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TITLE:  THAILAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            THAILAND


Thailand is a democratically governed constitutional monarchy 
with a history of frequent military coups and powerful 
military-bureaucratic influence over political life.  The King 
exerts strong informal influence on carefully selected issues.  
In October the democratically elected administration of Prime 
Minister Chuan Leekpai completed its second year in office.

The security apparatus has wide-ranging legal powers, largely 
derived from past militarily controlled administrations.  
Military leaders still have an informal but influential role in 
internal politics.  Since 1992 the military influence in 
politics has been substantially reduced, however, and the 
current military leadership has evidenced a growing acceptance 
of permanent civilian rule.

The police have primary responsibility for internal security 
and law enforcement.  However, some police officers continue to 
commit serious human rights abuses without punishment.

Thailand, a newly industrializing country with a flourishing 
free enterprise system, continued to enjoy remarkable economic 
growth.  The political system generally provides strong 
protection for individual economic interests, including 
property rights.  Although the industrial and services sectors 
are expanding rapidly, more than half the population is rural 
and dependent on agriculture.  Despite the Government's efforts 
to close the economic gap between urban and rural areas, 
Thailand continues to suffer from a large and growing disparity 
in income distribution.

Although the Government continued vocal advocacy of human 
rights, serious human rights problems remained unaddressed.  
Some police continued to resort to physical abuse of detainees 
and sometimes summary executions in dealing with criminal 
suspects.  The Government prosecuted few police officers 
accused of abuse or extrajudicial killings.  Enforcement of a 
broad range of laws and regulations by police also remained 
noticeably lax.  In August the police department was rocked by 
revelations of senior police officials' complicity in the 
deaths of the wife and child of a key witness in a 5-year-old 
case involving the theft of gems from a Saudi prince.

In general the Government continued to uphold freedom of 
assembly and freedom of the press, although there were several 
isolated incidents in which the Government attempted to limit 
these rights.  Also, the Government moved slowly to fulfill its 
policy of addressing the problem of trafficking in women, 
children, and minorities for the purposes of prostitution.  
Legal and societal discrimination against women, violence 
against women and children, and child labor continued.

The number of protesters officially listed as "missing" after 
the bloody 1992 military crackdown on prodemocracy 
demonstrations dropped to 39.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The Government, legal organizations, reputable nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's), and the press continued to report, 
credibly, that some police officers summarily executed criminal 
suspects, particularly in areas outside the capital.  Reliable 
NGO's reported, based on court records, that in 1993, the 
police killed 31 suspects while arresting them, while another 
23 died in police custody.  It is difficult to gauge accurately 
what percentage of these deaths could reasonably have been 
avoided.  Complete statistics on the number of criminals and 
suspects killed by police in 1994 were unavailable.

In August police officers allegedly murdered the wife and child 
of a key witness in a 5-year-old case concerning jewelry and 
gemstones stolen by a Thai employee of a Saudi prince.  High-
level police involvement is widely suspected in the gems case; 
one midlevel and two senior police officers have been arrested 
thus far, with more arrests likely.  While at year's end no 
police officers had been convicted, many remained under active 
investigation for their roles in the affair.

In January press reports revealed that since 1992 a group of 
policemen robbed and murdered at least 15 Asian tourists.  
Chinese and Japanese visitors in Bangkok were targeted for 
kidnaping and extortion, and those killed were mutilated to 
hamper identification and dumped in outlying provinces.  Seven 
police officers who confessed to murder were arrested for their 
involvement.  These cases had not come to trial by the end of 
1994.

In May an American citizen died of head wounds sustained while 
in police custody in Phuket.  Police authorities vigorously 
investigated and determined that the wounds were self-inflicted.
However, forensic pathology reports conducted in the United 
States 2 weeks after the incident raise questions about the 
case that remain unanswered.  The FBI is assisting Thai 
authorities in investigating the matter.

