Empowering human rights defenders in Thailand

OHCHRworkshop.Sitting on the floor of Thailand’s Kaeng Krachan Forest, farmers from a local Karen community pore over a map of the area near the Myanmar border and show a group of human rights defenders how land repossession has affected their livelihoods.

Thirteen human rights defenders from different parts of Thailand joined a workshop conducted by the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) at the end of October to hone their skills in monitoring and documenting human rights issues.

The Bangkok-based office hosts several workshops around the region each year as part of OHCHR’s mandate to promote and protect all human rights.

The workshop in Kaengkrachan district, Phetchaburi Province, brought together human rights defenders who have been working on issues that range from supporting access to justice for victims of torture in the southern border provinces to providing human rights education for indigenous peoples in the north of the country.

As part of the training programme, participants visited the Karen community in Nongyapong district to assess their situation, where the government has taken back acreage once used for farming and earmarked it as park land. The Karen people said authorities had failed to keep them properly informed during the process, and revealed how their livelihoods had been impacted by the decision to take back the farming land.

“The training provides an excellent opportunity for local activists to link Thailand’s human rights obligations to international human rights standards,” said Ms. Sasithorn Klomjit, an activist from Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand, based in Surat Thani Province. “The field visit was also useful to share good experiences and lessons learned with the local community who are also working on similar issue like me in relation to land rights.”

This five-day workshop was a follow-up to a programme held in May 2015 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok.

October 2015