THE GOVERNMENT is being urged to include all stakeholders and every group affected by human rights violations by the business sector, as it works on a National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights.
Human rights defenders and local activists from across the country revealed at a press conference hosted by Manushya Foundation in Bangkok yesterday that their voices had been left out of the first draft of the plan.
Avoiding input from those representing the people most affected by business-related human-rights violations could damage the conclusions of the final report, they said, and would reduce the effectiveness of a tool intended to help prevent rights violations. The Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD), also yesterday, held a consultation dialogue to review the last draft of the NAP. The revised and final version of the NAP was expected to be released by RLPD next month before being proposed to the Cabinet.
The development of a national plan was in line with the policy of the National Council for Peace and Order administration to promote human rights and sustainable development as a national strategy. It also built on Thailand’s commitment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), which the government ratified in May 2017.
The action plan will act as a set of core guidelines, setting out good practices for the authorities and the business sector to follow. Properly done, it will also offer a formal protection tool for local residents in Thailand and elsewhere against human rights violations by business operations.
That makes the successful development of the NAP a very big and important task, said Nattaporn Artharn, Manushya Foundation’s coordinator and a local human rights defender in the northeastern region. The close collaboration and engagement of all stakeholders is required to ensure the best possible action plan.
But the experience of CSOs so far with the RLPD’s approach to the NAP development process has caused concern in the sector. The people most affected from the business operations and development projects of Thai investors did not have a chance to raise their comments and opinions through this important process, said Nattaporn.
“The situation of human rights violations by the business sector in Thailand is very severe and complicated, because the malpractices of many major companies have infringed on many rights of the affected people and caused troubles in many aspects of their lives,” she said. “The lack of proper participation from the affected groups of people will exclude many aspects of human rights protection from the NAP, and eventually lead to the failure of this action plan.”
She urged the Justice Ministry and RLPD to respect the voices of these victims of human rights violations, and to include them on the development of the action plan so as to ensure that the drafting process will be transparent and just for all stakeholders.
The press conference included 16 nationwide representatives of victims groups who have experienced human rights violations. They said that improper actions of Thai businesses had affected them on a wide range of issues. They included violations of communal rights, the right to live in a healthy environment, the right to access natural resources, labour rights, human trafficking, unfair working conditions of migrant workers, land grabs, gender discrimination, and discriminatory policies and practices against marginalised people.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) also revealed that a total of 2,199 cases related to business-related human rights have been submitted to the committee.
Katima, a representative of the Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand, said ethnic minorities are among the people, who have most suffered due to bad business operations, but they have been left out of the NAP drafting process. “We want to get involve in the drafting of the NAP to ensure our problems will be solved and our rights will be protected.”