Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha (Photo - Bloomberg)

U.N. rights council reviews Thailand’s rights records, Thailand defends restrictions

Thailand had its rights record reviewed by the U.N. Human Rights Council on 11 May as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where Thailand researcher for Human Rights Watch Sunai Phasuk predicted would be a “moment of shame for the Thai government.”

The UPR is a cyclical review of the human rights records of all 193 United Nations member states. For Thailand, the UPR comes at a time just before Thailand’s military government plans to put out a widely criticised military-written constitution to the public in August.

Thailand has since defended its human rights record, stating that the limitations of freedom of expression in place were aimed at “those who stir up violence”.

U.N. members have noted numerous Thai laws in place for the purpose of silencing critics of the junta. In the past year, the junta has jailed such critics and has severely limited freedom of speech and content broadcast by the media.

Controversial Thai laws that U.N. members have pushed for the military to review include a royal defamation law, where if found guilty of insulting the monarchy, an individual can face up to fifteen years in jail. The law has been used recently to charge two activists for insulting the royal monarchy in private Facebook messages.

Thailand’s human rights records were last reviewed in 2011. The military seized power in May 2014 following a coup.

During the review, the United States called for allowing “Thai people to fully participate in the political process.” Sunai Phasuk also told Reuters that he hoped that the review and the Thai government’s shame that follows will “send a clear message back to Bangkok that they immediately have to reverse their course.”

Nevertheless, despite Thailand defending its rights restrictions following the U.N. review, Thai officials also stated that the country was looking to adopt some of the measures proposed by the council after the current session ends on 12 May.