The courts rarely convict police officers involved in summary 
execution cases, in part because witnesses are often 
intimidated or bribed to withhold evidence.  The resulting 
climate of impunity is the single largest factor militating 
against any significant change in police behavior.  The law 
allows personal suits against police officers for criminal 
actions taken while making an arrest.  However, due to flaws in 
the legal process and ingrained cultural attitudes, victims or 
their families rarely file suits against the police.  During 
the initial police inquiry, most police investigations 
routinely determine that no wrongful action was taken on the 
part of the police; judges generally follow the prosecutor's 
recommendations.  If pursued by the family, the case is handled 
by the same office, in some instances by the same prosecutor, 
who has already ruled that no criminal action occurred.  There 
is no information to determine how many cases are settled out 
of court, but in cases in which suits are filed, the Government 
often compensates the family of the deceased, and the suit is 
dropped.

Two killings of political figures were reported in 1994.  The 
mayor of Narathiwat, a provincial capital, was murdered in 
January by two strangers who fled the scene on a motorcycle 
without license plates.  In a separate incident, a provincial 
council candidate who was a key figure leading villagers to 
rally against two local officials was murdered, apparently for 
political reasons.

     b.  Disappearance

There was one report of a disappearance in 1994.  In December 
environmental activist Suchada Khamfubutra disappeared from her 
home.  Because she had organized villagers in Lamphang province 
to protest pollution from a Taiwanese-owned factory earlier in 
the year, there initially was suspicion of foul play.  As more 
information became available, NGO's and the police decided she 
had more likely disappeared of her own volition because she was 
unable to repay some debts.  Police were investigating her case 
at year's end.

The governmental joint committee, which includes a prominent 
university professor and other nonpolitical figures, 
investigating the military's violent suppression of 
prodemocracy demonstrations in 1992 reduced the number of 
protesters believed missing from 48 to 39.  All those found 
were unharmed but had feared persecution for their role in the 
events.  Local investigations into the whereabouts of the 
remaining 39 continue, though many family members and NGO's 
suspect that most of them are dead.  An amnesty decree issued 
during the last days of the Suchinda government in May 1992, 
and reaffirmed by subsequent Governments, effectively protects 
military leaders and protesters accused of criminal activities 
during the May 1992 events from criminal prosecution.  NGO's 
and relatives of the missing filed a civil suit against four of 
the top military leaders involved in the violence.  In June the 
civil court ruled that because of the amnesty decree the 
military leaders could not be sued.  Lawyers for the families 
plan to appeal on the grounds that the decree was 
unconstitutional because it was not approved by the Cabinet.

A suspect in the 1989 murder of Saudi diplomats in Bangkok was 
acquitted by the Supreme Court in May.  The judges determined 
the evidence submitted by the three witnesses was unreliable.

Labor Congress of Thailand (LCT) President Thanong Po-an's 1991 
disappearance remains unresolved.  On Labor Day (May 1), the 
LCT again called on the Government to make a more serious 
attempt to locate Thanong.  Most observers believe Thanong was 
kidnaped and killed because of his criticism of the military 
coup d'etat in February 1991.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Criminal Code forbids cruel, inhuman, or degrading 
treatment or punishment, and in most cases police do not resort 
to physical abuse or violence.  However, there continued to be 
credible reports that police sometimes beat and tortured 
prisoners and detainees.  Criminal suspects regularly complain 
of police attempts to secure confessions or evidence through 
the use of torture such as electric shocks.  Several times in 
1994, senior police officials publicly acknowledged that 
torture is occasionally carried out in police custody, with the 
implicit backing of some senior police officers.  The 
Government instituted a human rights instruction course to try 
to address police brutality but made no visible efforts to 
convict and appropriately punish those who commit these 
abuses.  (See Section 5 regarding reports of instances of 
police involvement in trafficking of women and children for the 
purposes of prostitution.)

In general, access to prisoners is not restricted.  Conditions 
in most prisons do not, in general, threaten the life or health 
of inmates.  However, some prison guards resort to physical 
abuse of both Thai and foreign prisoners in response to 
disciplinary problems.  Solitary confinement and heavy leg 
irons are sometimes used to punish difficult prisoners.

Medical care in prisons is inadequate.  For a total prison 
population of 100,000, the Corrections Department employs only 
14 doctors and 5 dentists.

