Various civil society groups in Thailand have organized assemblies, debates, and online campaigns which engaged candidates and political parties about their human rights agenda ahead of the general election scheduled for May 14.
Groups highlighted the continuing strong influence of the military in the civilian government. Incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was the army chief who led a coup in 2014. His party won in 2019 based on the 2017 constitution which gave the military-controlled government the authority to appoint 250 members of the Senate.
On May 14, voters will elect 500 members of parliament. The parliament and the senate will choose the next prime minister, who needs the vote of at least 376 legislators. In the 2019 election, Prayut got all 250 votes from the senate. He is seeking re-election despite the clamor for reforms and the call for a new set of leaders.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, pointed out the flaws of the election system designed by the military-backed government.
An election held under a deeply flawed system and in an atmosphere of fear will not have democratic legitimacy.
The “atmosphere of fear” refers to the repressive policies of the Prayut government in dealing with government critics.
Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard visited Thailand on April 18 and spoke about the concerns raised by local stakeholders.
I raised a range of human rights concerns during my visit, including the use of excessive force by security forces during protests and the arbitrary detention of protesters and human rights defenders. I welcomed the adoption of the anti-torture and disappearance Act and regretted the decision to delay its implementation until October.
Amazing moment here in Bangkok: a public debate on human rights protection, organised by @AmnestyThailand, with all political leaders running for next elections. A crucial step for a rights based present and future for the people of #Thailand. pic.twitter.com/zdOeWFlLBn
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) April 20, 2023
The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights asserted that political persecution must end, and enumerated the reforms that the next government should implement to pursue justice and accountability.
If these prosecutions are not terminated, it would be difficult to solve this deep-rooted political problem in Thailand. Ending political prosecution is part of an initial solution to mitigate the conflict and restore justice to the people.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights was founded after the coup d’état with the mission to provide legal assistance to those affected by the abuse of power by the coup government. Today, it also assists cases related to freedom of political expression. We see the 2023 election as a… pic.twitter.com/4bn53I6QjJ
— TLHR / ศูนย์ทนายความเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชน (@TLHR2014) April 27, 2023
Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia (Thailand), underscored the link between open democracy and the fight for a healthy environment.
Greenpeace believes that the kind of politics that contributes to a healthy environment must be built on social justice and an open democracy which embraces diverse ideas and offers the public a space in which they can actively and meaningfully participate in the decision making and determination of policies.
Athiphan Wongwai, head of the It’s Time to Change Project, Mirror Foundation, challenged candidates to improve the welfare of people with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities are determined to cast their votes to choose good people for the national administration. They want all political parties to come up with policies to promote employment and quality of life of persons with disabilities and to develop mechanisms to help persons with disabilities. Such policies shall not, however, be derived from the attitude of social work. Persons with disabilities should enjoy a pay rise to help them keep up with the cost of living and to incentivize people to offer help to the persons with disabilities.
Earlier this year, EngageMedia, Asia Centre, and Chiang Mai University’s School of Public Policy released a report containing a proposal for a digital rights agenda. Major political parties have signed a pledge of commitment to uphold the agenda.