• ‘We are an activist group that seeks to restore faith in democracy’

    Ahead of the publication of the 2018 State of Civil Society Report on the theme of ‘Reimagining Democracy’, we are interviewing civil society activists and leaders about their work to promote democratic governance, the challenges they encounter in doing so, and the victories they score. CIVICUS speaks to Rangsiman Rome, co-founder of the Democracy Restoration Group, a Thai civil society organisation seeking to restore faith in democratic processes, particularly among young people, and promote accountable and responsive democratic institutions.

  • Adoption of Thailand's Universal Periodic Review

    Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Human Rights -- Outcome Adoption for Thailand

    Delivered by Ahmed Adam

    On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Mr. President,

    We note that Thailand has accepted 218 out of 278 recommendations it received during its 3rd cycle UPR. We regret that Thailand has rejected majority of the recommendations on civil and political rights, including those calling for the repeal of repressive laws that are being used to target defenders, raising questions about Thailand’s commitment to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.

    Thailand has justified its rejection of these recommendations as a necessary measure to balance ‘the exercise of individual’s rights’ with the rights of others, ‘national security, public order and public health’. Thailand’s human rights record, however, suggests that this is yet another excuse to continue legitimising crack downs on fundamental freedoms, restrict the media and intimidate defenders and civil society, on the grounds of national security and public order using laws such as lese majeste, sedition and the Computer Crimes Act.

    Pro-democracy protesters have faced restrictions, arrest and excessive force. Many activists, including children, continue to face intimidation and judicial harassment. From July 2020 to January 2022, at least 1,767 activists[1] were prosecuted for taking part in peaceful assemblies and dissent against public policies. Political activists and defenders have been held for extensive periods in pre-trial detention without access to lawyers and medical services as a form of reprisal to silence the pro-democracy movement.

    While we recognize Thailand’s plans to accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, we regret its failure to support a recommendation to conduct prompt investigations into the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit and other political activists. Perpetrators must be held accountable.

    Furthermore, the proposed amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), and the draft Non-profit law would threaten the ability of civil society to operate. They contradict Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law, as well as its stated commitment during the UPR to guarantee fundamental freedoms.

    Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights remains a disservice to defenders, as a vague and a purely aspirational document with no mechanisms for public disclosure, monitoring, andpublic participation.

    We echo recommendations for Thailand to ratify international rights treaties and ensure that its domestic legislation comply with international human rights standards. Thailand must lift all undue restrictions on civic space, and end all forms of attacks against human rights defenders, civil society and the pro-democracy movement.

    Thank you


    Civic space in Thailand is rated as repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor 

  • Alarming trends in restrictions to access to resources facing civil society in Asia

    Statement at the 50th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 3: Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

    Delivered by Ahmed Adam On behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation and World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Mr. President, We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s important report on civil society’s access to resources.

    Systematic restrictions on civil society’s access to resources often represent one of the first indicators of overall deterioration of the human rights situation and a trend towards authoritarian rule as seen in many Asian countries, in particular, in India and Bangladesh. In India, over 6000 NGOs have been banned from accessing foreign funding under the draconian Foreign Contributions (Regulations) Act, 2010 (FCRA) effectively forcing them to cease their operations.

    The law has been used particularly to silence human rights NGOs critical of the government. The amendments made to FCRA makes sub-granting of funds to grassroot organisations impossible, affecting many beneficiaries. Early this month, Bangladesh authorities arbitrarily cancelled the registration of prominent human rights NGO, Odhikar, after years of crippling restrictions on its operations under the Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Law 2016 for its legitimate human rights work in the country. This has had a serious chilling effect on the country’s civic and democratic space, forcing many others to resort to self-censorship.

    Many other countries the region are in the process of adopting similar measures that would effectively decimate civil society. We are particularly concerned about the impending adoption of a new law on NGOs in Thailand. In this context, can the Special Rapporteur elaborate on your engagement with countries such as India and Bangladesh, and their responses, where such measures have had serious implications for fundamental freedoms and civic space.

    Finally, we welcome the Special Rapporteur’s timely follow up report on his visit to Sri Lanka amid nationwide peaceful protests in response to the country’s economic crisis precipitated by failure of governance and the rule of law, and rollback of fundamental freedoms.

    Can the Special Rapporteur further elaborate on obligations of authorities to uphold the right to peaceful protests and ensure accountability, especially in situations such as those seen in Sri Lanka on 9 May where supporters of the embattled ruling party attacked peaceful protestors while the security services looked on?

    Thank you.

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  • CIVICUS' United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions on Civil Society Space

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint and stand-alone UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on 4 countries in advance of the 39th UPR session in October 2021. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.

  • CSW66: ‘Global-level policy-making is disconnected from women’s realities’

    CIVICUS speaks about women’s human rights and the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) with Wanun Permpibul of Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) and Misun Woo of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD).

    APWLD is an independent civil society organisation (CSO) committed to building feminist movements to advance women’s human rights and development justice in Asia and the Pacific as well as globally. CWT, a member organisation of APWLD, is a CSO that works with local communities and women to call for urgent climate action and climate justice.

    Thailand CSW66 interview

    What do you see as the main women’s rights issues in Thailand and the Asia Pacific region, and how does APWLD work to address them?

    Women in Thailand still do not have access to political spaces. Women work on farms and take care of their families, but when policies are made regarding farm work and domestic work they are not engaged in policy discussions, either in the planning process or the implementation stages.

    We tend to look at the symptoms of issues, in this case of the violations of women’s human rights, but we need to look at both the structural causes and the consequence of these violations and injustices. The exclusion of women in policy formulation and decision-making processes perpetuates gender injustices and rights violations. We need to shift power relations so that every person can exercise their inherent power with dignity. Most women do not have the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights and access political leadership because they are systematically undermined.

    APWLD’s work consists of identifying the systems of oppression – patriarchy, fundamentalisms, militarism, colonialism and capitalism – and fighting to dismantle them while finding alternative solutions to advance women’s human rights and development justice. Through our work we have been able to build capacity and solidarity among feminist movements.

    We focus on several thematic areas, including climate justice. Part of our work is about identifying and promoting the adoption of mitigation and adaptation strategies to advance women’s human rights as well as address the loss and damage and historical responsibilities. We see women experience the impacts of climate change disproportionately and they must be a source of solutions to help deal with the climate crisis. However, the reality is that they are not sufficiently engaged and the policies implemented in most instances do not cater to their needs and concerns.

    What issues have you tried to bring into the CSW agenda this year?

    This year’s focus for CSW’s 66th session (CSW66) was on the impact of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on women’s human rights. We have highlighted the ways women have been experiencing the impacts of climate change and the solutions they have devised. What we really wanted to see highlighted at CSW66 was the acknowledgment of the root causes and consequences of climate change on women and their effects leading to widening inequalities and increasing violations of women’s human rights.

    A very critical point we wanted to see addressed was loss and damage associated with impacts of climate change and delays in mitigation efforts. It would have been good if CSW66 had supported a financial mechanism to address loss and damage due to the climate crisis as well as an accountability mechanism to hold accountable those responsible for causing the climate crisis, particularly large fossil fuel industries. We need to address the root causes of climate change for our societies to achieve sustainability.

    Another issue we wanted to highlight at CSW66 was the ongoing attacks against women human rights and environmental defenders in Asia and the Pacific in the context of the climate crisis. They are at the frontline of climate crisis, working day in and day out to raise awareness about and resist the catastrophic impacts of extractive industries and fossil fuel burning, and they must be protected.

    What were your expectations, and to what degree were they met?