Conditions at the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center (IDC), 
which generally holds between 2,000 and 3,000 detained illegal 
immigrants, are extremely poor.  Serious overcrowding, lack of 
medical care, inability to exercise, and physical abuse are 
recurrent problems.  Reliable international observers charge 
that both authorities and detainees sexually abuse female 
detainees.  Immigration detention facilities are not 
administered by the Department of Corrections and are not 
subject to many of the regulations found in the regular prison 
system.  Nationals of countries that will not accept deportees 
because of uncertainties over citizenship face an extended stay 
in the IDC.  Some detainees are eventually released at the 
Burmese border and typically reenter Thailand illegally.

While the law requires that prosecutors formally charge 
criminal suspects in court within 91 days of their detainment, 
some IDC detainees have been held for several years.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Except in cases of crimes in progress, the law generally 
requires arrest warrants.  Arrested persons must be informed of 
the likely charges against them immediately after arrest.  
Police have the authority to extend the detention period to 7 
days to complete an investigation.  After 7 days, the police 
must present the case to the public prosecutor to determine if 
the case should be pursued.  While detainees have a right to 
have a lawyer present during questioning, they are often not 
informed of this right.  Foreign prisoners are often forced to 
sign confessions without knowing what is in them.

There is a functioning bail system, but judges have 
considerable discretion in determining eligibility for bail.  
The only legal basis for detention by the police without 
specific charges for long periods (up to 480 days) is the 
Anti-Communist Activities Act.  No one has been detained under 
that Act's provisions since 1984.

Of the approximately 100,000 prison inmates in Thailand, 
approximately 23,000 are pretrial detainees or those undergoing 
appeals.  They are not segregated from the general prison 
population.

Exile is neither practiced nor used as a means of political 
control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for presumption of innocence, but in 
practice defendants are frequently presumed guilty.  Access to 
courts or administrative bodies to seek redress is provided for 
and practiced.  The civilian judicial system has three levels 
of courts:  courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the 
Supreme Court.  A separate military court hears criminal and 
civil cases pertaining to military personnel as well as those 
brought during periods of martial law.  A serious flaw in 
providing due process rights is the lack of appeal from 
decisions of a military court.  Islamic (Shari'a) courts 
provide due process and hear only civil cases concerning 
members of the Muslim minority.

There is no trial by jury.  Trials for misdemeanors are decided 
by a single judge, and more serious cases require two or more 
judges.  While most trials are public, the court may order a 
trial closed.  This is most often done in cases touching on 
national security or the royal family.  Career civil service 
judges preside over the courts.  Judicial appointments and 
structures are not subject to parliamentary review.  Although 
generally regarded as independent, the judiciary has a 
widespread reputation for venality.

The widely publicized lese majeste trial against prominent 
social critic Sulak Siwarak that began in 1993 after his return 
from self-exile is still under way in the criminal courts.  In 
October the trial concluded in the lese majeste and secession 
case of four Shiite Muslims, held in prison since their arrest 
in Pottanim (Pattani province) in 1990.  Three were convicted 
on lese majeste and other charges and sentenced to between 6 
and 31 years in prison.  The fourth was convicted on other 
criminal charges and sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Defendants tried in ordinary criminal courts enjoy a broad 
range of legal rights, including access to a lawyer of their 
choosing.  A government program provides free legal advice to 
the poor, but indigent defendants are not automatically 
provided with counsel at public expense.  Most free legal aid 
comes from private groups, including the Thai Lawyers' 
Association and the Thai Women Lawyers' Association.

Well-informed legal sources estimate that there are at most 10 
political prisoners in Thailand.  Political affiliation and 
questionable evidence may have influenced the ability of these 
prisoners to receive a fair trial or fair punishment.  Muslim 
groups claim 16 political prisoners are held on criminal 
charges because of their political views.  In the past few 
years the authorities used lese majeste laws in several 
high-profile cases to intimidate political opponents.

