“We Are Not Quiet, You Are Just Not Listening” - Press Conference
BANGKOK, Thailand - In response to the flawed drafting and consultation process on the National Action Plan (NAP) on business and human rights and the abscence of critical voices reflected in its content, Manushya Foundation, along with the Thai Busines and Human Rights Network (Thai BHR Network), organised a press conference, entitled, 'Community Voices: We are not quiet, you are just not listening', which was held on the morning of 23 August 2018, concurrent to the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Consultation on the Draft NAP on BHR organised by the Rights and Labour Protection Department (RPLD) of the Ministry of Justice, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT). The press conference was hosted by renowned news anchor and activist, Hathairat Phaholtap, recipient of the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT)'s 2017 Women Human Rights Defender Award, and was attended by diplomats and the media.
The press conference had three central purposes: (1) to push back on the top-down approach to the NAP drafting process and call for a transparent and sincere NAP process which includes recommendations of affected communities, (2) to give a platform for community members to be heard loud and clear, and (3) to correct the false claims by the government about its 'effective CSOs engagement' in the NAP development process.
(1) A press conference… to push back on the government top-down approach.
The conference made clear that the Thai government’s approach to the NAP drafting process has not been centred on the communities it most directly affects. This is demonstrated by its lack of sincere engagement with local communities, and by the content and restricted availability of the draft NAPs until today. At the conference, Manushya Founder and Director, Émilie Pradichit, outlined Manushya’s undertaking over the past year, working to ensure affected communities from diverse sectors are at the centre of the NAP process and content by coming together under the umbrella of the Thai BHR Network. Manushya Foundation had initiated four Regional National Baseline Assessment (NBA) Dialogues from January 2017 to March 2017 to identify the priority areas of the NAP, and two Experts Meetings in September 2017 and February/March 2018 to gather input and recommendations from local, national, regional and international BHR experts. These events were planned as part of Manushya’s BHR Strategy and co-organised with the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLPD) of the Ministry of Justice, the government agency in charge of developing the NAP, in order to ensure the protection of community members and Human Rights Defenders involved. Further, the Manushya-led Regional NBA Dialogues and Experts Meetings had identified the four priority areas of the NAP, which the government claimed to have identified itself: (1) Labour Rights; (2) Community Rights, Lands Rights, Natural Resources and Environment; (3) Human Rights Defenders; (4) Cross-border Investments and Multinational Enterprises. While we are satisfied to have influenced the four priority areas of the NAP, the Thai BHR Network was disappointed to witness the lack of clear action plan in the drafts of the NAP. For instance, in the Zero Draft NAP, issued in June 2018, all relevant recommendations formulated by affected communities over the course of all the BHR events were ignored.
By the morning of 23 August 2018, the RLPD had released 3 consecutive drafts of the NAP, all disappointing in their content:
●The Zero Draft NAP was made public on 26 June 2018, only one day prior to the five government-led NAP consultations held from 27 June to 6 July. The consultations were poorly attended by CSOs and local communities, which did not have the financial means to participate. This Zero Draft NAP did not include any action plan, as that part was left empty. Local communities who have engaged in all the events held by Manushya and the RLPD from January 2017 to March 2018 were strongly disappointed with this outcome after having spent more than a year engaging with the government, despite the restrictive political climate, in the hope of seeing their input in the draft NAP. As of today, this is the only draft NAP available on the RLPD’s website;
● The Second Draft NAP was presented to United Nations Agencies in Bangkok on 20 August 2018 and consisted of an empty action plan outline, without any substantive content, besides titles of chapters and columns. The next day, on 21 August 2018, Manushya received the English and Thai versions of the Second Draft NAP from OHCHR. It has never been made public on RLPD’s website, but is available on our website.
● The Third and most recent Draft NAP was sent to selected CSOs on the morning of 23 August 2018, only two hours prior to the CSO Consultation on the Draft NAP. It is a ‘copy and paste’ of CSO and community recommendations from various sectors, including from the Regional NBA Dialogues and Expert Meetings undertaken under Manushya’s BHR strategy. As a reminder, community recommendations are meant to inform the government so it can develop specific actions targeting relevant government agencies in order to implement suggested recommendations. However, the latest draft NAP used community recommendations as actions. As a result, it only includes recommendations with no clear actions given on how these recommendations will be implemented, how the government will ensure businesses protect human rights, and how they will be held accountable for human rights abuses caused by their corporate activities. Further, the latest draft NAP is not available on RLPD’s website. In short: the latest draft NAP is still not an Action Plan and has not even been made public!
