Candidate for the Human Rights Tulip: Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
Since the 2014 military coup in Thailand a group of human rights lawyers has been providing legal assistance for people who are arbitrarily arrested. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) is one of the three remaining candidates for the Human Rights Tulip for 2022. This is their story.
What is the Human Rights Tulip?The Human Rights Tulip is a prize that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs awards each year to a human rights defender or human rights organisation to support their important work. The winner receives a bronze tulip and €100,000. This money and the international visibility the prize creates help the winner continue and expand their human rights efforts
Founding of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) was set up by a group of human rights lawyers and social activists two days after the 2014 Thai military coup. Since the military coup the right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to a fair trial, has been seriously compromised. Many civilians, including pro-democracy activists, have been prosecuted in military courts throughout the country. TLHR was set up to provide pro bono legal assistance to people who were arbitrarily summoned, arrested or held by the military.
Protecting human rights and democratic space
Since 2014 TLHR has expanded the work it does to provide legal assistance to people (including human rights defenders) prosecuted for peacefully exercising their civil and political rights. The organisation also compiles information on and documents human rights violations to raise awareness of the human rights situation among the Thai public and the international community. TLHR also works with other human rights organisations, including UN human rights mechanisms, to promote and protect human rights in Thailand.
According to TLHR’s database, at least 1,832 people were prosecuted in 1,095 different cases between 18 July 2020 and 30 June 2022, because of political demonstrations and political expression. 282 of these people were minors aged under 18. Throughout the country, TLHR has supported at least 1,506 people.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has been increasingly confronted with intimidation and retaliation because of the work they do. In August 2021, reportedly 183 people, including opposition politicians, activists campaigning for democracy, human rights lawyers and journalists, were on government watchlists. These lists included TLHR's director Yaowalak Anuphan and litigation manager Pawinee Chumsri. Deputy director Sirikan Charoensiri has been intimidated and prosecuted in the past for her work as human rights lawyer. She is the first Thai lawyer to be charged by the Thai authorities with inciting criminal offences, which can be punished with a sentence of up to 7 years.
TLHR is in the running for the Human Rights Tulip, the winner of which will be announced on 8 December. There are three candidates remaining.
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