    We had high expectations, even though so many restrictions were imposed due to the pandemic. We viewed CSW as a space or momentum to elaborate on the causes and the consequences of climate change, environmental degradation and disasters on women’s human rights. We expected it to meet the dual missions of advancing global commitments to address climate change and advancing women’s human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

    Unfortunately, CSW66 failed us on both counts. It did not look into the deeper causes of the climate crisis and the extent of its impacts on women’s human rights and gender equality. Mostly what it did was just add wording on climate change, environmental degradation and disasters at the end of the existing text of CSW66 conclusions. It failed to address the structural causes of the crisis, so the conclusions and recommendations are not designed to address and rectify those structural issues.

    We need to pay attention to, for instance, how CSW66 Agreed Conclusions effectively let governments off the hook from their human rights obligation to regulate the private sector. Instead, they seek to strengthen the roles and responsibilities of the private sector and just encourage them to conduct human rights and environmental due diligence, where appropriate.

    Another practical example is the net-zero goal included in the text. Most states are welcoming this goal that seeks to balance the amount of greenhouse gas produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. In doing so, they are placing the responsibility of determining the future in the hands of those that are causing climate change.

    If CSW66 were serious about addressing climate impacts and really thought this is a climate emergency, it would not go for a net-zero goal, which is buying time for those exploiting fossil fuels and polluting the planet to continue their business as usual, and would instead focus on the just and equitable transition to decentralised and renewable energy systems.

    Did you have the opportunity to participate fully, or did you experience access issues?

    We made a political decision to attend CSW66 in person, even though we were concerned about COVID-19 restrictions and there were lots of uncertainties regarding CSO participation in CSW66. The decision came from the fact that we, women from the global south, have lost significant opportunities and access to influence multilateral processes during the COVID-19 crisis.

    Our experience is that CSW66 was not well organised, especially from the perspective of CSOs from the global south. It was all very uncertain and CSOs were not provided with enough information, while UN Women continuously advised us against traveling to New York. We were given access to the UN building only two or three days before CSW66 started. Only through an informal announcement we got to know that special event tickets would be distributed to two representatives per organisation with ECOSOC accreditation to access the conference room to observe. If the announcement had been made officially by the UN in time, it could have reached a larger audience of CSOs that had the right to be there.

    We were also disappointed to see that CSOs continued to be excluded from the negotiation room. Civil society in the global south faces many structural restrictions on participation, including time constraints and language barriers. We really wanted to see CSW66 facilitate women’s meaningful and democratic participation, particularly because this year saw the negotiation of a Methods of Work resolution. However, this was yet another failure. To us, it was a further indication of how disconnected from women’s realities global-level policy making is.

    If we compare CSW66 to other UN spaces, such as climate conferences, the lack of engagement between CSOs and national governments in CSW66 becomes readily apparent. It was challenging to have a dialogue with government representatives and negotiators because of the travel restrictions and the inability of some countries to participate in person.

    Do you think that international bodies, and specifically the UN, adequately integrate women in their decision-making processes?

    If we look at UN climate conferences, for instance, we will find that the proportion of women delegates is always low. Even though it has been increasing, it is still significantly small. We have seen attempts in successive climate conferences of the parties (COPs) to try and have a gender and climate focal point for every country, but the UN has not supported the initiative to introduce a protocol for national governments to implement it. The CSW66 Agreed Conclusions reiterate the need to have a gender and climate focal point in national governments. Thailand still does not have one.

    Arrangements may be better for women in the global north, but from our global south perspective they are pretty bad. The CSW66 Agreed Conclusions note the importance of women’s and girls’ meaningful participation in decision making. However, the reality of women’s participation at CSW is far from encouraging.

    It’s easier to say that UN Women or the CSW methods of work resolution encourage member states to include CSO representatives on their delegation. Many countries in Asia and the Pacific have seen a rise in autocratic and misogynistic leadership, and having CSO representatives on such government delegation is not something that will happen at all or in a meaningful way. It is not enough to hear the voices of women; women must be given actual power to make policy decisions grounded in women’s realities. This is the only way structural changes will happen.

    Civic space in Thailandis rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor
    Get in touch with APWLD through itswebsite or itsFacebook andInstagram pages, and follow@apwld on Twitter. Get in touch with Climate Watch Thailand through itswebsite or itsFacebook page, and follow@ClimateWatchTH on Twitter. 

  • Joint Letter: Restore democratic rule in Thailand

    5 June 2018

    Prime Minister
    General Prayut Chan-o-cha
    Government House
    Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
    Bangkok 10300, Thailand


    Re: Concerns regarding arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters

    Dear Prime Minister,

    We are writing to you with regards to the recent arrest and charging of pro-democracy activists for their participation in a peaceful protest in Bangkok on 22 May 2018, the fourth anniversary of the military coup in Thailand. These individuals were part of a group of hundreds of protesters who were calling for an end to military rule and for elections to be held by November 2018, in line with commitments previously made by your government.

    15 individuals were arrested on the day of the protest and subsequently charged with various offences including violations of Penal Code Sections 116 (sedition), 215 (assemblies leading to “breach of the peace”) and 216 (refusal to disperse). They are also facing charges under Article 12 of the Head of the NCPO Order No. 3/2558, which prohibits “political gatherings of five or more persons”, the Road Traffic Act, and the Public Assembly Act.

    On 24 May, after being detained for two nights, the 15 activists were brought to the Bangkok Criminal Court and granted bail of 100,000 Thai Baht per person (approximately USD 3,100). The court also imposed restrictions prohibiting the activists from organising or participating in further protests.

    On 29 May, authorities issued summons to at least 47 additional individuals present during the protest, including a staff member from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who was on hand to monitor the event. This group of individuals will learn the nature of the charges they face when they report to a Bangkok police station on 7 June.

    The arrest and charging of the protesters clearly contravene Thailand’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), as do the restrictions placed on the future activities of these individuals.

    After four years of military rule in Thailand, government authorities continue to arbitrarily arrest, detain and prosecute peaceful protesters and government critics under an array of laws including those used to charge the 22 May protesters as well as the Computer Crimes Act and Penal Code provisions relating to defamation and offenses against the monarchy. Many pro-democracy activists are subject to charges in multiple criminal cases concerning their protest activities and could face decades of imprisonment, if convicted.

    By limiting political activities, curbing public gatherings, monitoring private communications, and stifling public discourse on matters of national interest, authorities are unjustifiably restricting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Moreover, these actions have created a fearful environment in which people cannot freely express their opinions, criticize public authorities, or peacefully assemble without risking arrest and prosecution. These human rights violations are taking place in the context of the Thai government’s repeated failure to fulfil promises to hold elections and restore democratic norms.

    Therefore, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the 22 May pro-democracy protesters and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Quash convictions and drop charges against anyone prosecuted or convicted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;
    • Amend or repeal laws and orders that restrict or provide criminal penalties for the peaceful exercise of human rights or allow for arbitrary detention, including Penal Code provisions relating to sedition, defamation and insults to the monarchy; the Computer Crimes Act; the Public Assembly Act; and NCPO Order No. 3/2558;
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution; and
    • Lift all restrictions on political activities and take steps to restore democratic rule in Thailand as soon as possible.

    We express our sincere hope that you will consider and support these recommendations. We would be happy to discuss these matters with you or other appropriate officials at any time and offer our support in reforming laws and policies to ensure compliance with international human rights law and standards.


    David E. Kode                                  Soo Yon Suh                                    Matthew Bugher

    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead          Program Manager                            Head of Asia Programme

    CIVICUS                                          Asia Democracy Network                ARTICLE 19

  • Laos and Thailand must investigate enforced disappearances

    Civil society groups urge Laos, Thailand to investigate enforced disappearances, reveal fate of Sombath Somphone and Od Sayavong

    On the seventh anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, urge the Lao and Thai governments to investigate enforced disappearances, and demand Vientiane finally reveal Sombath’s whereabouts and ensure justice for him and his family.

