Thailand’s NGOs hit back at ‘anti-democratic’ regulatory bill
Thailand’s proposed draft bill to regulate non-governmental organisations has been condemned by over 1,800 NGOs and unions as a draconian infringement on basic rights and freedoms.
In a joint statement on Friday they accused the government of seeking to control and intimidate people who form NGOs to help others.
Signatories of the joint statement included Impulse Bangkok, Non-Binary Thailand, P-Move, WeMove, the Campaign for Democracy, Bangkok Rainbow, Transportation for All, the Sisters Foundation (Pattaya), HealthNet, and the HIV Foundation Asia.
The Cabinet on January 4 resolved to have the Social Development and Human Security Ministry draft a bill to regulate NGO activities on grounds that some had ulterior motives, lack good governance or may be involved in money laundering. The bill’s sponsors claim NGOs need to be regulated for the sake of national security and order.
The joint statement dismissed the claim as a pretext to restrict people’s rights and freedoms.
It said the government had ignored NGOs’ reasoned arguments against the draft legislation.
“The bill would hinder people’s freedom to form groups, to join public demonstrations, and to express and access public information,” the joint statement said.
It would also empower government agencies to bypass courts and halt NGO activities on the pretext of endangering national security, it added.
It said current and past constitutions guaranteed people’s right to form civil-society groups for the nation’s development, striking a balance with the power of government agencies and business.
The bill was also superfluous since laws were already in place to deal with foundations, associations and organisations, it added.
This demonstrated the government’s totalitarian motive to control the public sector and deter democratic progress and universal human rights, the joint statement continued.
It said groups were not opposed to being monitored for transparency but were opposed to legislation that seeks to control civil society with ulterior motives.
The statement said the signatories would take action to show their strong opposition to the bill.