“The content of the recent draft NAP reflects the government’s inability to create content independently and general lack of understanding regarding the NAP, Business & Human Rights and issues faced by communities”
- Émilie Pradichit, Founder & Director, Manushya Foundation In terms of the process, CSOs and local communities across the country had also raised high concerns about the rushed NAP process and the lack of meaningful engagement with rural communities. More shocking was the latest draft NAP of 23 August 2018 only made available to the OHCHR, and sent out through unofficial channels two hours before the start of the Consultation with CSOs, giving no time for communities to reflect and provide adequate input. Nattaporn Artharn, Coordinator at Manushya Foundation and Environmental Woman Human Rights Defender, called on the government to conduct additional consultations with rural communities at the provincial levels, providing them with enough time to review the latest draft NAP. Further, the fact that neither the Second Draft NAP nor the Third Draft NAP are made available on RLPD’s website brings up questions as to whether these Drafts have been approved by the NAP Committee and are official versions. In order for the Thai Government to adhere to international standards related to meaningful stakeholders’ engagement, it needs to ensure that the official Draft NAP is accessible to communities and that communities are given adequate time to read and comment on the Draft. Finally, Nattaporn Artharn also questioned the lack of transparency in the composition of the NAP Committee, which does not seem to include any CSO representative, despite the claims made by the government:
"Regarding the drafting process, the RLPD or some agencies of the private sector should not be the only ones involved in the process, but the CSO should be involved as well. If we are not involved, then how can we know what is included in the NAP or how would it be like? Therefore, the process and the composition of the NAP committee are important. However,we have not seen such committee. We might have organised meetings with the government, but the thing we have never seen is the NAP committee, as it has never been disclosed. How can we know if the process is fair and just for us?"
- Nattaporn Artharn, Coordinator at Manushya Foundation and Environmental Woman Human Rights Defender
(2) A conference… to give a platform for voices from the ground to be heard loud and clear.
In sharp contrast to the UN and government-led CSO Consultation’s official speakers invited to lecture community members on BHR on 23 August 2018, the press conference panel was composed of 19 community members from the Thai BHR Network who lively shared their concerns and common call for a NAP inclusive of community recommendations. The panellists shared experiences and perspectives on their interactions with the government during the NAP drafting process over the last year. Ms. Sugarnta Sookpaita, of the Migrant Workers Federation, and Ms. Sompong Viengchan, a women community leader affected by the Pak Mun Dam, stressed that despite having offered numerous recommendations to the RLPD, “[these] have not been heard and reflected in the draft of the NAP.”
“If not us, who is the NAP for and who does it benefit?”
- Ms. Katima Leeja, representing the Indigenous Women Network of Thailand (IWNT)
Ms. Katima Leeja, representing the Indigenous Women Network of Thailand (IWNT) questioned, “If not us, who is the NAP for and who does it benefit?” Assembly of the Poor member, Ms. Jannapa Kuendee asserted that in order for the NAP to benefit those it is intended for, it needs to be, “plural, participatory, and comprehensive, and not for ticking off an item to say we have completed it.” Mr. Wattana Sansa, a trade union representative of formal workers stated, “the only way to accomplish this is to ensure the drafting process is a thorough process that is not rushed”.
(3) A press conference… to correct the false claims by the government on its effective CSOs engagement in the NAP drafting process.
At the UN Forum on BHR in Geneva in November 2017 and the AICHR regional BHR events in Bangkok in 2017 and 2018, the RLPD gave presentations and played a video in which they claimed that the events that they had co-organised with Manushya were their own, renaming Manushya’s first Experts Meeting as an ASEAN Experts gathering held under RLPD’s leadership. This was part of a strategy to present themselves to the international community as ASEAN leaders in the NAP process, with the financial support of UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub. Since these events, the RLPD has also given false information claiming to have commissioned Manushya Foundation for these community engagements and the development of the National Baseline Assessment (NBA). Debbie Stothard, Founder and Director of ALTSEAN-Burma and Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and regional expert at these meetings, put it best when she stated:
“It was shocking to realise the government engaged with communities simply for international visibility on their stakeholder engagement in the NAP process"
- Debbie Stothard, Founder and Director of ALTSEAN-Burma and Secretary General of FIDH sharing her analysis after witnessing the Thai government’s co-opting Manushya’s work during its presentation at the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights in November 2017
To clarify the BHR events, which were under the initiative of Manushya Foundation, and not under the initiative of RLPD, we have developed a clear timeline of events:
At the Press Conference, Manushya Foundation also announced the availability of all its business and human rights resources on its website, including the NBA briefers.