    Considering the Lao police’s protracted failure to effectively investigate Sombath’s enforced disappearance, a new independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts should be established without delay. The new body should have the authority to seek and receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional, independent, impartial, and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

    Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

    Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, only twice since January 2013 – the last time in December 2017. No substantive information about the investigation has been shared by the police with the family, indicating that, for all intents and purposes, the police investigation has been de facto suspended.

    We also call on the Lao and Thai governments to resolve all cases of enforced disappearances in their countries. The most recent case is that of Od Sayavong, a Lao refugee living in Bangkok, who has been missing since 26 August 2019. Over the past several years, Od engaged publicly in drawing attention to human rights abuses and corruption in Laos, and met with the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights on 15 March 2019 in Bangkok, prior to the latter’s mission to Laos. The concerns regarding Od’s case were expressed in a joint statement that the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and three Special Rapporteurs issued on 1 October 2019. 

    We would also like to draw particular attention to reports that Ittiphon Sukpaen, Wuthipong Kachathamakul, Surachai Danwattananusorn, Chatcharn Buppawan, and Kraidej Luelert, five Thai critics of the monarchy and Thailand’s military government living in exile in Laos, went missing between June 2016 and December 2018. In the case of the latter three, the bodies of Chatcharn and Kraidej were found about two weeks later on the Thai side of the Mekong River, mutilated and stuffed with concrete, while a third body - possibly Surachai’s - reportedly surfaced nearby and then disappeared. DNA tests carried out in January 2019 confirmed the identity of Chatcharn and Kraidej.

    We call on the Lao and Thai governments to investigate these cases in line with international legal standards with a view towards determining their fate and whereabouts.

    Both the Lao and Thai governments have the legal obligation to conduct such prompt, thorough and impartial investigations and to bring all individuals suspected of criminal responsibility for crimes under international law and gross human rights violations to justice in fair trials.

    We also urge the Lao and Thai governments to promptly ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Laos and Thailand signed in September 2008 and January 2012 respectively, to incorporate the Convention’s provisions into their domestic legal frameworks, implementing it in practice, and to recognize the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of victims or other states parties.

    Finally, we call on the international community to use the upcoming Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos to demand the Lao government promptly and effectively investigate the enforced disappearance of Sombath Somphone. The third UPR of Laos is scheduled to be held on 21 January 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland.

    During the second UPR of Laos in January 2015, 10 United Nations member states (Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) recommended the Lao government conduct an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

    Until the fate and whereabouts of those who are forcibly disappeared are revealed, the international community should not stop demanding that they be safely returned to their families. The Lao government should be under no illusion that our demands will go away, we will persist until we know the real answer to the question: “Where is Sombath?”

    Signed by:

    1.    11.11.11
    2.    Action from Ireland (Afri)
    3.    Alliance Sud
    4.    Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
    5.    Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance to Stop Mining) 
    6.    Amnesty International
    7.    Armanshahr / OPEN ASIA
    8.    Article 19
    9.    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) 
    10.    Asia Europe People’s Forum
    11.    Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
    12.    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    13.    Asian Resource Foundation
    14.    Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM)
    15.    Awaz Foundation Pakistan – Centre for Development Services
    16.    Banglar Manabadhikar Sutaksha Mancha (MASUM)
    17.    Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    18.    CCFD-Terre Solidaire
    19.    Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD)
    20.    Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR)
    21.    China Labour Bulletin (CLB)
    22.    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    23.    Civil Rights Defenders
    24.    Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
    25.    Community Resource Centre (CRC)
    26.    Community Self-Reliance Centre (CSRC)
    27.    DIGNIDAD Coalition
    28.    Dignity – Kadyr-kassiyet (KK)
    29.    Equality Myanmar
    30.    Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF)
    31.    Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) 
    32.    FIAN International
    33.    FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    34.    Focus on the Global South
    35.    Fresh Eyes - People to People Travel
    36.    Front Line Defenders
    37.    Global Justice Now 
    38.    Globe International
    39.    Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
    40.    Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
    41.    Human Rights in China (HRIC)
    42.    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    43.    Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
    44.    INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
    45.    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    46.    Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
    47.    Justice for Iran (JFI)
    48.    Karapatan Alliance Philippines (Karapatan)
    49.    Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHR)
    50.    Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)
    51.    Land Watch Thai
    52.    Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR)
    53.    Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
    54.    League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI)
    55.    MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) 
    56.    Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
    57.    Manushya Foundation
    58.    MONFEMNET National Network
    59.    National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)
    60.    Nomadic Livestock Keepers' Development Fund
    61.    Odhikar
    62.    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD) 
    63.    People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
    64.    People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
    65.    People’s Watch  
    66.    Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) 
    67.    Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI)
    68.    Psychological Responsiveness NGO
    69.    Pusat KOMAS
    70.    Right to Life Human Rights Centre (R2L)
    71.    Rights Now Collective for Democracy (RN)
    72.    South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM)
    73.    Stiftung Asienhaus
    74.    STOP the War Coalition - Philippines (StWC-Philippines) 
    75.    Sustainability and Participation through Education and Lifelong Learning (SPELL)
    76.    Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
    77.    Tanggol Kalikasan – Public Interest Environmental Law Office (TK)
    78.    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
    79.    The Corner House
    80.    Think Centre
    81.    Transnational Institute
    82.    Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
    83.    Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR)
    84.    Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)
    85.    WomanHealtth Philippines
    86.    Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC)
    87.    World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
    88.    World Rainforest Movement (WRM)


    Andy Rutherford 
    Anuradha Chenoy 
    David JH Blake
    Glenn Hunt
    Jeremy Ironside
    Jessica diCarlo
    Kamal Mitra Chenoy
    Mary Aileen D. Bacalso
    Miles Kenney-Lazar
    Nico Bakker
    Philip Hirsch

  • Resilience in times of shrinking civic space: How Resilient Roots organisations are attempting to strengthen their roots through primary constituent accountability

    Soulayma Mardam Bey (CIVICUS) and Isabelle Büchner (Accountable Now)

    The systematic crackdown on peaceful protests and demonstrations across the world has shaped our understanding of repression against civil society organisations (CSOs). Yet, less-spectacular restrictions such as increased bureaucratic requirements imposed by governments are not necessarily less threatening to CSO resilience.

    While those tactics significantly hamper CSOs’ ability to operate and can reduce primary constituents' trust in CSOs' ability to represent them legitimately, we also need to acknowledge that these symptoms can stem from our own inappropriate approaches to accountability. When CSOs are not accountable to their roots, this can serve as a breeding ground for governments’ and other non-state actors’ anti-CSOs strategies and rhetoric.  

    The Resilient Roots initiative is aiming to test whether CSOs who are more accountable and responsive to their primary constituents are more resilient against threats to their civic space. 15 organisations from diverse countries and contexts have partnered with us to design and rollout innovative accountability experiments over a 12 month period. These experiments will explore how public support and trust in CSOs can be improved through practising what we call primary constituent accountability, which aims to establish a meaningful dialogue with those groups that organisations exist to support, and increase their engagement in CSO decision-making.

    Accountability and resilience are both highly context-specific and vary not just from country to country but also along an organisation’s thematic focus, size and approach. This means that we need to explore the relationship between accountability and resilience on a case by case basis and across a variety of very different contexts. Keeping this in mind - and without further adieu - read on to meet the some of Resilient Roots Accountability Pilot Project organisations:

    One of these organisations is the Poverty Reduction Forum Trust (PRFT) from Zimbabwe. In the rural area of Dora, in the district of Mutare, they aim to systematically validate actions and strategies through constituent-led monitoring of programme progress. As a platform for civil society that aims to address the root-causes and diverse manifestations of poverty in Zimbabwe, they may face very different challenges from an organisation that works on more politically polarising topics.

