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Civil society urges concrete steps on business and human rights

Graphic: Thailand's Prime Minister addresses the seminar on business and human rights

A workshop organised by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand has helped establish links between government, business and civil society.

Twenty civil society groups – including Amnesty International and Forum Asia – have signed a statement urging the Thai Government to do more to protect human rights defenders from threats and harassment by business groups.

The statement, developed at a workshop convened by the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, said that "human rights defenders continue to be subjected to unchecked reprisals for engaging in legitimate activities to address alleged abuses by business enterprises and state actors".

"Human rights defenders involved in business and human rights issues have faced attacks, threats, and incidents of harassment, often without adequate protection from Thai authorities," the statement said.

The civil society groups commended the efforts of the Thai government and business enterprises in Thailand for promoting knowledge and understanding of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

"However, we remain concerned about continued abuses allegedly committed by business enterprises and government investment projects with impunity in Thailand."

The statement also urged Thai authorities and business enterprises to:

  • Guarantee meaningful consultation with communities on potential environmental, human rights and public health risks arising from business operations
  • Protect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders.
  • Decriminalize all defamation-related offenses and amend domestic laws to make them compliant with international standards.
  • Ensure effective access to remedies for adverse environmental, health, and other impacts of business activities, as well as human rights violations and abuses.
  • Prevent reprisals, including attacks, threats, and harassment, against human rights defenders.
  • Promptly accept requests from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and the UN Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises to conduct official visits to Thailand.

Discussions at the workshop focused on the UN Guiding Principles and how they apply to the business environment in Thailand.

Held in Bangkok on 31 May 2017, the workshop included participants from government, business, civil society and international agencies, including the United Nations Development Programme. The APF was also represented at the event.

Noting the important role of national human rights institutions to promote implementation of the Guiding Principles, the NHRC organised the workshop to help build new partnerships, share examples of good practice and promote understanding of the business benefits of ensuring respect for human rights.

Graphic: NHRI representatives take part in the ASEAN conference

Regional dialogue on business and human rights in ASEAN

On 1-2 June 2017, leaders from the public, private and people sectors of ASEAN member states gathered in Bangkok to examine the region's efforts to current business practices in relation to the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles.

The ASEAN region has undergone a remarkable economic and social transformation since it was founded in 1967.

ASEAN countries recorded, in the last ten years, an average level of growth higher than most developed countries and lagging only behind two other Asian nations, China and India.

However, this progress has, in some cases, been accompanied by negative impacts for human rights.

These challenges include corruption, land grabbing, forced labour, persecution of human rights defenders, discrimination against vulnerable groups including indigenous peoples and migrant workers, and environmental and health disasters such as the transboundary haze.

Discussions at the two-day conference included looking at the challenges and opportunities in developing National Action Plans on human rights, and the importance of ongoing collaboration and dialogue with civil society organisations and trade unions.

The conference included presentations from the national human rights institutions of Indonesia and Malaysia (on developing national action plans) and the Philippines and Thailand (on ensuring access to remedies for victims of human rights violations).

Find out more about the Regional Workshop on Business and Human Rights: Moving ahead with National Action Plans in ASEAN.

Date: 10 June 2017

Image credits

  1. Thailand's Prime Minister addresses the seminar on business and human rights - APF
  2. NHRI representatives take part in the ASEAN conference - APF