Ex-Royal Thai Army Major General Manoon Roopkachorn, accused of 
masterminding a 1982 plot to assassinate the Queen, the Prime 
Minister, and the army commander, was cleared of all charges in 
1994 and filed suit against the investigating officers for 
falsifying evidence.  The other two defendants in the case were 
also cleared.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The law requires police to obtain a warrant prior to a search.  
Warrants are issued by the police with prior Ministry of 
Interior or provincial governor approval and are not subject to 
judicial review.  There were some credible reports that 
officers sometimes endorse warrants in advance and then allow 
their noncommissioned subordinates to apply them as needed.  
The Anti-Communist Activities Act allows officials engaged in 
"Communist suppression operations" to conduct searches without 
warrants, but these powers rarely have been invoked in recent 
years and were not invoked in 1994.

Thai society is essentially open; membership in political 
organizations is voluntary, and the unmonitored exchange of 
ideas is generally permitted.  However, security services 
monitor persons espousing leftist or controversial views, 
including foreign visitors.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for, and citizens generally enjoy, a 
substantial measure of freedom of speech.  However, the law 
prohibits criticism of the royal family (lese majeste), threats 
to national security, or speaking in a manner likely to incite 
disturbances or insult Buddhism.

Newspapers and periodicals practice some self-censorship, 
especially with regard to the monarchy and national security 
issues.  However, strong media criticism of political parties, 
personalities, and the Government is common and robust.  
Journalists are generally free to comment on government 
activities without fear of reprisal, although there were 
credible reports of occasional harassment or bribing of 
journalists by individual politicians.  Also, journalists are 
reluctant to criticize the judiciary out of fear that they will 
not be treated fairly by the judges during libel proceedings.

Radio and television stations are government licensed and 
operated primarily by the Government and military.  Radio 
stations are required by law to broadcast government-produced 
newscasts four times daily.  A bill to abolish the order 
requiring these broadcasts was passed by Parliament in October.

Although programmers are generally free to determine the 
content and nature of television broadcasts, a government 
internal censorship board commonly edits or "blacks out" 
portions of programming deemed politically sensitive.  Self- 
censorship is more prevalent in privately operated stations 
because their licenses must be renewed every few years.

In May the military shut down an army-owned radio station 
leased to a private news group for 3 days after the station ran 
a commentary critical of the armed forces.  In another incident 
in February, government-run media attempted to protect a 
prominent Buddhist monk accused of sexual misconduct by 
prohibiting interviews with another well-known Buddhist on his 
views about the allegations and declined to air a video 
documenting the monk's overseas travels.

Representatives of the film industry continued to criticize the 
police-controlled film censorship board, which regularly 
deletes all references in films to a number of topics deemed 
politically controversial or considered pornographic.  The 
police censorship board initially banned the film "Schindler's 
List" because of a nude scene.  However, after a furor in the 
press, the board reversed its decision.

Thai domestic publications continued to present a wide range of 
political and social commentary.  Unless critical of the royal 
family or the monarchy, foreign and domestic books normally are 
not censored and circulate freely.  The 1941 Press Law empowers 
the Police Director General to prohibit the import of printed 
matter deemed dangerous to public order and morals.  The list 
mainly consists of pornographic material, but it also still 
includes books written by Communists.

In May the Cabinet rescinded a 1976 military order prohibiting 
possession of printed materials that could cause divisions 
among members of the public.

Academic and technical research is conducted freely.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The legal system recognizes the right of peaceful assembly, and 
there were many examples of people exercising their right to 
free and peaceful assembly unhindered by government 
interference in 1994.  However, government officials sometimes 
restrict this right.  In July the Government effectively 
blocked foreign participation at an NGO conference about East 
Timor and pressured potential host sites to refuse to host the 
seminar.  After attorneys called into question the legality of 
the Government's action, the conference was allowed to take 
place.  However, government intimidation was effective in 
preventing many, particularly overseas visitors, from 
participating (see Section 4).

Private associations must register with the Government, but 
permits are not required for private meetings or gatherings 
unless held on public property.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion is protected by law and generally respected 
in practice.  The de facto state religion is Theravada 
Buddhism, but other religions are not restricted.