    For example, Russian CSO OVD-Info is an independent human rights media project that monitors detentions and other cases of politically motivated harassment, informs media and human rights organisations on the state of political repression in Russia, and provides legal assistance to activists. For the Resilient Roots initiative, OVD-Info seeks to set up a dashboard to serve as a data visualisation tool, which will help evaluate the efficiency of its projects and motivate their constituents to play a stronger role in the organisation’s decision-making.

    In contrast to the technology and data-driven approach of OVD-Info, FemPLatz is a women’s rights organisation from Serbia that seeks a more direct and personal approach. They plan to gather feedback from their constituents through focus group discussions, interviews and workshops while also improving their communication with their constituents through the publication of a regular newsletter. This will allow their constituents to monitor their work and get in contact with them to provide feedback.

    A newsletter can also contribute to closing the feedback loop. Projet Jeune Leader (PJL) from Madagascar, for example, will engage young adolescents, their parents and school administrations to establish a coordinated and systematic means to collect feedback. They will collect feedback through participatory scorecards, stories from primary constituents around the changes triggered by the project, and an updated youth magazine to get closer to their constituents. PJL works on a comprehensive sexual-reproductive health education and leadership development program integrated into public middle schools.

    A particularly creative approach comes from Solidarity Now. Through multimedia productions, their primary constituents will express their daily perceptions, challenges, and dreams through the making and sharing of interactive material like video clips. Solidarity Now consists of a network of organisations and people whose goal is to assist and support the populations affected by the economic and humanitarian crises in Greece. Through the provision of services to both local Greeks and migrant populations, it seeks to restore the vision of a strong Europe based on solidarity and open values.

    In Asia, Climate Watch Thailand (CWT) is an organisation working to drive changes in attitudes towards climate change, and trigger action on the topic. As part of the initiative, CWT is going to strengthen how they formulate policy asks, by continuously testing their relevance to their constituents and this gaining wider support.

    Unfortunately, not all the organisations we work with in this initiative feel comfortable enough to publicly associate themselves to Resilient Roots, without the fear of inciting further anti-CSO responses in their local context. Such is the case of our Ugandan partner, a reminder of how delicate civic spaces are and how important it is for our sector to better understand how to strengthen CSO resilience in recent times.

    These diverse organisations are using a variety of approaches to work on CSO accountability, and we are incredibly excited to be exploring with them how different accountability practices fare in different regional and thematic contexts. What factors will make them successful and where will they need to adjust? In what circumstances does increased accountability actually lead to increased resilience? We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you: how they progress with their projects, the things they are learning, and what you can draw from their experiences to inform the work of your own organisation.


    Resilient Roots blog

  • Thai government fails to accept recommendations to repeal restrictive laws at UN periodic review

    Human rights groups CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Asia Democracy Network (ADN) are disappointed by the Thai government’s failure to accept recommendations to repeal restrictive laws as recommended by members states of the UN Human Right Council, despite making commitments to civic freedoms. These actions highlight the inconsistent approach of the government to human rights that is undermining its credibility.

  • Thai officials must drop all the ongoing prosecutions under the Emergency Decree

    CIVICUS and various civil society organisations have written a letter expressing concern over the use of the Emergency Decree to restrict human rights and silence dissent in Thailand. 

     Joint Letter Thailand09112022 2

    Dear Honorable Ambassador,

    We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are writing to express our serious concern regarding the ongoing impact of the implementation of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation B.E. 2548 (“Emergency Decree”) in response to the Covid-19 pandemic in Thailand. We are troubled by reports of the continuing prosecution of individuals charged under the Emergency Decree, despite the end of the declaration of the “emergency situation” in all areas of Thailand as well as the effect of regulations, announcements, and orders issued thereunder.

    We urge you to call on Thailand to cease all intimidation, harassment and prosecution of all individuals solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, information, peaceful assembly, movement, and public participation through the abuse of laws and administrative regulations, and to immediately drop all charges, issue non-prosecution orders, and refrain from further charges, against any individual, including those facing prosecution solely for peacefully exercising their human rights for alleged violation of the Emergency Decree.

    Purportedly to combat the Covid-19 outbreak, Thailand had been operating under a state of emergency since 26 March 2020, with the executive government having extended the declaration of an emergency situation 19 times since then. During this period, a series of regulations containing several Emergency Decree measures have been periodically announced pursuant to Emergency Decree powers. These include several vague and overbroad restrictions on the rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly and public participation.


  • THAILAND: ‘Marriage equality is likely to pass – and inspire change in other Asian countries’


    CIVICUS speaks about the progress being made toward legalising same-sex marriage in Thailand with Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, an LGBTQI+ activist and Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights.

    Founded in 2013, Fortify Rights is a human rights civil society organisation (CSO) working to bring laws, policies and practices in line with human rights standards through evidence-based research, strategic truth-telling and empowerment.

    Why are there currently four different bills in parliament aimed at legalising same-sex marriage?

    LGBTQI+ marriage is such a significant issue in Thailand today that bills to legalise it have been submitted to parliament simultaneously by the government and other political groups. It is unusual and encouraging to see political parties competing to propose changes that would benefit LGBTQI+ people.

    Out of the four bills up for consideration, one was submitted by the government, two were submitted by political parties, the Move Forward Party and Democratic Party, and another was submitted by civil society. The one submitted by the cabinet and approved by the prime minister takes precedence over the rest.

    The civil society bill was initiated by the Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality, which brings together numerous CSOs. It was developed at the grassroots level and drafted and submitted on behalf of Thailand’s LGBTQI+ people. It successfully made its way into parliament, with its authors securing seats in the readings as discussions progressed. It is uncommon for a bill proposed by civil society to enter parliament, so this is a very positive development.

    The civil society bill is also more progressive than the other three because it ensures parental rights for LGBTQI+ people and proposes a transitional procedure to allow LGBTQI+ couples to register their marriages and enjoy spousal rights while other relevant laws are still being revised and amended, rather than make them wait until all of the process is finished.

    Still, the primary objective is consistent across all four bills: they all seek to amend the civil and commercial code, which now defines marriage as a union between man and woman and grants them the status of ‘husband and wife’, by replacing these gendered words with the gender-neutral expressions ‘individuals’ and ‘spouses’. This simple change will enable LGBTQI+ people to register their marriages.

    How have LGBTQI+ activists advocated forthe bill?

    The constitution establishes that if a bill is proposed by a group of citizens or civil society groups, representatives from the initiating group should be involved with the parliamentary committee working on the bill. This provided space for LGBTQI+ activists to participate in the legislative process and advance their agenda. The Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality has played a crucial role in presenting a unified and consolidated stance on marriage equality in parliament. The activists currently engaged in discussions have been advocating for this bill for over a decade.

    As an advisor to the committee drafting the marriage equality bill, I provide expert opinions from the perspective of human rights law and international standards. For instance, I make sure the bill aligns with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, among other international conventions and treaties, and incorporates good practices and advanced protections found in the laws of countries with marriage equality.

    What are the prospects of the same-sex marriage bill being passed?

    The bill will likely be passed, although it will take some time. The legislative process in Thailand involves three readings in the House of Representatives, the elected 500-member lower house of the National Assembly, followed by three readings in the Senate, the appointed upper house. Proposed legislation then undergoes scrutiny by the Constitutional Court and is ultimately signed into law by the king, then published in the Royal Gazette.

    The marriage equality bill is currently in its initial stage in the lower house. It successfully passed its first reading in December 2023 and is now undergoing its second reading. All four bills are now being examined and consolidated into a single version. The second reading is expected to finish by early March, after which the final bill will proceed to the third reading in the lower house before advancing to the Senate.

