The first event will be held at Alliance Française Bangkok on 7-8 December under the theme “7 Decades of Human Rights” – a reference to the 70th anniversary of the United Nations decision to observe Human Rights Day annually on 10 December to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This event is part of the ongoing partnership between the European Union and the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) of the Ministry of Justice to promote human rights through public outreach.
During this event, key principles of the seven international human rights treaties that Thailand has ratified will be translated into a contemporary dance performance entitled “7,” created by internationally-acclaimed Thai dancer and choreographer Pichet Klunchun. As he invites the audience to witness the everyday struggle of marginalised persons to fully enjoy their rights under these treaties, Pichet and his dance company will also try to provoke questions about traditions and norms that allow disrespect of human dignity to persist.
The second event will be held on 10 December and will involve a photo exhibition and storytelling under the theme, “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.” It is organised by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) regional office for Southeast Asia with support from the EU. During this event, prominent civil society figures who have been working to ensure that human rights are at the heart of all COVID-19 recovery efforts will present a photographic narrative on the impact of the pandemic on the most marginalised populations.
“We are proud to support both events because they raise similar questions at different levels,” said Mr. Pirkka Tapiola, Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand.
“The first event is intended to challenge the discriminatory elements in society that allow some of us to view disrespect of marginalised individuals as normal. This is especially important now because the marginalised communities have been hit the hardest by the pandemic,” he said. “The second event is aimed at ensuring that human rights considerations are mainstreamed in government policy during the recovery phase, so that the most vulnerable groups are not left behind.”
In the seven decades of its United Nations membership, Thailand has ratified seven of the nine core human rights treaties, committing to uphold civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights; eliminate all forms of racial discrimination as well as discrimination against women; safeguard children’s rights and the rights of persons with disabilities; and eliminate torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Some of these principles are enshrined in the Thai constitution and existing laws, while others are included in draft legislations.
Recently, Thailand has gained global recognition for its ability to curb local transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Thailand begins to carve out its post-COVID growth strategy, the need to include marginalised groups in government efforts to recover from the pandemic and its consequences remains as crucial as ever.
“Respect for human rights is one of the most effective tools for national development – be it in normal times or after a global crisis,” Ambassador Tapiola said. “We have learned from our own experience in Europe that people tend to stand a better chance of succeeding economically and socially when governments put human rights at the centre of public policy. And we think this is even more relevant now.”
Built on a strong commitment to human rights promotion and protection, the EU has made human rights one of its priorities worldwide. In Thailand, EU development aid has provided valuable support for OHCHR’s initiatives to enhance the capacity of civil society organizations (CSOs) and human rights defenders (HRDs) to apply UN human rights mechanisms. In addition, the EU supports international organisations’ programmes to safeguard the rights of migrant workers and their children; eliminate violence against women and make migration safe for female migrant workers; and mainstream responsible business practices in which human and labour rights are respected, among other objectives.
The RLPD is one of the leading agencies in Thailand’s human rights efforts. Over the past several years, the EU has worked closely with the Department to engage a wide range of stakeholders in human rights outreach and dialogue. Past EU-RLPD collaboration to commemorate Human Rights Day included public seminars on LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities; a human rights themed running event, and last year’s mixed-media exhibition entitled “The Art of Human Rights,” which drew the attention of approximately 6,000 people to fundamental rights and freedoms.
“We have been working to promote human rights through a progressive legislative agenda and public outreach, and this is where our collaboration with the EU is highly appreciated,” said Mrs. Tussanee Pao-in, Deputy Director General of the RLPD. “Having signed these seven treaties, Thailand can look back at our human rights progress with pride. But the ultimate goal is to turn these international obligations into national norms and everyday practice.”
Mr. Siriwat Pokrajen
Press and Information Assistant
Delegation of the European Union to Thailand