Members of minority religious movements occasionally are 
subjected to legal action.  For example, the trials of 
dissident Buddhist leader Phra Potirak and his followers for 
allegedly violating the law governing the Buddhist 
ecclesiastical hierarchy and impersonating Buddhist monks or 
nuns continued.  Phra Potirak and his followers remain free on 
bail and continue their religious activities.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The right of citizens to change their residence or workplace 
was unabridged.  Travel was restricted in certain border areas 
where foreign or vestigial domestic insurgent groups remain 
active.  Longstanding restrictions on the travel and place of 
residence of certain Chinese and Vietnamese aliens living in 
Thailand remained in place.  In addition, some long-term 
noncitizen residents of Thailand, including several hundred 
thousand tribal people, must seek permission from local 
authorities or the army for foreign or domestic travel.

In September the police summarily detained and deported to 
Malaysia seven members of a Malaysian Muslim sect whose 
passports were revoked by the Malaysian Government.  The 
Malaysian Government subsequently jailed them for their 
dissenting views on Islam.  (See the report on Malaysia.)

Several regulations intended and used to help reduce 
trafficking in women and children for purposes of prostitution 
could be used to infringe on the right of women and children to 
travel freely.  One statute (rarely used), dating to the last 
century, requires women to obtain their husband's permission 
before traveling outside Thailand.  Also, female passport 
applicants under age 36 must sit through a series of interviews 
regarding their employment records and finances.  Passport 
applications by single Thai women and children under the age of 
14 must also be approved by the Department of Public Welfare.

The Government has not revoked citizenship for political 
reasons.

Thailand continued to provide first asylum to Vietnamese and 
Lao asylum seekers and to process them in accordance with the 
Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) agreed to in Geneva in 
1989.  There were no reports of any pushbacks of Vietnamese or 
Lao asylum seekers, and no credible reports of forced 
repatriation.  The Government announced that all Lao camps are 
to be closed by 1995 and continued to cooperate with the U.N. 
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Laos in a trilateral 
program to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of certain Lao 
in Thailand.

Under Thai law, Burmese (and other non-Indochinese) asylum 
seekers are considered illegal immigrants subject to 
deportation, but Thailand continued to permit Burmese asylum 
seekers to remain in camps along the Thai-Burma border and near 
Bangkok.  While Burmese outside of camps were arrested 
periodically and sent to areas not controlled by the Burmese 
Government on the border, the Government did not deport any 
Burmese recognized by the UNHCR as a "person of concern."

Residents of the "safe area" first asylum camp for Burmese 
dissidents in Ratchaburi province had regular access to the 
UNHCR, which concluded that conditions at the safe area meet 
broadly accepted international standards for the protection and 
welfare of asylum seekers.  The safe area is open to all 
Burmese "persons of concern," whether or not they previously 
registered with the Thai Government.  However, by year's end, 
only about 170 of the 2,500 Burmese "persons of concern" 
resided there.

About 73,000 ethnic minority Burmese and 1,500 Burmese students 
and dissidents continued to reside in some 30 camps in Thailand 
along the Thai-Burma border.  Thailand ordered the relocation 
of several camps to Burma, but continued to permit voluntary 
agencies and the UNHCR to provide food, medical, and sanitation 
assistance along the border.

Thailand generally continued to accept new arrivals from 
Cambodia fleeing the fighting, but several subsequent 
repatriations occurred in which the safety of the returning 
refugees or the voluntary nature of their decision to return 
was in doubt.  After heavy fighting along the Cambodian border 
in March, some 30,000 Cambodians fled into Thailand.  Military 
officials provided assistance and moved the Cambodians back to 
an area of Cambodia that was not experiencing fighting.  
However, the military refused access to the group by 
international observers prior to the repatriation.  In May 
Thailand repatriated several dozen Burmese who had fled 
fighting in Shan state, in some cases before it could be 
ascertained that the fighting had ceased.  In July Burmese 
forces entered an outlying section of an ethnic Mon camp 
(located on Burmese soil), prompting several thousand Mon to 
flee to a site inside Thailand.  Thai authorities, after 
receiving assurances from Burmese forces that the incursion was 
a mistake and would not be repeated, eventually forced the Mon 
to return to their original site in September, despite protests 
by the UNHCR and the international community.  Thailand also 
instituted closer monitoring of the movements and activities of 
Burmese asylum seekers and NGO's along the border.  In at least 
one area of the Burmese border, access to camps in Thailand was 
blocked on grounds that there was no longer any fighting in 
that part of Burma.  New arrivals were required to set up camps 
on the Burmese side of the border.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The democratically elected coalition government was generally 
successful in its efforts to strengthen democratic 
institutions.  The military's role in politics has 
significantly declined since the 1992 elections, and the Thai 
military now seems increasingly supportive of the civilian 
government and democracy.

