11 July 2024

A group of people rallied in front of the United Nations Office, on Ratchadamnoen Road in Bangkok this morning (Monday), to protest against a draft law which seeks to control and restrict the activities of non-profit, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Thailand.

The protesters arrived at the Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge, in front of the UN office, as early as 6am, with the intention to hold their rally on the traffic island in protest against the allegedly draconian new law, drafted by the Council of State.

The protesters see the law as an attempt to limit people’s participatory rights and liberties, in violation of the Constitution and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Nutchanart Thanthong, from the Four Regions Slum Network, claimed to Thai PBS World that the law is a violation of human rights and should not be used in Thailand, adding that the penalty is too high, as their people are mostly poor. She explained that the law is scheduled to be submitted to the cabinet again next Tuesday, so they plan to continue their protest, to put pressure on the government not to pass the law.

The law requires non-profit NGOs to register with the Provincial Administration Department of the Interior Ministry for permission to operate in Thailand, “to prevent them from engaging in activities deemed to be a threat to national security or good public morals and to ensure they refrain from activities which may cause disunity in the country.”

They are also required to disclose their sources of funding and spending, “for the sake of transparency.”

The draft bill was endorsed by the Thai cabinet in January this year and it has sparked protests from several Thai and foreign NGOs and human rights organisations, as well as the Move Forward party.

Several NGOs have been accused by Thai officials of engaging in activities hostile to the government and in support of anti-government elements.

The protesters’ presence has forced the police to block traffic on Ratchadamnoen Road, from Chamai Maru Chet Bridge to Misakawan intersection, and vehicles are being told to divert to alternative roads. A barricade was also erected to prevent the protesters from moving closer to the UN building.

Police claim that they are concerned about the security ofministers from several countries who are scheduled to attend a meeting at the UN office.

The protesters have, however, assured the police that their protest will be peaceful.