/Thailand: Women pro-democracy activists criminalized, harassed, new report shows

Thailand: Women pro-democracy activists criminalized, harassed, new report shows

The report, titled “Standing tall – Women human rights defenders at the forefront of Thailand’s pro-democracy protests,” is based on interviews conducted with 22 women human rights defenders (WHRD), both youth and adults, who peacefully protected and promoted fundamental human rights and freedoms in connection with the demonstrations.

“Brave women pro-democracy activists played a crucial role in the wave of protests that swept Thailand in 2020. Their positive contribution to the advancement of human rights should be acknowledged and welcomed, and Thai authorities should protect them instead of attacking them.”

Guissou Jahangiri, FIDH Vice-President

WHRDs, including youth under the age of 18, were systematically targeted by both state and non-state actors for their participation in the nationwide protests. Thai authorities actively engaged in repeated attacks against WHRDs through the use of repressive laws and decrees that do not conform to international standards. The Observatory documented the prosecution of 11 WHRDs, including one minor, in relation to their participation in the protests. Four of them were arrested, detained, and released. Some of these 11 WHRDs currently face 10 or more criminal cases.

Authorities also subjected WHRDs and their family members to frequent harassment, intimidation, and surveillance, including by visiting their residences and educational institutions to intimidate them or gather information on their activities. Other abuses were gender-specific: WHRDs reported attacks by state actors, which mostly took the form of verbal abuse and harassment directly aimed at them simply because of their gender and/or their gender expression. This often overlapped with their experience of online attacks and harassment by non-state actors.

They further experienced pressure from their personal entourage as a result of their activism. This disproportionately impacted students, many of whom are dependent on their families. Women activists also faced obstacles within the pro-democracy movement as they, their views, and their contributions were often ignored or excluded by certain parts of the movement itself. Acts of harassment, attacks, and challenges faced by WHRDs can result in chronic stress, burn-out, or issues of self-esteem.

“Women are at the heart of Thailand’s youth-led pro-democracy movement. Their engagement for the future of Thai democracy, justice, equal rights, and gender equality should be seen as a sign of strength and as a promise for the future of society. It deserves recognition and not repression.”

Gerald Staberock., OMCT Secretary General

The report formulates numerous recommendations to both the Thai government and the international community to ensure the protection of WHRDs and the respect of their fundamental rights in accordance with international standards.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.