While there are no legal restrictions on political 
participation, women are generally underrepresented in national 
politics, especially at the senior levels.  Also, the army 
still prohibits women from becoming generals, and women are not 
allowed to attend military academies or the Army General Staff 
College.  However, the number of women in local and national 
politics continued to increase.  In February more than 400 
women were promoted to the post of assistant district chief, a 
steppingstone to more powerful positions such as provincial 
governor.  In September a woman was appointed Secretary General 
of a major political party for the first time in Thai history.  
The current parliamentary contingent of 16 female Members of 
Parliament in the lower house (out of 360) is the largest to 
date.

No laws prohibit the participation of ethnic minorities, but 
few hold positions of authority in national politics or the 
civil service.  Ethnic minorities in the north often lack 
documentation of Thai citizenship, effectively barring their 
participation in the political process (see Section 5).  
Muslims from southern Thailand hold significant posts in the 
Government.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local human rights organizations operate without government 
restriction.  International human rights NGO's generally work 
freely in Thailand on controversial issues.  Although the 
Government sometimes criticizes these groups for being 
politically motivated and biased, it generally has neither 
penalized nor suppressed human rights observers.  However, 
NGO's working with displaced Burmese have had problems in their 
relations with the Government (see Section 2.d.).

When a locally supported regional NGO umbrella group planned a 
human rights conference (to discuss human rights problems in 
Burma and East Timor) to coincide with the ASEAN Ministerial 
Meetings in Bangkok in July, the Government, to avoid 
repercussions from other governments, sought to prevent the 
conference by invoking a little-used 1987 permit requirement 
for foreign participation at NGO conferences.  To further limit 
foreign participation, the Government "blacklisted" 11 East 
Timorese dissidents, preventing them from entering the country, 
and deported one Australian NGO representative after claiming 
she was in the country illegally.  The Labor Ministry pressured 
potential conference sites into refusing the NGO group access 
to a meeting room.  Once human rights lawyers protested the 
Government's action, calling into question the legality of the 
permit regulation, the Government allowed the conference to 
take place, albeit with limited participation.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

Women generally have equal legal rights, but inequalities 
remain in domestic law.  Whereas a man may sue for divorce on 
the grounds that his wife has committed adultery, a woman faces 
the additional legal burden of proving her husband has 
maintained or honored another woman in a manner equal to his 
wife.

Reliable statistics indicate that domestic abuse is rising and 
crosses all social classes.  One NGO estimates that as many as 
50 percent of women in Bangkok's slum areas are victims of 
abuse.  Police do not enforce laws against such violence 
vigorously, and domestic violence often goes unreported.  Under 
the Criminal Code, spousal and child abuse is covered under 
assault provisions, but rules of evidence often make 
prosecuting such cases difficult.  Early in the year police 
began to use a female team to handle rape and abuse cases to 
encourage more victims to report these abuses.

Prostitution, although illegal, flourishes and is deeply 
ingrained.  Estimates of the numbers of women and children 
engaged in prostitution vary widely because of temporary sex 
workers and the migratory nature of prostitution.  However, 
reliable NGO statistics generally discount the Government's 
claim that there are 70,000 prostitutes in Thailand; most 
estimate the number closer to 250,000.

