Rejection of civil society nominees a setback for rights body

Press release
en th

(Paris) The recent rejection of all five civil society nominees for the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) is a serious setback for the body’s credibility, FIDH said today.

On 27 December 2018, during a hastily convened closed-door session, the military junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted by secret ballot to reject five of the seven candidates nominated for the NHRCT. The two candidates whose nominations were accepted are: Ms. Pitikarn Sitthidej, former Director-General of the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department, and Ms. Pornprapai Kanchanarin, former Director-General of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of International Organizations.

“The wholesale rejection of all civil society nominees for the NHRCT and the confirmation of two former government officials show that the junta does not want a body that can effectively contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. This development deals a serious blow to the NHRCT’s hopes to quickly regain its top status, more than three years after its downgrade.”

Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General

The five rejected civil society members comprise: Ms. Somsri Harn-ananthasuk, Coordinator of the People’s Network for Police Reform (by a 14-141 vote); Mr. Pairoj Polpet, Chairman of the EnLaw Thai Foundation (10-145); Mr. Jaturong Boonyarattanasoontorn, lecturer at Huachiew Chalermprakiet University (12-141); Mr. Boonthaen Tansuthepweerawong, Secretary-General of the Campaign for Popular Democracy and Foundation for Human Rights and Development (13-139); and Mr. Surapong Kongchantuk, social activist on issues related to minorities and stateless people (15-135). The first four above-mentioned candidates belong to FIDH’s member organization Union for Civil Liberty (UCL). Under Article 14 of the 2017 Organic Law on the National Human Rights Commission, the five rejected nominees are barred from re-entering the selection process.

The seven nominees were selected among 29 candidates by an 11-member Selection Committee, headed by the Supreme Court President. The seven were then vetted by a separate committee set up by the NLA in September 2018. This NLA committee was tasked with verifying the ethical behavior of the candidates and was to submit a report to the NLA containing their findings within 60 days. Due to claims they would not be able to finish their report by the deadline, the committee requested 30-day extensions on two separate occasions. On 24 December 2018, the committee submitted their report to the NLA, along with a second confidential report on the nominees. FIDH urges the NLA committee to make this confidential report public in order to address serious concerns over the transparency of the confirmation process.

“Despite undue interference by NLA members, which resulted in the flawed and murky confirmation process of candidates, it is apparent that the five civil society nominees fully met the required criteria for the position of national human rights commissioners. National laws and international standards, not political considerations, should guide the confirmation of nominees to the NHRCT.”

Debbie Stothard, FIDH Secretary-General

According to Article 246 of the 2017 constitution, “the provisions on the selection [of national human rights commissioners] shall also prescribe for the participation of representatives of private organizations relating to human rights in the selection.”

Article 8 of the 2017 Organic Law on the National Human Rights Commission lists “experience in human rights”, “knowledge relating to the teaching or research on human rights at the university level,” and “knowledge and expertise in human rights laws, national and international” among the qualifications for candidates to the NHRCT.

According to the international standards related to national human rights institutions (the ‘Paris Principles’), the composition of a national human rights institution and the appointment of its members should be “established in accordance with a procedure which affords all necessary guarantees to ensure the pluralist representation of the social forces (of civilian society) involved in the promotion and protection of human rights.”

In November 2015, the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI)’s Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) downgraded the NHRCT’s status from ‘A’ to ‘B’ over a number of issues, including the selection and appointment process of the commissioners.

Press contact
Ms. Audrey Couprie (English, French), +33648059157 (Paris)
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