BANGKOK, Thailand – On 4 December 2018, Manushya Foundation convened a meeting of the Thai Business and Human Rights Network in Thammasat University to update the Network on the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business & Human Rights and brainstorm a campaign strategy for the Network to advocate for a strong and meaningful NAP.
Firstly, the meeting was informed on the latest developments on the NAP process since August when the Rights and Labour Protection Department (RLPD) of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) – the focal agency for the NAP published the latest third draft of the NAP. The Network at the time had organized a press conference to release a statement calling for the government to be sincere and transparent in the drafting of the NAP with respect to the process as well as the content.
At the 7th annual UN Business and Human Rights Forum in Geneva on 26-28 November, the RLPD representatives had shared their process and experiences of drafting the NAP, whereby Thailand was reportedly considered as the “leader in ASEAN”. However, the Network members at the meeting challenged such consideration stating that the government has not effectively engaged with communities and included the recommendations from all concerned civil society groups. They claimed that the Thai government’s process had actually been far from a good practice and questioned what would other countries in the region do if the international community lowered their expectations for necessary standards in ASEAN.
As per unofficial information, the RLPD is finalizing an updated draft of the NAP, which will be released reportedly in early 2019. They will publish the draft on their website to be accessible by “everyone” for comments over a month and subsequently submit the final draft for adoption to the Cabinet. As the government does not intend to have further consultations with civil society organizations, the meeting agreed that the Thai BHR Network needs to ensure their concerns are addressed in the draft NAP before it is sent for Cabinet adoption. Manushya Foundation’s Founder & Director, Emilie Pradichit, stressed the importance for the Network members to finalize their advocacy positions on their specific issues for inclusion on the NAP so that the Network is prepared for immediate actions needed in response to the government when the draft is published.
In the following session, the Network members, in an interactive panel discussion, shared some practical ideas and tips for effective campaigning, outreach to local media, politicians, academics responsible ministries and the public at large. Below are some key ideas that the panelists shared from their campaigning experiences:
From left to right:
1. Nattaporn Artharn, Coordinator of Ban Na Moon – Dusand Environmental Conservation Group moderated the panel discussion.
"Besides data gathering, another important thing is to communicate [the information] to our communities in order for them to understand, push forward, and address the problems...However, … one [communication] approach might not be applicable in every context...The other important thing is connecting our networks together, which makes the issues not only about us.”
2. Kath Khangpiboon, Lecturer, Faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University shared about ‘Standing up for Transgender Persons’ Rights’.
“You need to start your fight on your own by going to every meeting you can and telling your story and showing up to every interview to get yourself recognised. Only when you are visible will NGOs and communities support you.”
3. Sompong ViengChan, a woman community leader informed the meeting about ‘Pak Mun Dam Campaign’. “Whatever information we have regarding the impacts, such as the adverse impact on our livelihoods, we need to issue a joint statement to make everyone acknowledge our issues. It is dangerous to play solo.”
4. Direk Hemnakorn, a community leader with the Green World Network shared experiences of ‘Protesting against the Thepa Coal-fired Power Plant’.
“We have continued to mobilise to build peace in the Southern Region and tell our members that the Thepa coal-fired power plant will destroy everything, including peace in the region. We need to tell everyone to be aware and join in the fight against the issue.”
5. Pratch Rujivanarom, a journalist with the Nation Multimedia Group provided the participated ‘Effective Tips to Gain Media support’.
“Acknowledgement among groups is very important. The connection with the public is also crucial. The best way to raise the public attention on the issue is to tell them the story that they can relate to such as the impacts to the people's way of life.”
6. Sugarnta Sookpaita, a woman community leader with Migrant Workers Federation informed the meeting about ‘Labour Rights Campaign’.
“We need to build capacities of young leaders to ensure that there will be new generations to speak after us. Besides campaigning in our areas, we need to campaign with the public, so the people can understand our concerns. We need to campaign on the road, as well as through social media. Campaigning with the government is also important and we might have to work with them because they are the ones who formulate and implement policies and laws at the end.”
After the panel discussion, the Network members broke into thematic working groups to design their campaigns to push for a meaningful NAP on business and human rights in Thailand. They later shared those strategies among each other and have been finalizing their advocacy positions on their specific issues for inclusion in the NAP. The Network stands prepared to receive the fourth draft NAP and respond to the government as needed until their recommendations for the NAP are addressed in order to ensure respect for human rights of all concerned groups and communities in business contexts in Thailand.
Access pictures of the event here.
Note: This meeting was a follow-up to the press conference held on 24 August 2018 titled ‘Community Voices: We are not quiet, you are just not listening’, and the official statement made by the Thai BHR Network - ‘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’.