[Joint Open Letter] Thailand: The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E…
27 December 2021 5:00 pm

27 December 2021

Cabinet Ministers of the Royal Thai Government
Government House
1 Phitsanulok Road Dusit
Bangkok Thailand

Cc: Council of State
All members of the National Assembly of Thailand
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand

Re: The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organizations B.E…

Dear Ministers

We, the undersigned Thai and international organizations, write to express our deep concern regarding the Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for Profit Organizations B.E… (‘Draft Act’) dated 21 December 2021. We are civil society groups working on a wide range of social, economic, environmental and human rights issues and collectively our activities assist millions of people in Thailand.

Whilst each of our organizations are very different from each other, we are united in our alarm and opposition to the Draft Act which contains numerous provisions that would subject not-for-profit organizations (NPOs) and its members to excessively restrictive measures curtailing their rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other human rights, including facing arbitrary interference with the right to privacy.

Whilst many aspects of the Draft Act are concerning, in particular, Sections 19, 20, 21, 25, 26 and 27 are extremely problematic.
Under Sections 19 and 21, several of the proposed requirements for information disclosure do not specify the purpose, which could enable the exercise of arbitrary power. Existing legislation (including the Civil and Commercial Code, Revenue Code, regulations on foreign private organizations) already requires a particular level of transparency and relevant authorities have the power to investigate when necessary.

Section 20 is overly broad, vague and drafted so that legitimate activities by most not-profit organizations in Thailand could, to some degree, be interpreted as falling under its prohibited categories. In its current form, this section could allow for arbitrary interpretation and implementation. In a country of 70 million people, any of these provisions could easily be applied arbitrarily to severely restrict freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, and other human rights.

Section 20 states that “a Not-for-Profit Organization must not operate in the following manner:
(1) Affect the government’s security, including the government’s economic security, or relations between countries.
(2) Affect public order, or people’s good morals, or cause divisions within society.
(3) Affect public interest, including public safety.
(4) Act in violation of the law.
(5) Act to infringe on the rights and liberties of other persons, or affect the happy, normal existence of other persons.”

The list of prohibitions in this section is so broad that it could likely capture activity by local NPOs working on most issues of public interest, or bilateral and multilateral regional development initiatives involving civil society.

Additionally, Section 20 does not respect the principle of legality in international law, which requires that laws be drafted in a way that makes their consequences foreseeable so that organizations and people can regulate their behaviour in accordance with them.

Section 21 curtails certain privacy rights that NPOs are entitled to. Requirements around foreign funding are overbroad and violate the right to freedom of association, which embraces the ability to seek and secure resources, both domestic and international.

Sections 25, 26 and 27 propose punishments which are overly punitive, disproportionate and likely to discourage individuals and groups from being active participants in Thailand’s civil society.

This Act, if passed with its currently excessively broad provisions, could be easily misused and abused to significantly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other human rights. Not only could it likely have a significant impact on a wide range of grassroots, national and international civil society groups in Thailand, but such an Act threatens Thailand’s status as a hub for local and international non-profit organizations working on diverse issues of public interest in Southeast Asia.

Urging the Government of Thailand to support civil society and to uphold human rights is consistent with the constitutional requirement to protect fundamental rights. Additionally, this is in line with Thailand’s National Strategy on Public Sector Rebalancing and Development. While we recognize that the Royal Thai Government has a duty to protect public order and national security, authorities must do so in a manner that is in accordance with international human rights law, and that is proportionate, necessary and fulfills the government’s obligations to ensure and facilitate respect for human rights.

We note that the United Nations Charter recognizes the importance of international cooperation to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all”.

In light of the above grave concerns, we consider the Draft Act inconsistent with Thailand’s constitutional requirement to protect fundamental rights and its obligations under international human rights law and standards. We call upon the Thai government to withdraw the Draft Act immediately and reaffirm its constitutional and international obligations to measurably protect, promote and fulfill the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and other human rights.

Additionally, the undersigned Thai organizations call on all members of the National Assembly of Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand to support a vibrant, diverse and independent civil society and oppose the Draft Act in its current form.
Finally, we urge the Thai Government to ensure a fully transparent and constructive consultative process of an adequate time frame that meaningfully involves the general public, not-for-profit organizations and other relevant stakeholders, and results in an outcome that benefits, rather than harms, people in Thailand and this region.

Thank you for your attention to the issues and recommendations expressed in this letter. We remain available to discuss this matter further with the Royal Thai Government and would welcome further opportunities to support the government in meeting its constitutional and international obligations.

