Professor of law at Chulalongkorn University
Vitit Muntarbhorn is professor emeritus at the Law Faculty, Chulalongkorn University. He has helped the UN in a various positions, including as UN Special Rapporteur, UN Independent Expert and member of UN Commissions of Inquiry on human rights.
In 2009, Asean established a long-awaited regional human rights body in the form of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). This commission has now undertaken a self-assessment of its work in recent years, and it covers some of the innovative measures identified below. Complementary to AICHR, there also came into being the Asean Commission on the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and other sectoral bodies.
Developing societies (including Thailand) have enjoyed the presence of extended families, in contrast with the smaller unit of nuclear families. This broader coverage, encompassing not only the parents and children but also grandparents and other dependants, has offered a social safety net to support family members. Yet, that extended unit has now been disintegrating for some time, compounded by the stress due to Covid-19. What then are the areas needing more attention to tackle the changing scenario?
Thailand is proudly a hub for United Nations (UN) agencies and programmes, and this adds weight to its leverage in international relations. Inevitably, the UN presence has to address key issues of sustainable development, human rights, democracy and peace. A key question is thus whether a viable balance is being struck between national practices and international aspirations.
The issue of privacy, especially in terms of the protection of personal data linked to a person's identity, has come to the fore this month due to the coming into force of Thailand's Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). It applies to both public and private entities that keep or process personal data concerning other people and it establishes safeguards to protect people's privacy.
A recent seminar on May 24 hosted by the Ministry of Justice together with international organisations highlighted various stepping stones in the struggle against torture and enforced disappearances in Thailand. There was detailed discussion of the draft national law on the issue. There was also analysis of Thailand's most recent report on its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), which was an eye-opener for the public.
This month commemorates the 30-year anniversary of the Bloody May events in 1992 that witnessed extensive violence against street demonstrators and the subsequent fall of the military-linked government that had come to power due to the 1991 coup. What then are some of the lessons to remember, resonating from the past to the present and the future?
The recent vote in the UN General Assembly (GA) suspending Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), due to its conduct in Ukraine, in early April 2022 is a rare instance of the GA asserting its powers with binding force. Generally, only the UN Security Council (SC) can adopt measures; these are exemplified by sanctions adopted by the SC periodically against errant states, non-government armed groups and individuals. Is there then room for a more assertive GA, especially when the SC is dysfunctional?