    The bill’s adoption seems highly likely because civil society’s decade-long public campaigning has succeeded in getting marriage equality included on Thailand’s main political agenda. Despite some challenges, prospects for adoption have gradually and steadily increased. The prime minister and cabinet have expressed their support and opposition to the bill has decreased. I believe it is just a matter of time until the bill becomes law and comes into force.

    What impact would the passage of this law have for LGBTQI+ struggles?

    Marriage equality is a lot more than a mere administrative process of signing papers. It’s about securing the rights of LGBTQI+ couples to adopt children together and be recognised as legal parents. It’s also a matter of life and death if an LGBTQI+ person is in an accident and their partner must give permission for them to undergo surgery or other medical procedures. Ultimately, the fight for marriage equality is about enabling LGBTQI+ people to live normal lives and form families. This is the true meaning of marriage equality that we are fighting for and the message we strive to convey to society.

    The legalisation of LGBTQI+ marriage would further raise awareness about LGBTQI+ issues in society, setting a solid stage for advancing other LGBTQI+ rights. It would be a firm first step towards full legal recognition of the rights of LGBTQI+ people, including parenting and inheritance rights, as well as equal social rights and other benefits currently enjoyed only by heterosexual couples. Moreover, a gender recognition bill is in line for parliamentary consideration.

    I also hope that the achievement of marriage equality in Thailand will inspire change in other Asian countries. We learned a lot from the experience of Taiwanese LGBTQI+ activists, who were the first to achieve legalisation of same-sex marriage in Asia, and I hope others will be able to learn from us too.

    Do you expect conservative backlash to happen?

    During the previous government led by the military junta, the regime attempted to project an image of Thailand as open to LGBTQI+ people, but reality told otherwise, as it disregarded LGBTQI+ rights and treated LGBTQI+ people as a deviant group with special needs. A 2021 constitutional court ruling even referred to LGBTQI+ people as a ‘special species’ that needs to be singled out and studied. This reflected the state’s views of LGBTQI+ people. Similar attitudes are occasionally present among the public, particularly among older generations, who still need to understand and get used to society becoming more inclusive and open.

    Islamic parties are likely to pose the biggest threat of conservative backlash. They have so far either abstained or voted against the marriage equality bill in parliament, but their current representation is low. However, in southern Thailand, where Islamic beliefs have significant political and cultural influence, there is potential for unequal implementation of the bill once it is passed.

    On a positive note, public attitudes toward LGBTQI+ people have improved over the past few years and discussions about LGBTQI+ rights, gender equality and social inclusion have become common on social media platforms. This positive shift can be attributed to the continuous efforts of LGBTQI+ activists in running public awareness campaigns.

    What international support do you need to further advance LGBTQI+ rights in Thailand?

    Based on my experience of organising protests on the ground, access to resources is key to advancing our cause, since these are scarce at the grassroots level of LGBTQI+ activism. Local activists, often students and young people who are not affiliated with renowned human rights organisations, play a crucial role as change-makers. However, limited funds hinder many young activists from becoming full-time human rights defenders, threatening the sustainability of the LGBTQI+ movement. I believe that for the movement to move forward sustainably, it is crucial to establish connections with international donors and explore ways to form a coalition of Thai LGBTQI+ activists to amplify our voices on the international stage.

    We are all passionate about claiming our rights, but passion alone is not enough. LGBTQI+ activism needs resources and support to continue to mobilise and sustain the movement.

    Civic space in Thailand is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Fortify Rights through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@FortifyRights and@mdpyy on Twitter.

  • THAILAND: ‘People understood election monitoring was important to ensure checks and balances’

    YingcheepAtchanontCIVICUS speaks about the 14 Mayelection in Thailand with Yingcheep Atchanont, executive director ofInternet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw).

    Founded in 2009, iLaw is a civil society organisation (CSO) that campaigns for democracy, freedom of expression and a fair and accountable justice system in Thailand. Alongside Amnesty International Thailand, in 2020 iLaw developed the websiteMob Data Thailand that compiles protest data and jointly with other groups it exposed the use ofPegasus spyware against prominent leaders of Thailand’s pro-democracy protests.

  • THAILAND: ‘Spyware was used to monitor protesters’ online activity’

    Sutawan ChanprasertCIVICUS speaks about the use of surveillance technology against civil society activists in Thailand with Sutawan Chanprasert, founder and executive director of DigitalReach, a civil society organisation (CSO) that promotes digital rights, human rights and democracy in Southeast Asia.

    What is DigitalReach working on?

    DigitalReach is a digital rights organisation working in southeast Asia. We are looking at the impact of technology on human rights and democracy in the region. We initiated this project with a focus on the use of Pegasus spyware in Thailand and reached out to The Citizen Lab and iLaw for collaboration. This is because iLaw is a well-known organisation based in Thailand with a great connection with local activists, and The Citizen Lab is well-known for its expertise in spyware investigation.

    What were the main findings of this research?

    Pegasus spyware, which is produced by NSO group and sold only to state agencies, can infect devices (both iOS and Android) through a technology called ‘zero click’, which means that it needs no action on the part of the targeted user. Once the spyware is installed, it can gain access to everything on the device, including photos and text messages, and can turn the camera and microphone on and off.

    In Thailand, this spyware has been used against at least 35 iPhone users: 24 activists, three CSO workers, three academics and five opposition politicians. These infections happened between October 2020 and November 2021, which was peak time for the democracy movement.

    There were three reasons why the spyware was used against dissidents: to monitor protesters’ online activity, to monitor the protests and to find out more about the movement’s funding. On the basis of forensic evidence, The Citizen Lab confirmed that zero-click technology was used, exploiting vulnerabilities in the system to gain access to the devices.

    This was likely not the first time spyware was used against activists in Thailand, but we have no evidence to confirm this suspicion. Other digital surveillance tools have also been used: as detailed in our report, GPS devices were found attached to some dissidents’ vehicles during democracy mobilisations.

    How did the government react to your findings?

    On 22 July the Prime Minister said in parliament that he does not know anything about this spyware, and he added that such spyware would be unnecessary as we all knew what was going on from social media. The Deputy Minister of Defence also declared in parliament that it is not the government’s policy to use spyware against people or ‘generally’ violate their rights. Meanwhile, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society stated in parliament that spyware technology had been purchased but not by a department or agency under his authority. However, he referred to it generically as ‘spyware technology’, without ever confirming that he was referring to Pegasus.

    Is there anything CSOs and activists can do to counter spyware?

    Spyware is considered a dual-use item, which means it can also be useful in criminal investigations. However, we all know this is not always the case. In Thailand and many other countries, spyware has been used against dissidents and members of the opposition, which means that the technology needs to be strictly regulated so it’s not abused. However, it’s hard to see that happening under the current administration, as the government itself is the likely perpetrator. Only policymakers who care about human rights will be able to make progress on this.

    As for individual activists, there is no total solution to prevent a device from being infected by this kind of spyware. However, exposure to this threat can be reduced in several ways, such as by using two-factor authentication, using a security key or an authenticator app rather than an SMS, using a messaging platform with the disappearing message feature and by enrolling in Google’s Advanced Protection Program.

    What can the international community do to support Thai activists facing surveillance?

    This is a tricky question. Thailand doesn’t currently have an active local digital rights organisation, so working on this would be a good first step to increase digital security protection. The global community that works on digital security can play an important role. However, training activities offered in Thailand must be conducted in the local language and customised to fit the Thai context.

    There’s also a need for digital security work in Thailand that goes beyond training, including monitoring to watch for emerging digital threats against dissidents, more research and work with local activists and organisations to ensure their long-term digital safety with a sustainable approach. Funding is also needed because local activists and organisations must buy tools to support their digital security.