NOTE: A recent statement of concern by a coalition of Thai NGOs was issued on 15 December 2021 and a joint letter responding to an earlier Draft Act from a group of international NGOs was released on 31 March 2021. The International Centre for Not-for-profit Law published summary analysis of the current Draft Act on 23 December 2021 – for more information or to receive a copy, please email [email protected]

Sincerely,

  1. Amnesty International
  2. APCOM Foundation มูลนิธแิ อ็พคอม
  3. Article 19
  4. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  5. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) มูลนิธอิ นั เฟรล
  6. Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD)
  7. Civicnet Foundation มูลนิธกิ ารเรยี นรแู้ ละพฒันาประชาสงั คม
  8. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  9. Community Resource Centre Foundation มลู นิธศิ นู ยข์ อ้ มลู ชมุ ชน
  10. Cross Cultural Foundation มลู นิธผิ สานวฒั นธรรม
  11. ENLAWTHAI Foundation มลูนิธนิิตธิรรมสิงแวดลอ้่ ม
  12. Feminist’s Liberation Front เฟมนิ ิสตป์ ลดแอก
  13. Foundation for Labor and Employment Promotion มลูนิธเิพือการพฒั่ นาแรงงานและอาชพี
  14. Green South Foundation มลู นิธภิ าคใตส้ ีเขยี ว
  15. Greenpeace Thailand กรนี พซี ประเทศไทย
  16. Home Net Thailand Association สมาคมเครอื ข่ายแรงงานนอกระบบ (ประเทศไทย)
  17. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF) มลูนิธเิพือสทิ่ ธมินุษยชนและการพฒันา (มสพ)
  18. Human Rights Lawyers Association สมาคมนักกฎหมายสทิ ธิมนุษยชน
  19. Law Long Beach กลุ่มนักกฎหมายอาสาเพือสทิ่ ธมินุษยชน สิงแวดลอ้่  มและประชาธปิไตย
  20. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
  21. Manushya Foundation มลู นิธมิ นุษยะ
  22. Migrant Working Group เครอื ข่ายองคก์ รดา้ นประชากรขา้ มชาติ
  23. Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand เครอืข่ายชนเผ่าพืนเมอื้ งแหง่ประเทศไทย
  24. NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGOCOD) คณะกรรมการประสานงานองคก์ รพฒันาเอกชน (กป.อพช.)
  25. Non-Binary Thailand กลุ่มนอนไบนารแี ห่งประเทศไทย
  26. Peace and Culture Foundation มูลนิธยิุตธิรรมเพือสนั่ ตภิาพ
  27. Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand สมาคมฟ้าสรี งุ้ แห่งประเทศไทย
  28. Social Democracy Think Tank – Thailand
  29. Sustainable Development Foundation
  30. TEA Group กลมุ่โรงน ้าชา
  31. Thai Allied Committee with Desegregated Burma Foundation มลู นิธิรว่ มมติ รไทยพม่า
  32. Thai Volunteer Service Foundation มลูนิธอิาสาสมคัรเพือสงั่ คม
  33. The Northeastern Women’s Network เครอื ข่ายผหู้ ญงิ อสี าน
  34. The Relative Committee of May 1992 Heroes
  35. The Southern Feminist’s Liberation – Thailand เฟมนิ ิสตป์ ลดแอก ณ ภาคใต้
  36. WeMove ขบวนผหู้ ญงิ ปฏริ ูปประเทศไทย
  37. เครอื ข่ายองคก์ รงดเหลา้ มูลนิธวี ถิ สี ุข
  38. โครงการปฏริ ูปการเกษตรและพฒันาชนยท จงั หวดั พจิ ติ ร
  39. เครอืข่ายเกษตรกรรมทางเลอืกและการพฒันาทียั่ ่งยนื จงั หวดั พจิ ติ ร
  40. เครอืข่ายประชาชนเพือสทิ่ ธชิมชนและการอนุรกัุ ษ์(คสอ.)
  41. เครอื ข่ายทรพั ยากร ดิน น า้ ป่า ภาคเหนือตอนล่าง
  42. เครอื ข่ายทรพั ยากร ดนิ น า้ ป่า จงั หวดั กา แพงเพช
  43. เครอื ข่ายประชาชนตดิ ตามแผนพฒันาจงั หวดั สตูล
  44. สมาคมสภาคนพกิ ารทุกประเภทแห่งประเทศไทย
  45. นางองั คณา นีละไพจติ ร (Mrs Angkhana Neelapaijit)
  46. นายวนั ชยั พุทธทอง (Mr Wanchai Phutthong)
  47. น.ส.สุธาวลั ย์ บวั พนั ธ์ (Miss Suthawan Buapan)

**

For the PDF version of the joint open letter, click here.