On 21 October 2019, the ICJ co-hosted an event on “Business and Human Rights and Thailand’s National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights” at Mido Hotel in Bangkok.
The discussion surrounded the evolution of business and human rights in Thailand and concerns arising with respect to the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (‘NAP’)’s key priority issues.
Notably, on the same day of this event, the NAP was being considered by the Cabinet for approval.
Participants included 37 individuals representing affected populations from all regions of Thailand, members of civil society organizations, and representatives from international organizations.
Sanhawan Srisod, ICJ’s Legal Adviser, spoke at a panel on ‘Land, Environment and Natural Resources’, addressing key concerns arising with respect to environmental laws in Thailand. These included the lack of adequate consultations with affected stakeholders before implementing development projects, inadequate assessment of environmental impacts prior to policy determination, inadequate protections under relevant laws on the environment, problems arising from Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) processes, and obstacles in accessing remedy for environment-related cases. She also facilitated another panel on judicial harassment of human rights defenders.
Saovanee Kaewjullakarn, ICJ’s Legal Consultant, facilitated a panel on Thai outbound investment and challenges with respect to access to justice for victims of human rights abuses committed by Thai corporations in the context of their business activities abroad.
The event was co-hosted with the Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), Thai Extra-Territorial Obligations Working Group (Thai ETOs Watch), EarthRights International (ERI), Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Business and Human Rights Resource Center (BHRRC) and the British Embassy in Thailand.
After the event, on 29 October 2019, the Cabinet approved and adopted the First National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (2019-2022), making Thailand the first country in Asia to adopt the stand-alone NAP.
The NAP sets out plans to be followed by several public and private stakeholders in order to ensure the state’s and business’s duty to protect and respect human rights, and the general obligation of the State and businesses to provide for access to remedy in the case of business-related human rights violations and abuses. NAP has determined four key priority issues, including (1) Labor; (2) Land, environment and natural resources; (3) Human rights defenders; and (4) Cross border investment and multi-national enterprises.
Subject to these four key priority issues, the NAP emphasizes the duties of the relevant State agencies to, inter alia, review and amend certain laws, regulations and orders that are not in compliance with human rights laws and standards and ensure their full implementation, ensure mechanisms for redress and accountability for damage done to affected communities and individuals, overcome the barriers to meaningful participation of communities and key affected populations, and strengthen the role of businesses to “respect” human rights on a variety of key priority issues.
Its effectiveness in term of implementation is yet to be assessed because the NAP does not have the status of a law, but is merely a resolution from the executive branch. Under Thai law, a Cabinet Resolution is considered a “by-law” in accordance with section 3 of the Act on Establishment of Administrative Courts and Administrative Court Procedure, B.E. 2542 (1999).
In March 2019, the ICJ and Human Rights Lawyers’ Association (HRLA) had also submitted recommendations to the Ministry of Justice on Thailand’s draft NAP and expressed concern on the removal of a commitment that had been included in earlier versions of the NAP to “push for an Anti- Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) law”.
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