    Civic space in Thailand is rated ‘repressed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.
    Follow DigitalReach via itswebsite and follow@DigitalReachSEA on Twitter.

  • THAILAND: ‘Young people question the government abusing their rights and compromising their future’

    CIVICUS speaks to Amnesty International Thailand’s executive director, Piyanut Kotsan, about the Thai pro-democracy movement and the repression of protests. Established in Bangkok in 1993, Amnesty International Thailand has more than 1,000 members across Thailand. Its work focuses on the promotion of the freedoms of online and offline expression and peaceful assembly, human rights education, abortion rights and the rights of people on the move, while denouncing torture, enforced disappearances and the death penalty.

  • Thailand: Concerns regarding the right to peaceful assembly


    1 September 2021

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
    Royal Thai Government
    1 Pitsanulok road
    Dusit, Bangkok 

    Re: Concerns regarding the right to peaceful assembly in Thailand

    Dear Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha,

    We, the 13 undersigned organizations, write to express our concern regarding violence and the excessive use of force by police at recent protests in Bangkok. We are troubled by the disproportionate response of riot police to provocations by protesters. We are also concerned by the arbitrary detention of protest leaders who have recently faced new criminal charges and have been denied bail and detained. Thailand needs to do more to protect protesters from violence and ensure that the public can safely exercise the right to peaceful assembly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    In recent weeks, both riot police and protesters have contributed to a significant escalation in violence at political protests in Bangkok. In August alone, police have forcibly dispersed at least ten demonstrations using rubber bullets, water cannons, and tear gas. At several protests, demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, launched fireworks, and used slingshots to shoot nuts and bolts at riot police. Many of the clashes have occurred near Din Daeng intersection, which is close to the headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division of the Royal Guard. Youth participation in these protests has been high, with a large proportion of protesters under the age of 18.

    Crowd control measures and other actions taken by law enforcement officers have frequently violated the human rights of protesters and international standards on the policing of protests. Police officers have repeatedly fired rubber bullets at protesters in an indiscriminate fashion. Footage from a recent protest shows riot police firing rubber bullets from a highway overpass at a distance too great to ensure the targeting of violent individuals in a manner consistent with international standards. In other videos, police officers appear to shoot rubber bullets at individuals passing on motorcycles, including at point blank range. Journalists, including those who visibly identified themselves as press, have also reported being hit with rubber bullets at protests.

    Police have reportedly fired tear gas canisters directly at protesters. On 13 August 2021, a protester, Thanat Thanakitamnuay, was hit in the face by an object believed to be a tear gas canister fired by police at Din Daeng intersection and has reportedly lost sight in his right eye.

    The recent use of firearms by unknown assailants at a protest raises further grave concerns. On 18 August 2021, three teenage protesters were shot with live ammunition in front of the Din Daeng Police Station. One of the victims—a 15-year-old boy—was hit by a bullet in the neck and remains in intensive care. According to a hospital report he is suffering from paralysis of both arms and legs and is not responding to stimulus. The other two injured protesters were reportedly 14 and 16 years old. The police have denied using live ammunition during the protest and said they are investigating the shooting.

    In addition to cracking down on street protests, Thai authorities have continued their harassment of protest leaders and participants through legal processes. Since July 2020, more than 700 individuals, including at least 130 children, have been investigated in connection to their protest activities.[1] Between 7 and 9 August 2021, at least 32 protest leaders and participants were arrested and charged with a variety of offences. Ten were arbitrarily denied bail and subjected to pre-trial detention.

    Two of the protesters who were arrested, Arnon Nampa and Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, are Gwangju Prize for Human Rights laureates. Arnon was charged, inter alia, with lèse-majesté (defaming the monarchy) in relation to a speech he gave on monarchy reform at a protest in Bangkok on 3 August 2021. Jatupat was charged with, inter alia, violating a COVID-19 emergency regulation after he organized a protest in front of Thung Song Hong Police Station on the same day. Seven other protest leaders—Parit Chiwarak, Nutchanon Pairoj, Sirichai Natueng, Phromsorn Weerathamjaree, Panupong Chadnok, Thatchapong Kaedam, and Panadda Sirimatkul—were all charged, inter alia, with violating a COVID-19 emergency regulation as a result of their participation in a peaceful protest in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters on 2 August 2021. Sam Samart, a 19-year-old, was arrested on 7 August and charged, inter alia, with violating a COVID-19 emergency regulation in relation to the protest in front of the Border Patrol Police Region 1 Headquarters on 2 August 2021.

    Many of these activists have previously been detained, prosecuted, and imprisoned for their protest activities. In 2016, Jatupat was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment after he was convicted of lèse-majesté. Earlier this year, Parit was detained for 91 days on similar charges. Arnon, Panupong, and Phromsorn were also arrested earlier this year and were released from pre-trial detention in June.

    The court determined that the activities of key protest leaders including Arnon, Parit, and Jatupat violated the bail conditions connected to their previous lèse-majesté cases, which prohibited them from participating in political protests or further defaming the monarchy. They could face years of pretrial detention.

    At least eight of the detained protesters have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 while jailed. On 26 August 2021, the Court of Appeal granted bail to Sirichai Natueng, Panadda Sirimasakul, and Sam Samart, and they were released from custody. Even though prisons are overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, the other seven protest leaders remain in pre-trial detention, each having been denied bail at least twice.

    Thailand’s obligations under international law and relevant standards

    Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand ratified in 1996, guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. While some restrictions on assembly are permissible under international law, any restriction on this right must be ‘imposed in conformity with the law and . . . necessary in a democratic society.’[2] ICCPR Article 21 enumerates a list of the permissible justifications for a restriction on assembly: to protect national security, public safety, public order, public health, public morals, or the rights and freedoms of others.[3] No other governmental interest can justify a restriction on peaceful assembly.

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Thailand ratified in 1992, protects children’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly.[4]

    In its General Comment No. 37, the UN Human Rights Committee elaborated on the importance of the right to peaceful assembly:

    Together with other related rights, [the right to freedom of peaceful assembly] constitutes the very foundation of a system of participatory governance based on democracy, human rights, the rule of law and pluralism. Peaceful assemblies can play a critical role in allowing participants to advance ideas and aspirational goals in the public domain and to establish the extent of support for or opposition to those ideas and goals. Where they are used to air grievances, peaceful assemblies may create opportunities for the inclusive, participatory and peaceful resolution of differences.[5]

    The right to peaceful assembly is foundational to many other rights and, in particular, helps to ensure economic, social, and cultural rights are upheld. Moreover, protest is often one of the most effective tools available for marginalized individuals and groups to successfully advocate for change.[6]

    For these reasons, international law is especially protective of protests with a political nature. According to the Human Rights Committee, ‘assemblies with a political message should enjoy a heightened level of accommodation and protection.’[7] As such, the creation of perimeters around government buildings or official locations that demarcate where assemblies may not take place ‘should generally be avoided, inter alia, because these are public spaces. Any restrictions on assemblies in and around such places must be specifically justified and narrowly circumscribed.’[8]

    The threat to public health posed by the COVID-19 pandemic may justify narrow restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, but such restrictions must meet the requirements of legality, necessity, and proportionality under international human rights law.[9] In assessing whether a measure is necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim, consideration should be given to whether the measure in question is the least intrusive means of achieving that aim. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued guidance on issues affecting civic space in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that:

    States should ensure that the right to hold assemblies and protests can be realized, and only limit the exercise of that right as strictly required to protect public health. Accordingly, States are encouraged to consider how protests may be held consistent with public health needs, for example by incorporating physical distancing.[10]

