Regional Workshops on CERD & UPR III - Northeastern Region
KHON KAEN, THAILAND – Manushya Foundation, along with the Justice for Peace Foundation, Thai BHR Network, and the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, held its Northeastern (Isaan) regional workshop on the CERD Review & UPR process in Khon Kaen from November 17-18, which was followed by our second Focus Group Discussion with LGBTIQ+ Youth on November 19. The workshop aimed to empower local community members and youth to speak their truth to power in relation to the human rights violations they face, using UN human rights monitoring mechanisms as a platform to seek justice and be heard by the international community to remedy their situation.
As Thailand will go through its Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR III) in October-November 2021, during which the military-backed government will be reviewed on all its human rights record by UN member states at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, it is vital that community members share their realities from the ground. The same year, Thailand will also be reviewed on its compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by the CERD Committee, comprising international legal experts who will examine whether Thailand is respecting its international human rights obligations under ICERD. These UN human rights monitoring mechanisms are an unique opportunity for grassroots and local communities to directly share their struggles and solutions with diplomats and CERD committee members in order to hold the Thai government accountable on its international human rights obligations and improve the situation on the ground.
The Khon Kaen workshop was moderated by Ms. Emilie Pradichit, Founder & Director of Manushya Foundation, and Ms. Nattaporn Artharn, Environmental Rights Activist & Thai BHR Network member. In her opening remarks, Emilie stressed the importance for Isaan people (Khon Isaan) to engage in the CERD preview process by discussing the racial discrimination they daily face. She denounced the racial discrimination – which is instigated by both the government and society – by emphasizing how it is rooted in Thai policies and misallocation of budget. To highlight this, Emilie indicated that the Isaan region only receives six percent of the country’s fiscal budget despite being the nation's largest region. Additionally, those in Isaan face multiple negative stereotypes, such as being intellectually inferior and poorer than Thais from other regions, although the government intentionally keeps them in a state of poverty in order to benefit a very few, the elite and establishment of Bangkok.
Ms. Emilie Pradichit & Ms. Nattaporn Artharn discussing the significance of engaging with international human rights mechanisms such as the CERD review.
Following this, participants introduced the human rights issues they are fighting for. We received passionate responses from all around the room, including one from Ms. Kanyarat Jaingam – a Youth LGBTIQ+ activist – who proudly presented her successful journey in fighting for transgender women in her high school to wear any hairstyle they wish, which currently violates Thailand’s requirement for all assigned male at birth students to have short hair.
(LEFT) Mr. Kittipol Oonjai talks about how the Thai government has consistently forced the homogenization of the central 'Thainess' culture on everyone living in Thailand; thus, erasing the rich traditional cultures of indigenous groups. (RIGHT) Ms. Nittaya Muangklang discussing the harmful impact of the NCPO'S 2014 Forest Reclamation Policy on rural people living in reclaimed forest areas, including their criminalization.
After underlining the significance of using the CERD mechanism and hearing from the participants, Emilie and Nattaporn kicked-off the CERD review training and stressed the importance of submitting a thematic CERD report for the Isaan region, as the racial discrimination faced by Isaan people has never brought to light at the international level and remains a taboo subject in Thailand. Following the training, participants were asked to divide into groups based on thematic interests to begin discussing the impact of racial discrimation on their respective issue. The thematic issues covered include: racial discrimination against stateless and homeless people; unequal political participation of Isaan people; rural and indigenous women’s rights; racial discrimination against refugees LGBTIQ+ people living with HIV; destruction of indigenous culture in Thailand; freedom of expression for Isaan youth; and unequal forest policies and corporate abuses by investors against Isaan rural people.
Although the process was new for all of the participants, their enthusiasm and intellect showed through when they presented their findings on the second day. Subsequent to hearing from the participants, Emilie and Nattaporn discussed how community members can be involved in Thailand’s third UPR Cycle and gave examples of recommendations made in the previous two cycles. Afterwards, participants once again formed thematic working groups to broaden their CERD report findings, as the UPR report covers all forms of human rights violations. They also discussed how they will be able to lobby diplomats, as diplomats act as a bridge between communities and the Thai government.
On the third day, the Focus Group Discussion for LGBTIQ+ Youth was held alongside Save the Children Thailand. The aim is for LGBTIQ+ Youth from Isaan to submit their very first report to the United Nations, by denouncing their challenges while providing their very own solutions to improve their conditions of living. Participants were divided into two groups and four topics were discussed: home life, education and educational institutions, online platforms, and community services. Throughout the day, youth participants eloquently detailed their struggles as an LGBTIQ+ youth and gave specific recommendations as to how they would like to see change implemented.
Manushya Foundation would like to sincerely thank all the participants for joining us and making this workshop a fulfilling and memorable experience; whether that be in person or virtually via our Facebook story, Instagram story, and Twitter updates! We would also like to thank the Embassy of Canada to Thailand and the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangkok for the support and guidance provided throughout the preparation and the roll-out of the workshop; and to Save the Children Thailand for their support in the preparation and in carrying out the Focus Group Discussions. Once again, we are so grateful to have been involved in allowing community members and Thai youth to speak their truth to power and have their voices heard by the international community!
Access the pictures of the workshop here.