BANGKOK, Thailand – On the afternoon of 23 August 2018, following the morning press conference, ‘Community Voices: We are not quiet, you are just not listening’, the Thai Business and Human Rights (BHR) Network took centre stage to ensure their voices were heard by the Thai Government and read their official statement, ‘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 Network’s Statement called on the Thai Government to commit to a more sincere, transparent, and participatory NAP drafting process. Central to this are three steps, included in the statement:
1. “Ensure information of consultations, particularly the drafts of the NAP, are circulated widely and well in advance so that the concerned communities and civil society groups can provide comments and meaningfully participate in the drafting process.”
Any chances of meaningful participation of community members and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have been impeded by the Government’s ineffective methods of communicating information on government-led consultations. Communication, particularly with respect to the three consecutive draft NAPs has been through unofficial channels or not at all. The government has organised five regional NAP consultations poorly attended by CSOs and affected communities, one CSO Consultation with UN agencies and produced three Draft NAPs not taking into consideration communities’ recommendations.
27 June - 6 July 2018 — First Government-led Regional NAP Consultations.
Invitations sent to CSOs via unofficial channels on 22 June 2018, four days prior to the first NAP consultation;
Zero Draft NAP posted on the website of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department (RLDP) of the Ministry of Justice on 26 June 2018, giving CSOs only one day to read and comment prior to the first Consultation. Its availability on the RLPD website was not communicated to CSOs or communities, so only those who checked the website saw it.
Low attendance of CSOs and community members at NAP Consultations due to absence of financial support provided to rural communities for transportation costs.
Comments to the Draft NAP after the event could only be made via an online Google Form until 31 July 2018, not allowing rural communities without Internet connection to effectively engage.
20 August 2018 — Second Draft NAP presented to United Nations (UN) Agencies only
On 20 August 2018, the RLPD presented the Second Draft NAP solely to UN Agencies. This Second Draft consisted of an empty outline, including titles of chapters and columns, and was not made available to CSOs and the public.
On 21 August 2018, Manushya received a copy of the English and Thai version of the Second Draft NAP from OHCHR, which is available on our website.
23 August 2018 — CSO Consultation on the Draft NAP on BHR, co-organised by RLPD, NHRCT, UNDP, and OHCHR.
Following the poor CSOs attendance to the previous five June/July government-led NAP consultations, OHCHR, UNDP and NHRCT felt the need to support the Thai government by co-organising a last CSO consultation, hoping to share the Third Draft NAP to CSOs at least two weeks prior to the consultation to allow for meaningful input and engagement;
However, the Third Draft NAP was made available to OHCHR only in the morning of 23 August, and was sent by OHCHR to invited CSOs at 7:00 am, two hours prior to the event;
The Third Draft NAP includes ‘copied and pasted’ community recommendations without clear actions on how to implement these, nor identification of government agencies in charge of the implementation. It demonstrates RLPD’s attempt at a ‘quick fix’ prior to the CSO Consultation.
As of today, the Third Draft NAP is not made publicly available, begging the question if it is an official draft, approved by the NAP Committee.
In order for the Thai Government to adhere to international standards on meaningful stakeholder engagement, it needs to ensure that the official draft NAP is publicly available and accessible to communities. Communities and CSOs also need to be given adequate time to read and comment on the draft via a platform that is easily accessible.
2. “Include representation of the concerned communities and civil society groups in the NAP drafting committee, so as to secure sincere participation and transparency in the process.”
As of now, the Government has failed to publicise information about the NAP Committee’s structure and function. The NAP Committee is the government-led body in charge of drafting the NAP on BHR, and it is vital that the NAP Committee have equal representation of all relevant stakeholders, including community members, CSOs, experts, and cabinet members. Information pertaining to the deliberation procedure needs to be publicly available.
3. “Undertake additional regional consultations with meaningful engagement of all relevant stakeholders on successive draft NAPs developed, to ensure the formulation of a NAP that addresses all relevant concerns and adopts concrete actions with respect to the actual situation on the ground.”
The Thai BHR Network made the decision not to attend the morning portion of the CSO Consultation as an action of protest to the non-inclusive nature of the NAP drafting process under the RLDP thus far. In addition, the morning sessions were not giving any opportunity to affected communities to share their business and human rights knowledge and explain their expectations of a meaningful NAP process and content to the audience. Instead, morning sessions consisted of lecturing panels by ‘experts’ to inform local communities about the issues faced by affected communities on the ground, following a top-down approach. Therefore, in order for the draft NAP to reflect the challenges and lived experiences of communities when it comes to business and human rights, the process of drafting the NAP needs to be inclusive and meaningful.
Further, the latest Draft NAP contains serious omissions in not recognising Sex Workers and Indigenous Peoples as key stakeholders in this process. In order to rebuild trust with communities and for the NAP to be reflective of the realities on the ground, any consultations on the official Draft NAP need to be a multi-stakeholder consultation that includes affected communities, the NAP Committee, cabinet members, line ministries, and private actors – following a bottom-up approach. This would also ensure that the actionable steps included are realistic. Multi-stakeholder consultations would help raise awareness with Cabinet members who could directly hear from communities, better understand the grounded needs, and ensure communities’ concerns are included the NAP they would have to consider and approve.
Despite the numerous shortcomings of the Third Draft NAP, one positive component was that it includes a provision prohibiting use of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), which recognised the use of SLAPP as a form of judicial harassment used by business entities against human rights defenders or anyone opposing the violation of rights by businesses. It is such a measure that the Thai BHR Network stands in support of, with the sincere hope that this provision remains in the final version of the NAP.
Read the full Statement of the Thai BHR Network here.
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.
Thai BHR Network Press Statement Video