    In April 2020, UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups warned against the excessive use of force to enforce COVID-19-related restrictions on protesters, stating, ‘emergency measures can be a more direct threat to their life, livelihood, and dignity than even the virus itself.’[11] Moreover, aggressive police action against protesters may defeat the purpose of emergency measures. Arrest, detention, the use of force, and dispersal of protests can increase the risk of virus transmission for protesters and law enforcement officials alike.[12]

    States have an obligation to protect journalists, monitors, and members of the public - as well as public and private property - from harm.[13] As such, state actors must take steps to ensure that protesters can exercise their rights safely, while exerting the ‘minimum force necessary’ to reduce the likelihood of injuries and property damage.[14]

    In a joint statement, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the freedoms of association and expression declared that there is ‘no such thing in law as a violent protest’.[15] Rather, there are only violent protesters who should be dealt with individually. According to the Special Rapporteurs and Human Rights Committee, the right to peaceful assembly is an individual right, not a collective right, and must be treated as such.[16] Any isolated act of violence by some participants must not be attributed to other participants in the assembly. In addition, so long as organizers take reasonable efforts to encourage peaceful conduct during an assembly, they may not be held responsible for the violent actions of others.[17] 

    State authorities may only disperse assemblies when ‘strictly unavoidable,’ such as when there is clear evidence of an imminent threat of serious violence that cannot be dealt with by targeted arrests or other less drastic actions.[18] Before dispersing a crowd, law enforcement officers must take all reasonable measures to enable the assembly by providing a safe environment. Even if some protesters act violently, all those involved retain all their rights under the ICCPR, including, of course, the right to life and protection against arbitrary detention.[19]

    Law enforcement officers should only resort to force in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.[20] Any use of force must only be the minimum amount necessary, targeted at specific individuals, and proportionate to the threat posed.[21] The restrictions on the use of force at assemblies are even more important when police use lethal force, including the use of firearms. When policing an assembly, firearms may only be used when strictly necessary to counter an imminent threat of death or serious injury.[22]

    Rubber bullets can also be deadly. The OHCHR Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement states that ‘kinetic impact projectiles should generally be used only with the aim of striking the lower abdomen or legs of a violent individual and only with a view to addressing an imminent threat of injury to either a law enforcement official or a member of the public.’[23] Rubber bullets should not be used as a general tool to disperse protesters, nor should they be fired indiscriminately into a crowd.[24]

    Tear gas and other ‘area weapons’ also pose risks to protesters and should only be used in response to widespread violence with the sole purpose of dispersal and as a measure of last resort after giving an audible warning and providing reasonable time for protesters and bystanders to vacate the area.[25] Tear gas cartridges and canisters may not be aimed at individuals or used in confined spaces.[26] Their use on a person who is already restrained amounts to a violation of the prohibition against torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under international law.

    According to the Human Rights Committee, states should ‘consistently promote a culture of accountability for law enforcement officials during assemblies.’[27] As such, it is essential that police receive adequate training to facilitate assemblies. Law enforcement officers must understand the legal framework governing assemblies, their obligation to enable peaceful assemblies, and the importance of political assemblies in a rights-respecting society. They should receive training on proper techniques to manage crowds and how to avoid escalation while responding to violence by protesters.[28] Any use of force must be investigated to determine whether the force was necessary and proportionate.[29] States have ‘an obligation to investigate effectively, impartially and in a timely manner any allegation or reasonable suspicion of unlawful use of force or other violations by law enforcement officials … in the context of assemblies’.[30]

    In March 2020, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all states to release ‘every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views’ in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[31] By continuing to detain protest leaders despite high infection rates and overcrowding in prisons, the Thai government is unnecessarily putting their lives at grave risk.


    In order to fulfill its human rights obligations, the Thai government should not only refrain from suppressing protests but also needs to create a safe and enabling environment for members of the public to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    We call on the Thai government to ensure that law enforcement officials only resort to the use of force against protesters in full compliance with international human rights law and standards. In particular, authorities must not use greater force than necessary to achieve a legitimate objective and must not cause greater harm than the harm they seek to prevent. Any use of force must be proportionate to a legitimate law enforcement objective, such as meeting any threat of violence. We further call on your government to ensure that all law enforcement personnel present at protests have been properly trained in strategies and tactics that comply with international human rights law and standards. Authorities should promptly, effectively, impartially, and independently investigate any violations of domestic law and international standards and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable.

    We further call on the Thai government to immediately end its harassment of protest leaders and participants. Individuals detained solely because of their exercise of the right to peaceful assembly, including protest leaders recently denied bail, should be immediately and unconditionally released. No one should be detained merely for exercising a human right, such as the rights to peaceful assembly or freedom of expression.

    We urge you to initiate a review of all laws and policies impacting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Thailand. Laws and policies that unjustifiably restrict the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression should be amended in line with international law and standards.

    Thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations raised in this letter. We would welcome the opportunity to assist and support the Thai government in meeting its human rights obligations.

    Amnesty International
    ARTICLE 19
    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
    Asia Democracy Network
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    Civil Rights Defenders
    FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
    Fortify Rights
    Human Rights Watch
    International Commission of Jurists
    Manushya Foundation

    Police General Suwat Jangyodsuk,
    Commissioner-General of the Royal Thai Police
    Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan
    Bangkok 10330 

    Civic space in Thailand is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    [1] Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, ‘สถิติคดี 1 ปี หลังเยาวชนเริ่มปลดแอก: ยุติการใช้ “กฎหมาย เป็นเครื่องมือปราบปรามทางการเมือง’, 18 July 2021, available at:  

    [2] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 21.

    [3] Ibid.

    [4] Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 15.

    [5] Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 37, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/37, para. 1, (23 July 2020) [hereinafter General Comment No. 37]. Unofficial Thai language translation is available at:ไทย_GC-37.pdf

    [6] Id. at para. 2.

    [7] Id. at para. 32.

    [8] Id. at para. 56.

    [9] See Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 37, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/37, para. 45, (23 July 2020) [hereinafter General Comment No. 37].

    [10] Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ‘Civic Space and COVID-19: Guidance’, 4 May 2020, available at:

    [11] UN OHCHR, ‘COVID-19 security measures no excuse for excessive use of force, say UN Special Rapporteurs’, 17 April 2020, available at:

    [12] Amnesty International, ‘COVID-19 Crackdowns: Police abuse and the global pandemic’, 2020, p. 25, available at:

    [13] Id. at paras. 74, 76.

    [14] Id. at paras. 76, 79.

    [15] UN OHCHR, ‘UN rights experts urge lawmakers to stop “alarming” trend to curb freedom of assembly in the US’, 30 March 2017, available at:

    [16] Id. See also: General Comment No. 37 at para. 4.

    [17] Joint report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on the proper management of assemblies, U.N. Doc A/HRC/31/66, 4 February 2016, at para. 26 [hereinafter HRC 31/66].

    [18] HRC 31/66 at para 61; General Comment No. 37 at para. 85.

    [19] General Comment No. 37 at para. 9.

    [20] HRC 31/66 at para. 57.

    [21] Id. at paras. 57–58.

    [22] General Comment No. 37 at para 88; HRC 31/66 at para. 59. See also: Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, principles 9 and 14; Amnesty International, Dutch Section, ‘Use of Force: Guidelines for the implementation of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials’, August 2015, section 2, available at:, [hereinafter Amnesty International, ‘Use of Force’].

    [23] United Nations Human Rights Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons in Law Enforcement, para. 7.5.8, available at: [hereinafter Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons].

    [24] Amnesty International, ‘Use of Force’, section 7.4.2.

    [25] Id. at para. 87.

    [26] Guidance on Less Lethal Weapons, paras. 7.3.6-8.

    [27] General Comment No. 37 at para. 89.

    [28] HRC 31/66 at para. 42.

