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Amnesty secretary-general raises human rights concerns after visit to Thailand

At the end of her visit to Thailand, Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's Secretary General, raised several human rights concerns, including the prosecution and detention of activists and human rights defenders and the situation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, particularly those from Myanmar.

Agnes Callamard

Drawing attention to a number of human rights issues that she engaged with during her first official visit to Thailand, Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“My visit to Thailand coincided with the buildup to national elections in May, which should be an opportunity for the next government to improve Thailand’s human rights record. I was encouraged that representatives of all major political parties participated in the human rights election forum organised by AI Thailand and other civil society organisations. This is an important step for Thailand’s political leadership, and hopefully a reflection of shared commitments to protect human rights.

“I came to Thailand to meet with national authorities, civil society organizations and survivors of human rights violations. I also met with my colleagues at Amnesty International Thailand and the East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional Office. I witnessed firsthand the incredible work being done by human rights defenders and brave young activists, and I was deeply inspired by their resilience and determination to fight for justice and equality.

“A highlight of my trip was meeting with young people who have been involved in protests. They believe in Thailand and want to build a strong and fair country. Yet when asked what future they see for themselves, they told me ‘there is no future for us here’. That worries me a lot, and I think it should be of great concern to Thailand’s leaders. Many young people feel that because of repression, inequality, corruption and injustice, they have no future here — and that must change.

“Hundreds of children and young people, along with political activists and human rights defenders, are facing criminal charges in Thailand simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Many have been deprived of their liberty and may face the stain of a criminal record, including a 15-year-old who as of my visit to the country was still being held in juvenile detention after several weeks.”

“Children and young people make a significant contribution to society. I made recommendations to the government to stop intimidating child protesters and putting them under surveillance, to drop all charges against peaceful child protesters, and to amend or revoke laws and policies that impede children’s full enjoyment of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“I raised a range of human rights concerns during my visit, including the use of excessive force by security forces during protests and the arbitrary detention of protesters and human rights defenders. I welcomed the adoption of the anti-torture and disappearance Act and regretted the decision to delay its implementation until October. Such a commitment cannot be held hostage to technical difficulties. It must be implemented without delay.

I also expressed concern about the situation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, particularly those from Myanmar.

“Myanmar nationals who have fled across the border live in fear of being deported or kidnapped. Many have had to flee their homes since the February 2021 coup to seek safety from the Myanmar military’s violent crackdown against protesters. The Thai authorities must uphold the principle of non-refoulement and not deport Myanmar nationals back to a country where they could face arbitrary detention, torture, or even the death penalty at the hands of the Myanmar military.

“Historically, Thailand has both hosted and provided humanitarian support to refugees from across the region. It must continue to do so. I urge the Thai authorities to commit to providing much-needed protection to people fleeing repression from countries including Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Thailand could and should become a model of human rights leadership in Southeast Asia and beyond.

“Amnesty International thanks the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Human Rights Commission officials for their willingness to discuss pertinent human rights issues with me during the visit. We also extend our thanks to Thailand’s civil society and youth protest groups, to the UN and embassy representatives who made time to meet me, and, of course, to the dedicated, impassioned teams at Amnesty International Thailand and Amnesty International’s Regional Office for East and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

“Though I have now left Thailand, my commitment to human rights in the country — and the wider region — remains steadfast. We must work together to build a world where human rights are a priority, not an afterthought.”

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard conducted an official visit to Thailand last week. She arrived on 18 April and departed for Australia on 22 April to attend a regional human rights forum.

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