The Press Conference was critical for Manushya Foundation to loudly and clearly reaffirm its independence, and stress the key difference between working with and working for. For Manushya Foundation, collaboration and critique are inseparable partners, and while we are enthusiastic to cooperate with the government, community empowerment is our driving force and at the centre of every action we take. Our primary motivation and guiding principles are based on the needs of communities, not the needs of those we are collaborating with. So while we believe that the value of strong relationships with those in power cannot be denied as essential tools in the fight for human rights, we will not develop and maintain such relationships based on anything other than achieving the goals of the communities we serve. We have not and will not ever shy away from being strong, critical voices against those we are working with when necessary in order to advance the needs of communities. Our independence is crucial to us and is what enables us to effectively tackle rights violations and inequality in Thailand.
The Thai BHR Network chose not to attend the morning session of the CSO consultation, but attended the Consultation in the afternoon to deliver a Statement to the government: ‘Thailand: Call On The Government To Be Sincere And Transparent In The Drafting Process Of The National Action Plan On Business & Human Rights With Respect To The Process And Content’. The statement calls on the government to commit to a more sincere, transparent, and participatory NAP drafting process, and to include all critical issues as informed by the Thai BHR Network, throughout the several consultants held by Manushya Foundation with RLPD (such as the inclusion of indigenous peoples and sex workers).
Check out all the infographics on our Impact here
What have we achieved?
· The government followed our Four Priority Areas for the framing of the NAP on BHR;
· The government did not rush the NAP process and did not submit the final draft NAP for the Cabinet’s approval by 30 September 2018. RLPD is currently further consulting government agencies and private actors to finalise the NAP.
· The Fourth Draft NAP shall be available online for public comments in December 2018 and will be submitted to the Cabinet by January 2019.
Our Remaining Calls for Action:
1. We call on government to meaningfully consult affected communities in December 2018 or January 2019, prior to submitting the NAP to the Cabinet. The government still needs to consult rural and marginalised communities at the regional level to receive their input on the final version of the NAP, taking into account the lack of Internet access for rural communities, as well as the need to financially support their participation.
2. We also maintain our strong call to have transparency in the composition of the NAP Committee with inclusion of concerned communities and civil society groups.
Press Conference Session 1 Video on the Flawed NAP Process & Content
Left to right
1. Hathairat Phaholtap – (Moderator) News Anchor and Activist, and Recipient of the NHCRT’s 2017 WHRD Award
2. Ms. Nattaporn Artharn - Environmental Activist & Researcher, Manushya Foundation
2. Ms. Emilie Pradichit - Founder & Director, Manushya Foundation
3. Ms. Debbie Stothard - Secretary-General at FIDH & Founder at ALTSEAN-Burma
Press Conference Session 2 Video featured Powerful Community Voices
Front row left to right
1. Ms. Wannapong Yodmuang - Central & Eastern Regional Node & Researcher, Manushya Foundation
2. Mr. Sirisak Chaited - LGBTI Activist & Entertainment Business Owner
3. Ms. Katima Leeja - Woman HRD, Indigenous Women Network of Thailand (IWNT)
4. Mr. Direk Hemnakorn - Community Leader, Thepa Community, Songkla-Pattani Network against the Thepa Coal-fired Power Plant
5. Mrs. Rokeeyoh Samaae - Woman HRD, Thepa Community, Songkla-Pattani Network against the Thepa Coal-fired Power Plant
6. Mrs. Sompong ViengChan - Woman HRD & Community Leader, Pak Mun Dam
7. Ms. Sugarnta Sookpaita - Coordinator, Northern BHR Network Manager, Migrant Workers Federation (MWF)
Back row left to right
1. Ms. Sulaiporn Chonwilai - Representative, Tamtang Group advocating for Safe & Legal Abortion in Thailand
2. Ms. Kunlakan Jintakanon - Woman Living with HIV & Drug User, Data Collector, Network of Women Living with HIV in Thailand
3. Ms. Saranya Boonpeng - Director, Network of Women Living with HIV in Thailand
4. Ms. Asmah Tanyongdao - Southern Regional Node of the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, and Advocacy Officer at Patani Institute
5. Mr. Sarawut Pinkanta - Northern Regional Node of the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, and Paralegal at the Centre for the Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights, CPCR
6. Mr. Wattana Sansa - Trade Union Representative, Formal Workers from YMP Union
7. Mr. Sompha Chaikla - Coordinator, Southern BHR Coordinator Land Rights Activist, Taphan Community
8. Mr. Asmee Pu - Land Rights Activist, Saiburi Community
9. Ms. Panjit Kaewsawang - Climate-Gender Integrated, Policy and Actions Coordinator, Climate Watch Thailand 10. Ms. Junnapa Kuendee - Woman HRD, Assembly of the Poor