    [29] General Comment No. 37 at para. 91.

    [30] Id. at para. 90.

    [31] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, ‘Urgent action needed to prevent COVID-19 “rampaging through places of detention”’, 25 March 2020, available at:

  • Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    Read the Thai version of the letter

    Letter to the Prime Minister of Thailand as the government cracks down on peaceful protests calling for democracy, human rights and reform.

    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha
    Office of the Prime Minister
    Pitsanulok road
    Bangkok 10300

    Thailand: Drop charges against peaceful protesters and end restrictions on civic freedoms

    CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation, is a global alliance of civil society organisations (CSOs) and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society around the world. Founded in 1993, CIVICUS has more than 10,000 members in more than 175 countries throughout the world.

    We are writing to you to highlight our serious concerns about the escalating crackdown on peaceful protests in Thailand. According to reports by civil society groups, at least 80 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested since 13 October 2020. [1]

    • On 13 October, police forcibly dispersed a pro-democracy protest organised by the People’s Group at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. Police allegedly kicked, punched, and threw some protesters to the ground. At least 23 protesters including protest leader Jatuphat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa were arrested.[2]
    • On 14 and 15 October, another 34 people were reportedly arrested including protest leaders.[3] Five of the protest leaders - Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Prasit Khrutharot, Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul and Nathchanon Pairoj were charged with “sedition” (Article 116 of the Thai Criminal Code).[4] The rest were charged under the newly promulgated Emergency Decree. We are seriously concerned about reports that the police had prevented their lawyers from meeting with the arrested activists. Some have also been denied bail.
    • Activists Ekachai Hongkangwan and Boonkueanoon Paothong were also arrested on 16 October. They had reportedly shouted and held up the defiant three-finger salute when the Queen’s motorcade drove past protesters on 14 October. They have been charged under Section 110 of the Criminal Code and could face life imprisonment.[5]
    • On 16 October, police closed roads and established barricades with multiple rows of barbed wire in order to prevent people from peacefully gathering peacefully. Subsequently, police repeatedly used water cannons with chemical irritants and dye in attempts to disperse the crowd, estimated to be in the thousands.[6] Police also charged in with batons and shields to disperse the protesters.[7] 12 protesters were reportedly arrested.[8] Among those arrested include Kitti Pantapak, a journalist with Prachathai news outlet. His equipment was also confiscated.[9]
    • On 17 October, despite peaceful protests at least seven activists were reportedly arrested including student leader Panupong Chadnok.[10] On the same day, Chatchai Kaewkhampod a protest leader from Ubon Ratchathani province was also arrested.

    We are also concerned about the introduction of a new emergency decree that severely restricts peaceful assembly and expression. The decree bans gatherings of five persons or more, and broadly prohibits the publication of news and information “which may instigate fear amongst the people” or that “affect national security or peace and order”.

    Under the decree, authorities can arrest and detain people without charge for up to 30 days on grounds as vague as “supporting” or “concealing information” about the protests. The decree also allows those arrested to be detain them in informal places of detention and does not require access to legal counsel or visits by family members. Officials carrying out the duties under the decree enjoy legal immunity.

    During the announcement of the measure, the authorities cited the need to “maintain peace and order” and that protesters had “instigated chaos and public unrest”.[11] We believe this to be a clear misrepresentation of the actions of the protesters.

    The latest crackdown follows months of acts to suppress dissent, including the widespread use of judicial harassment against activists and human rights defenders. Authorities have arbitrarily arrested activists and filed charges against them under an array of repressive laws.

    These actions are inconsistent with Thailand’s international obligations, including those under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Thailand ratified in 1996. These include obligations to respect and protect fundamental freedoms which are also guaranteed in Thailand’s Constitution.

    As such, we urge Thai authorities to take the following steps as a matter of priority:

    • Immediately and unconditionally release all pro-democracy protesters detained, drop all charges against them and lift all restrictions on the exercise of their human rights;
    • Pending their release, ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and have regular access to lawyers of their choice, their family members and to medical care;
    • Revoke emergency measures imposing restrictions on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression
    • Investigate all allegations of excessive force or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the police while dispersing protests and halt the use of water cannons water cannon unless there are situations of serious public disorder as provided by the 2020 United Nations guidance on less-lethal weapons in law enforcement
    • Create a safe and enabling environment for activists, human rights defenders and other members of Thailand’s civil society to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly without intimidation, harassment, arrest or prosecution

    We express our sincere hope that you will take these steps to address the human rights violations highlighted above.

    Yours sincerely,

    David Kode
    Advocacy & Campaigns Lead.
    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation

    Civic space in Thailand is rated Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

    1 ‘Arrest Statistics’, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 18 October 2020,

    2 Thailand: Over 20 Democracy Activists Arrested, Human Rights Watch, 13 October 2020,

     3 Two more rally leaders arrested, Bangkok Post, 15 October 2020, and Thailand bans mass gatherings under emergency decree, Al Jazeera, 15 October, 

    4 ‘Thailand: End crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists, lift emergency decree ‘ FIDH, 16 October, 5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020,

    5 Article 110 of the Criminal Code bans any act of violence against the Queen or Her Majesty’s liberty. See ‘Two arrested on motorcade charges’, Bangkok Post, 16 October 2020, 

    6 ‘Thailand: Water cannons mark deeply alarming escalation in policing’, Amnesty protests’, 17 October 2020, 

    7 Thailand: Water Cannon Used Against Peaceful Activists Human Rights Watch, 17 October 2020, 

    8 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020, 

    9 Prachatai's reporter, 24, arrested while covering police crackdown, Prachatai, 16 October 2020 

    10 Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, 17 October 2020, 

    11 Thailand’s emergency decree ‘an excuse’ to end pro-democracy protests, MPs say’, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, 15 October 2020, 

  • Thailand: End judicial harassment against activists and journalists, uphold people’s fundamental freedoms

    Protesters Gather Outside Criminal Court La.max 1400x700

    The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS are deeply concerned over the intensifying regression of Thailand’s civic space. We are calling on the Thai Government to do more in upholding fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression, press freedom, and freedom of peaceful assembly.

  • Thailand: End unjust pre-trial detention against youth pro-democracy activists


    Photo credit: FORUM ASIA

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) are deeply concerned about the condition of youth pro-democracy activists who have been on hunger-strike from prison for more than a week. The activists are protesting against their unjust pre-trial detention and are acting in support of other activists who have been exercising their right to protest and freedom of expression in the country. Our organisations call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release all the youth activists and drop all charges against them.

  • Thailand: First conviction under Article 112 for protest act sets a disturbing precedent for civic space

    Following the conviction of Narin - a protester who placed a sticker over the Thai King’s portrait under Article 112 (lese majeste) - on Friday, 4 March 2022, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and Asia Democracy Network (ADN) said:

    The conviction of Narin under Article 112 (lese majeste) for placing a sticker with the logo of a satire page ‘Gukult’ over a portrait of the King during a democracy protest in September 2020 sets a disturbing precedent for civic space in Thailand. This marks the first time a Thai court sentenced an individual to imprisonment under the draconian lese majeste law for such an act during a protest. The verdict demonstrates the government’s intensifying targeting of individuals and allies of the pro-democratic movement.

    Narin was found guilty and sentenced to three years, which was reduced to two years after his testimony. The court ruled that Narin had acted to ‘insult’ and ‘defame’ the King under Article 112. Right after reading the decision, Narin was released on 100,000 THB bail.

    Thailand, as a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), must respect and protect fundamental freedoms for all individuals. We reiterate our call to repeal Article 112 and all other laws used to curtail free expression and demand an immediate and unconditional release of all detainees who are being held in prison under this act. 


    Civic Space in Thailand is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor




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