Thai groups worried over right to public campaigns-AHRC
February 7, 2012
Concern among rights agencies regarding the stifle of the right to freedom of expression and the right to participate and propose legal amendments as provided for by the Constitution
A Statement from Group of Thai Human Rights NGOs
Asian Human Rights Commission: February 6, 2012
In pursuant to proposals by academics of the Nitirat Group and the campaign of the Committee for the Amendment of Section 112 to collect signatures of eligible voters who support the amendment of Section 112 of the Penal Code, aka “lèse majesté law” and that it has brought about extensive controversies and debate in society including those supporting and opposing the proposals. Venting different opinions is something normal in a democratic society as long as the exercise of the right is carried out peacefully and in compliance with legal procedure. The state is obliged to protect and defend the right and freedom that belongs to all people. But previously, opposition to the Nitirat Group’s proposals has been mounted in a manner that could be construed as an intimidation to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression by the Group. But instead of carrying out its duties, the State and some leaders in both the government and house of legislative have expressed their satire, intimidation and even threatened the exercise of the right and freedom by the Nitirat Group.
Thailand is a democratic society which embraces different political views. The different opinions expressed by the Nitirat Group is simply an exercise of their academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression as well as the proposition of legal amendment, an act of which is provided for by the Constitution. Therefore, any individual or any group who does not agree with the opinion and wants to offer a different opinion is able to do so by expressing his or her own opinions and debate the issues based on reasons and nonviolence. Respect of others’ rights and freedom has to be expressed to reflect the core values of democracy. Therefore, as the expression of different opinions in compliance with the constitutional and democratic procedure has drawn out the stifle of the right and freedom, the State is obliged to come out to defend the right to freedom of expression and the right of people to participate in the amendment and reform of law as such a right is provided for by the Constitution. Most importantly, the State shall refrain from acting to threaten the exercise or rights and freedom themselves. We demand that the government perform its duties in protecting the right to freedom of expression and the exercise of constitutional rights as well as to stop threatening the exercise of such right and freedom immediately and stringently.
In addition, an academic institution is tasked to promote academic freedom and people’s rights and freedom. In particular, Thammasat University is historically known not merely as a place that has bred many intellectuals to serve people and democratic society, but also an exemplar model of the struggle for rights, freedom, equality and justice. Thammasat has been providing a space to express rights and freedom. Therefore, that the University bans any activity by its own lecturers in the name of the Nitirat Group to campaign for the amendment of Section 112, which is done so according to the right and freedom the Group and any people are able to do and as provided for by the democratic principle, is a breach of the objectives prescribed for a state educational institution and noble tradition of a university to promote academic freedom and the right to freedom of expression. The subjugation of democratic and legal rights is therefore an act against the spirit of Thammsat University. We demand that the administration of the university review its order to prevent the Nitirat Group’s activities from taking place in the university’s premises as long as the activities are carried out peacefully and in compliance with human rights principle.
Please note that the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right in a democratic society. A person who does not agree with another person’s opinion should make an attempt to defend the right to express opinion of that person.
31 January 2012
Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)
Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Want Project (EnLaw)
For more information, please contact:
– Boonthan Verawongse, Campaign Committee for Human Rights: Tel +66-089-131-3190, +66-081- 866-2136 (Thai/English)
– Panom Buntakaew, Human Rights Lawyers Association: Tel +66-085-468-1555 (Thai Only)
– Songran Pongboonchan, Environmental Litigation and Advocacy for the Wants Project: Tel +66-084-016-6152 (Thai/English)