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.
Afghanistan is a rugged country of great beauty straddling Asia and Europe, and it has been the scene of warfare and contestation for decades. The Taliban, a group connected to extreme violence, especially in the late 1990s, emerged as the power in control of Afghanistan recently, due to the void left by outsiders. This is their second time in power and the world can remember all too well that from the mid-1990s until 2001, their rule at the time was harsh and brutal, especially in their clampdown on the rights of women and girls. The latter suffered immensely from a lack of access to school, while the former were also prevented from employment.
One of the most disturbing issues in Thai society today is the number of children (under 18 years of age) who have been arrested and prosecuted for participating in political demonstrations. The most obvious incidents are the protests at Din Daeng intersection during the past few months. Do children have the right to participate, especially from the angle of freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly, and what are the parameters?
North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been a conundrum for the international community for over half a century. Cloistered and undemocratic, the power base keeps a tight rein over its population with heavy surveillance and pervasive constraints. The latest news that recently it restarted to activate its nuclear facility at Yongbyon is most disturbing, as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has already imposed sanctions on the country to end its nuclearisation. Is there any strategy to deal with the country in an engaging manner?
The Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) was established just over a decade ago to promote and protect human rights in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Yet, its activities, to date, have been more to do with promotion activities, such as workshops, rather than protection measures, such as to receive complaints and to provide remedies.
The country's State of Emergency Decree became law in 2005 and since then, it has been one of the most contested laws. Yet, it has been one of the instruments most frequently used by the executive branch of government and is currently the main law for tackling Covid-19. Does the decree comply with international standards?
One of the interesting developments in Thailand is that official circles are gradually moving away from the death penalty as a sanction against crimes. This is witnessed by the Ministry of Justice's campaign to invite the public to look at options beyond the death penalty. What if there is a large proportion of the population in the country which still favours its retention rather than abolition? There is a need to balance with the international trend and the country's obligations.
The desperate situation in Myanmar calls for concerted international solidarity to counter the Feb 1 coup d'etat and its heinous consequences. To date, scores of people have been killed by junta forces, while several thousands have been detained. The crisis compounds two disquieting situations of a longstanding and multi-faceted nature in the country -- the mistreatment of the Rohingya population (a Muslim community) and the decades-long civil war between the authorities and different ethnic groups.