-Profit Organizations is dated 21 December 2021. This follows previous versions from 13 December and earlier this year.

At this point, it is unclear whether there will be additional public consultation before it is reviewed by Thailand’s Cabinet and Parliament.

A more detailed analysis of the latest draft can be found in the joint open letter to Thailand’s Cabinet signed by over 40 Thai and international civil society organizations, including Amnesty International.

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