Regional Workshops on CERD & UPR III - Southern Region
PATTANI, THAILAND – Manushya Foundation, along with the Justice for Peace Foundation, Thai BHR Network, and the Thai CSOs Coalition for the UPR, held its last regional workshop on the CERD Review & UPR Process in Pattani from November 27-28, which was followed by a Focus Group Discussion with LGBTIQ+ Youth on November 29. 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.
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 first day kicked-off with opening remarks from Mr. Jeff Senior – Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Canada to Thailand – and Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit – Founder, Justice for Peace Foundation. Mr. Senior talked about the importance of youth and local communities’ involvement in human rights advocacy, and how communities are the key actors in holding the government accountable for their human rights commitments. Ms. Angkhana Neelapaijit also emphasized the importance of youth and community participation, including their power to change the world for the better. She mentioned that since racial discrimination is rooted in many of the human rights violations faced in Southern Thailand, it is imperative that community members engage with the CERD committee and use this mechanism to improve their lives on the ground.
Following the opening remarks, the first day of the workshop started with the training on the CERD review process by Ms. Emilie Pradichit, Founder and Director of Manushya Foundation, and co-facilitator Ms. Nada Chaiyajit, LGBTIQ+ activist. They highlighted the effectiveness of international human rights mechanisms by mentioning how communities can use these UN mechanisms to pressure the government into following their international human rights obligations. They then explained the process of submitting a CERD report, including the timeline of report submission, report review, and recommendation process.
(LEFT) Mr. Jeff Senior, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Canada to Thailand, giving the opening remark which emphasizes on the role of communities in holding the government accountable. (RIGHT) Ms. Emilie Pradichit giving a training on the CERD process.
During the training, Emilie made sure to denounce the racial discrimination in the Southern region and illustrated how the CERD review process can help improve their situation. Racial and religious discrimination is even more evident in the Deep South, where a large population of Malayu Muslims reside. Authorities often abuse their power and harass Thai Muslims. For instance, DNA is forcibly collected from people and authorities justify this by citing that they need a way to apprehend terrorists and that the action is legal under the currently imposed state of emergency and related security laws, which has been in effect in the Deep South since 2004. Furthermore, these issues are linked to the economic development of the Deep South, as a large percentage of the country’s annual fiscal budget is allocated to military for the security in the region rather than being provided to local communities who need it the most.
For the afternoon session, participants grouped together based on thematic issues to exchange their ideas and propose recommendations that they would like to submit in their CERD reports. Although the CERD review process was quite new to many participants, the discussion in each group in the afternoon session was lively and filled with in-depth analysis along with clear and practical solutions.
On the second day, each group presented their findings from their group discussions. The thematic areas covered included: environmental rights; migrant workers’ rights; rights of people living with disabilities; civil and political rights of Southern people; LGBTIQ+ youth rights; violence in school; and reproductive health rights of muslim women. The subject of violence in the Deep South was touched upon by many, as it has impacted the lives of several of the participants. Racial and religious discrimination against Malayu Muslims was another human rights violation faced by multiple participants, an issue which was neatly summarized by Ms. Yasmin Tohmeena. She stated that such discrimination caused them to lose their distinct cultural identities, as they were forced to assimilate into the central ‘Thainess’ culture in order to be accepted at the workplace and in society. She also argued that the Thai government’s portrayal of the Deep South being extremely violent exacerbates the racial discrimination towards Malayu Muslims despite the fact that violence in the area has decreased for quite some time.
(LEFT) Ms. Yasmin Tohmeena presents on the severe restrictions on civil & political rights in the South and the racial discrimination faced by Malayu-descended Thai muslims.
(RIGHT) Ajarn Direk Hamnakorn leading the discussion on access to natural resources and community rights to land.
The afternoon session consisted of a reminder on the UPR process, as many of the participants were already familiar with the UPR, as they engaged in Thailand’s second UPR cycle. Emilie spent more time on the strategies to write a compelling UPR report and how each group can advocate for their issues through campaigning on social media platforms, as it helps to raise public awareness and further compel diplomats to make recommendations as per their suggestions.
Representatives from Stella Maris, a migrant workers rights advocacy group, discussing the issues they want to include in their UPR report during the afternoon session of the second day.
On the third day, a Focus Group Discussion with LGBTIQ+ youth was held by Manushya Foundation and Save the Children Thailand. The Focus Group Discussion aims to support LGBTIQ+ Youth from the South to develop their very first UPR report. The youth participants separated into three groups to discuss various issues they have faced 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 shared their challenges and provided their very own solutions to improve their lives. Their knowledge, determination, and passion shone throughout the entire Focus Group Discussion and we, Manushya Foundation, are truly inspired and thrilled to be working with them.
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.