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New NGO law could target anti-governemnt activists

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: The Office of the Council of State drafted the controversial law.

A controversial new NGO law was drafted with critics arguing it targets activists and the Thai government saying it ensures transparency. The Draft Act on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations was written by the Office of the Council of State in February and debated in the second half of March, but could be passed into law soon. Human rights groups claim the law has provisions that would allow the Thai government to harass civil society groups and activism leaders by qualifying them as non-government organisations, or NGOs. The new law would require NGOs to re-register following new guidelines the government claims will cut down on dubious organisations claiming money but not working for the public interest.

The problem arises because the protests that have plagued the Thai government for that last year often receives backing from foreign groups. A statement from 3 UN Special Rapporteurs worried that the broad language of the law could restrict non-profits working for human rights, with a vague definition of what qualifies as an NGO potentially including any group and enforcing strict NGO regulations on them. Section 1 of the draft states a sweeping goal for the bill.

“[…]to regulate the operation of not-for-profit organizations in the Kingdom to ensure propriety, morality, openness, transparency, and the genuine serving of public and national interest without any hidden and fraudulent agenda.”

This broadness could be used to classify anti-government groups as NGOs and then punish them with little legal recourse. Another section allows authorities to circumvent warrants and advance notice to enter organisations’ offices and copy their emails or other sensitive documents. Equally worrisome are the harsh penalties of up to 100,000 baht in fines and 5 years in jail for those who break the law.

The Union for Civil Liberty stressed that the heavy-handed punishments could dissuade organisations that benefit society by stifling non-profit organisations and prosecuting those that do not sufficiently meet the government’s demands. The Centre for the Protection of Children’s Rights Foundation noted that the NGO law had become much more extreme than the original drafted version. The Bangkok Post suspected the bill is intended to intimidate protest groups calling for democratic reform and rallying against the lese majeste laws.

“The bill will clip the wings of civic agencies that challenge unjust laws and law enforcement. The government must be open to scrutiny. If it practises good governance, there is no reason for concern and the new law should not be used in a dubious way.”

The law has not been enacted yet but is expected to go to parliament later this month after a cabinet review.

SOURCE: Global Voices


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  1. Avatar


    Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    What a good idea … Some NGOs subsidized by the USA will clear the landscape and stop manipulating naive students. Thailand will be able to regain some political calm and focus on fighting the pandemic.
    And genuine NGOs will also be able to do their work while respecting the principle of neutrality.

  2. Avatar


    Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 6:58 pm

    Juntas are the enemies of human rights, free speech and democracy. This we can and could see in history and around the world with junta countries.

  3. Avatar

    toby andrews

    Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 8:55 pm

    Well for once I agree with the government.
    NGO not for profit organisations, mostly do not reveal what the managers are earning.
    It is a racket. Set up as a not for profit NGO to look after lame pussy cats, save a few, with cute little pictures of kittens, and the chief executive are flying first class, living in five star hotels, and making $2000 a week, in a deal where they dodge tax.
    Slap the cuffs on them boys in brown.

  4. Avatar


    Friday, April 16, 2021 at 11:11 am

    Thailand the new china

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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