A new UN report claims that, between 2001 and 2021, 30% of outspoken Thai activists experienced violence resulting in a loss of life, by the businesses against which they had campaigned.
Released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the report says that businesses have used legal action, intimidation and violence to silence human rights defenders.
Activists, affected villagers and attorneys are among the groups considered to be human rights defenders in the report.
Over the last 25 years, businesses filed 109 lawsuits against human rights defenders. 68.9% of these were by those with stakes in the mining, livestock and energy industries.
One anonymous interviewee said the lawsuits are used as strategic roadblocks and that they found themselves “going to court approximately once a month, incurring expenses and losing time.”
Outside of the judicial system, human rights defenders were reportedly spied upon, or threatened with violence and job loss.
“After making a turn in my car, someone fired shots at me,” claims another anonymous interviewee, adding “I was in the orchard, a single home in the orchard. It was dark. Five shots were fired. I did not report the case, thinking it was an act of intimidation.”
4% of human rights defenders have died or been forcibly disappeared in the 25 years covered by the report, published on February 12th, the International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism.
In 2015, Thailand pledged to work towards the fulfilment of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), alongside other members of the organisation. SDG 16, one of the goals, asks countries to “uphold peace, justice and strong institutions,” and another, SDG 10, aims for “reduced inequalities”.
The report recommends that government and relevant agencies recognize the status and importance of human rights defenders and develop measures that protect them from violence and harassment.