Manushya’s Youth Voices at AICHR Thailand’s Annual Meeting
BANGKOK, THAILAND - The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) invited Manushya Foundation to attend their annual meeting with civil society organizations on 21 September 2020 at the VIE Hotel Bangkok. Chaired by Usana Peeranon (Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s ASEAN Affairs Department), the meeting featured other regional NGOs, Professor Amara Pongsapich (Representative of Thailand to the AICHR), and Dr. Seree Nonthasoot (Former Representative of Thailand to the AICHR). NGOs were present to provide input on issues they deemed important for AICHR to engage with in regards to their plan for a potential review of the Terms of Reference (ToR), the ASEAN post-2025 Vision, and the ASEAN Comprehensive Restoration Framework from COVID-19.
Manushya’s youth-oriented approach ensured that young members of our team were present and vocal to address the rise of authoritarian regimes, infringement on digital freedom, and prevalence of corporate abuses and impunity in Southeast Asia. Placing our emphasis on the need for AICHR to establish a concrete human rights protection mechanism safeguarding the rights of ASEAN citizens, our team urged the commission to modify their ToR (Terms of Reference) to include protective measures for individuals in the region. The current edition only “promotes” human rights (Article 1.1) and attempts to “uphold” international human rights standards (Article 1.6), but the lack of legally binding agreements or framework renders the aim of achieving the aforementioned goals and the vision of developing an ASEAN Human Rights Declaration futile.
Addressing these issues on behalf of Manushya Foundation, Ms. Suphamat Phonphra (Community Outreach Coordinator & Digital Security Trainer) called for the need of a regional human rights court in order for AICHR to provide legal protection for individuals in the ASEAN community, a view also espoused by Saowalak Thongkuay (Head of Disabled Peoples' International Asia-Pacific Region). Additionally, Ms. Phonphra mentioned the need to protect human rights defenders in Southeast Asia, citing the alarming increase in arrests and harassment by the states against them. Another issue she brought attention to was the need for human-centered digital laws to tackle the state’s violation of citizen’s online freedom of speech. AICHR’s role as an intergovernmental commission places it at a suitable position to undertake the initiative, especially since digital dictatorship has been surging in the ASEAN region, as illustrated in our #StopDigitalDictatorship in Southeast Asia campaign.
In the face of increased human rights abuses by Southeast Asians states, Manushya Foundation calls on AICHR to adopt concrete measures to protect human rights throughout the region. Our commitment to advancing social justice ensures that we will continue to monitor AICHR’s work, including their review of the ToR and their implementation of feedback received from NGOs.