In a year when the rights of Thais have been under assault from all directions. we have been challenged like never before to monitor, record, advocate and protect.
We travelled for 10 hours on broken roads to support the Karen Bang Kloi of the Kaeng Krachan National Park and reacted fast to provide legal help for the young protesters at the Din Daeng intersection, campaigned against enforced disappearances and biometric controls of Thailand’s Malay-Muslim population, chased the government to move ahead with an anti-torture bill and fought back against SLAPP suits aimed at silencing our very own human rights defenders.
Throughout, we’ve tried to find creative responses to engage young people just coming to rights issues, meeting them on the platforms they use. Our campaigns have started online and then played out in the real world… Clubhouse sessions have become protest themes… hashtags turned into ‘live art’ shows across the country.
Our staff have worked exceptionally hard to advocate and defend the voiceless despite the unrelenting menaces of authorities and IO operations aimed at us and colleagues. Sadly, the pressure on Thailand’s rights community is set to increase next year with the government determined to drive through the new NGO law, while political dissent is likely to rebound online and on the streets making our work all the more important.
As ever we remain extraordinarily grateful for the enduring support, lobbying, encouragement and care provided by you all. Please have a look at the below summary of some of our work and achievements this year.
‘Dear Disappeared’ #itcouldbeyou
campaign against enforced disappearances
June – August 2021
Our #itcouldbeyou campaign went viral among the new young generation of political activists, while ‘Dear Disappeared’ a powerful short video read by wanchalearm’s loved ones, Thai pro-democracy leaders and influencers thousands of views.
Fight for the Karen villagers of Bang Kloi
March – June 2021
We visited the Kaeng Krachan national park right after villagers were removed from their ancestral lands and arrested. We lobbied and advocates at the courts on their behalf, pressing for their release and fair access to justice.
To highlight the routine injustice against a marginalised indigenous group, we ran a social media photo campaign showing Karen men being forced to shave their heads during pre-charge detention by Thai prison authorities. The Karen believe their hair has a spiritual dimension that relates them to the forest.
We lobbied diplomats and the international community to delay the decision to inscribe Kaeng Krachan as UNESCO heritage site until the dispute with the Karen IPs is resolved and that their cultural rights are respected and protected.
We hosted an international virtual conference with countries who have the experience managing UNESCO heritage sites while respecting the Indigenous peoples. The conference was a good milestone in getting all stakeholders together in the same panel – Thai officials, indigenous peoples and UNESCO. We’re hoping to continue these productive dialogues going forward into next year.
#safeincustody awareness month
This year we used art and film to break open discussion about an ugly truth that Thai society has long known but chooses to turn a blind eye to From North to South art exhibitions have revealed hard realities of abuse by the powerful.
It was a creative, provoking and bold campaign, drawing emotive testimony from people alleging abuse in custody from Pattani to Chiang Mai and Bangkok.
The film screenings also showed how other countries have dealt with the same issue and what we can learn from them.
Anti-torture and enforced disappearance bill
June – present
After twelve years of advocacy work to criminilize torture and enforced disappearance under Thai law, the law finally passed its first reading in September as public outcry over the issue mounted in the wake of the ‘Joe Ferrari’ death in custody scandal.
The law is now being reviewed by a house Committee which of two of our own members also sit on.
CrCF together with our partners have worked tirelessly on public and media awareness, lobbying diplomats and lawmakers, working with victims, survivors and families of the victims. We even launched a virtual exhibition on the stories of victims of torture.
However, the work is not over!
We still have to make sure that the law is really going to bring justice to the victims and families and its provisions are strong enough to truly prevent torture and enforced disappearance from happening ever again.
Case of the year
Somsak Chuenjit is a father who has fought a 12-year-legal battle on behalf of his son who was tortured by police officers when he was a teenager.
The officers suffocated him using plastic bags – just like the Joe Ferrari case – to extract a confession to a crime he didn’t commit and now suffers a PTSD.
In 2018, only one of the seven police officers who we sued was found guilty of illegal detention, physical injuries and intimidations and was sentenced to one year on probation.
This shows that the existing investigative mechanism fails to bring accountability.
Meanwhile, another officer filed a countersuit against Rittirong Chuenjit, the torture victim for perjury, but the supreme court in November dismissed the case.
We are now representing the Chuenjit family suing the Royal Thai Police for reparations.
Somsak has become a human rights activist helping families of torture victims and campaigning for the criminalization of torture and enforced disappearance. It has become a test case used by law professionals, MPs and activists as a rare example of holding law enforcement accountable.
However, the long term damage is carried by his son.
This is WHY we need this anti-torture and enforced disppearance law that will compensate the survivors, bring justice to the victims and build in safeguards to ensure crimes like these do not happen.