Professor of law at Chulalongkorn University
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn teaches at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions and is currently a member of a UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry. This article is derived from his speech at the recent Conference on Asean Traversing 2015: Challenges of Development, Democratisation, Human Rights and Peace, organised by Mahidol University, Bangkok.
There are about 270 million international migrants today who cross borders in search of new vistas. Many such as "expatriates" do well. However, many, particularly those who are pushed out of their homes, are caught in a trap of dislocation, dispossession and coercion, often due to armed conflicts, discrimination and violence. The number of forced migrants now stands at about 70 million people globally -- some 30 million who cross borders as "refugees" and some 40 million forced to move in their country of origin as "internally displaced persons".
Challenges facing human rights in our brave new cyberworld invite reflection on how the law can be of assistance. Yet, the law also needs to respond to social values of what is acceptable and legitimate -- especially from the angle of democracy, sustainable development and aspirations of peace.
The Asean Intergovernmental Commission On Human Rights (AICHR) is 10 years old this year. How has it fared so far? In its work, it is the promotion-oriented aspect rather than the protection-based dimension which has prevailed to date and, with that ambivalence, the performance of AICHR leaves much to be desired.
One of the most distressing issues today is the predicament of children who end up detained in immigration centres, which often leads to psychological harm. Regrettably, immigration laws in many countries are interpreted as criminal law which gives rise to the detention of those who fail to abide by them, whereas preferably, such laws should be an administrative framework for border management without criminal sanctions.