Thailand: ICJ co-hosts round-table on right to peaceful assembly

On 26 November 2019, the ICJ, jointly with the Centre for Civil and Political Rights (CCPR Centre), hosted a round-table discussion on the right to peaceful assembly in Thailand. The discussion was held at the office of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR).

Fifteen lawyers, members of civil society organizations and academics attended the discussion.

The discussion began with an introduction to the UN Human Rights Committee’s draft General Comment No. 37, which when revised and adopted will constitute an authoritative interpretation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as guaranteed under article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Thailand is a State party to the ICCPR.

The UN Human Rights Committee – the body mandated to interpret and supervise the implementation of the ICCPR – made the draft General Comment available for all stakeholders to review between November 2019 and 14 February 2020. The Committee in its draft considers the obligations of States parties in respect of such right to peaceful assembly, including permissible limitations and duties and powers of law enforcement agencies.

During the meeting, participants discussed about Thailand’s existing law governing the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly – including the 2017 Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand and the 2015 Public Assembly Act. The discussion also focused on comments on the draft General Comment that the participants may submit to the UN Human Rights Committee, and advocacy strategies to strengthen Thailand’s legal frameworks once the draft General Comment is adopted by the UN Human Rights Committee.

Participants identified challenges posed by in the implementation of certain domestic laws, particularly the Public Assembly Act, which may result in unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in Thailand. These included the lack of a clear definition of “an assembly”; identification of “no-go” zones for protestors; problems arising from the use of notification systems where a failure to notify the authorities of an assembly was used as basis to render participation in the assembly unlawful and for dispersing the assembly; and overbroad powers delegated to authorities to impose conditions for assemblies regulating the time, place and manner of assemblies.

At the meeting’s conclusion, participants considered ways of provided input on the draft General Comment to the UN Human Rights Committee. They also strategies to work to bring existing Thai laws in compliance with international laws and standards that regulating the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

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