Regional Workshops on CERD & UPR III - Northern Region
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND – Manushya Foundation, along with the Justice for Peace Foundation, Thai BHR Network, and the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, held its Northern regional workshop on the CERD Review & UPR process in Chiang Mai from November 20-21, which was followed by our third Focus Group Discussion with LGBTIQ+ Youth on November 22. As with previous workshops and Focus Group Discussions, local community members and youth were placed at the center of the CERD Review & UPR process to ensure they can effectively contribute to speak their truth to power using UN human rights monitoring mechanisms as a bridge to voice their concerns and provide their community solutions.
In October-November 2021, Thailand will go through its Third Universal Periodic Review (UPR III), 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. 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 workshop began with uplifting opening remarks from Mr. Gregoire Legault, Second Secretary, Embassy of Canada to Thailand, and Ms. Emilie Pradichit, Founder & Director, Manushya Foundation. In his speech, Mr. Legault mentioned the importance of community engagement and encouraged everyone to “Dare to dream…[as] you can improve the human rights situation in your country”. Meanwhile, Emilie explained the importance of utilizing the CERD Review process & UPR process, especially in the Northern region due to the racial discrimination faced by indigenous peoples, refugees and migrant workers.
(LEFT) Mr. Gregoire Legault introducing himself to all the participants and highlighting Canada's involvement in the project.
Following the opening remarks, Emilie started the training on the CERD review process alongside Ms. Nada Chaiyajit (LGBTIQ+ activist). Emilie emphasized the significance of using the CERD review process as a large majority of Thailand’s stateless population – most of whom are indigenous peoples and refugees – reside in the northern region. Complicated and highly bureaucratic birth registration processes and citizenship laws make it difficult for indigenous peoples to register their children at birth or to apply for citizenship, causing them to be stateless. As these policies were enforced in order to suppress indigenous culture in Thailand, this blatant example of racial discrimination can be submitted to the CERD committee to pressure the government into establishing a more effective birth registration and citizenship process, and to eradicate racial discrimination faced by indigenous groups.
Emilie and Nada further detailed how the CERD review process has been successful in other countries and how local community members can write their very own powerful reports. After concluding the training, participants broke into thematic groups based on their expertise to discuss the problems they face and potential recommendations. The thematic issues covered were: indigenous peoples’rights; LGTBIQ+ indigenous peoples; indigenous peoples and their land-related rights; migrant workers’ rights; migrant sex workers; and the reproductive health rights of women (women living with HIV and access to safe abortion).
Before the day ended, Sirisak Chaited, an LGBTIQ+ and Sex Worker Activist, gathered participants together in order to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Sirisak and Nada read out the names of Thai transgender people whose lives were lost to transphobia and a moment of silence was held in their honour.
On the second day, each group presented their findings from the day before. Ms. Sommai Chanthawong and Ms. Chatchalawan Muangjan from EMPOWER Foundation discussed how the criminilization of sex work has led to the enactment of a policy allowing the the racial harassment and discrimination of migrant sex workers who constantly face arrest. These migrant sex workers can get a stamp on their passports that imposes a hundred year ban on entering Thailand – severely limiting their economic prospects. Ms. Katima Leeja – Woman human rights defender from the Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand (IWNT) – touched upon the complicated and highly bureaucratic birth registration and citizenship application process stateless indigenous peoples have to go through; often coupled with corruption (bribes to be paid to government officials). She also condemned the government’s development projects – such as the coal mine project in Omkoi –a s it has caused severe negative impacts and violates the rights of indigenous peoples.
(LEFT) Ms. Katima Leeja from Indigenous Women's Network of Thailand (IWNT) presents on her group's behalf on the various hardships and obstacles encountered by indigenous peoples. (RIGHT) Ms. Sommai Chanthawong and Ms. Chatchalawan Muangjan from EMPOWER Foundation presenting on migrant sex workers.
Following each group’s presentation, Emilie provided the training on the UPR process. As most of the participants were familiar with writing their own UPR submissions as they have engaged in Thailand’s second UPR cycle, Emilie and Nada spent most of the session emphasizing two important aspects of the process to consistently hold the Thai government accountable on its UPR commitments: Communication and Collaboration. With regards to communication, Emilie stressed the vital role social media plays in bringing awareness to the human rights situation on the ground. Participants then separated into two groups to discuss strategies for effective communication and collaboration. The responses received were practical and well thought out, including a suggestion for organisations to create a short and memorable key message for their respective issue. This key message would then be spread on social media and in the #ThailandProtest2020 to tell the truth on #WhatsHappeninginThailand.
On the third day, Manushya Foundation – in collaboration with Save the Children Thailand – held the third Focus Group Discussion with LGBTIQ+ youth. The Focus Group Discussion aimed to directly include Northern LGBTIQ+ youth voices in their very first UPR report. Opening remarks were given by Ms. Chitsanupong “Best” Nithiwana, Chief Executive Officer of Young Pride Club. Following this, Youth separated into two groups to discuss the struggles and challenges they have encountered due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. The topics of the discussion included home life, educational institutions, community service, and their online presence. Youth also gave detailed recommendations on how they would like to see changes happen. Manushya Foundation is truly inspired and honoured to be working with them to assist them in submitting their first LGBTIQ+ youth UPR report.
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 pictures of the workshop here.