Prostitution exposes women to a number of human rights abuses, 
as well as a high risk of contracting AIDS.  Some women are 
forced into prostitution, although the number of such cases is 
unknown.  Human rights monitors believe that the majority who 
engage in prostitution are not kept under physical constraint, 
but they note that many women become indebted to brothel owners 
for large sums.  It is common for brothel procurers to advance 
parents a substantial sum against their daughter's future 
earnings, often without the consent of the young woman 
involved.  The women are then obligated to work in a brothel 
for a fixed period of time in order to pay back the loan.

In the past several years, there has been an increase in the 
number of women entering Thailand from neighboring countries to 
work as prostitutes, and there were continuing credible reports 
of corrupt police involvement in illegal trafficking schemes.

Incidents of coerced prostitution most commonly involve women 
from hill tribes or neighboring countries.  Brothel operators 
reportedly favor such women because they are cheaper to procure 
and their inability to speak Thai makes them easier to 
control.  Sometimes lured with promises of jobs as waitresses 
or domestics, these women are then often threatened with 
physical abuse by brothel operators if they refuse to work as 
prostitutes.  Because they are considered illegal immigrants, 
such women have no right to legal counsel or health care if 
arrested.

The Government has set up vocational training and education 
programs to combat the lure of prostitution, but despite 
occasional high-profile raids on brothels, it has failed 
effectively to enforce laws against prostitution, and in many 
cases, brothels pay off local government representatives and 
police.  There are credible reports of instances in which 
corrupt police drove Burmese women across the border sometimes  
in police vehicles and delivered them directly to brothels.

Under the current Penal Code, prostitutes are considered 
criminals, whereas brothel owners, procurers, and clients are 
not subject to criminal statutes.  In May the Cabinet approved 
draft legislation that would further criminalize those involved 
in the trafficking of women and children for the purpose of 
prostitution or slave labor.  While clients of child 
prostitutes would be subject to criminal prosecution under the 
legislation, it still would not criminalize the clients of 
adult prostitutes.  At year's end, the draft legislation was 
scheduled for parliamentary debate in May 1995.

Statistics compiled by NGO's concerned with women's issues note 
that women represent half of the economically active population 
and their numbers have increased in professional positions.  
Government regulations require employers to pay the same wages 
and benefits for similar work regardless of sex.  However, 
two-thirds of female workers do not earn the minimum wage, and 
there is a significant gap between average salaries earned by 
men and women as a result of the concentration of women in 
traditionally lower paying jobs.

NGO's concerned with the status of women have pressed the 
Government to abolish discriminatory practices within the civil 
service.  Constitutional amendments passed in early 1995 
included a new provision, Article 24, stipulating the equality 
of men and women.

     Children

Abuse of children in prostitution and child labor continued.  
Although the Government claims to be committed to eliminating 
child prostitution, it has failed to enforce the current 
limited laws against child prostitution.  In 1994 the 
Government established a special police task force to suppress 
child prostitution, and the Cabinet approved draft legislation 
that would revise the Criminal Code to toughen the laws 
regarding abuse of children under 18 years of age.  Reliable 
NGO's report that police are often unwilling to raid a brothel 
that has child prostitutes unless the NGO can provide the 
children's names, due to the problem of false identity cards 
with incorrect birth years.  The police then will only remove 
those children named before the raid.  There are no reliable 
statistics on the number of children involved in the sex 
industry.

Children are particular victims of the AIDS epidemic.  There 
are indications that the demand for child prostitutes may be 
growing as patrons believe that older prostitutes are more 
likely to be infected with HIV.  There is a small, but rapidly 
growing, number of babies born to HIV-infected mothers.  
Approximately 30 percent of these children will be infected and 
die within a few years.  Those who are not infected themselves 
will be orphaned while still in childhood, and are often 
discriminated against as an extension of the social stigma 
directed against their parents.

The Criminal Code provides for the protection of children from 
abuse, and laws on rape and abandonment provide for harsher 
penalties when the victim is a child.  As in the case of 
domestic violence against women, police are often reluctant to 
pursue abuse cases, and rules of evidence make prosecution of 
child abuse cases difficult.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Progress in integrating ethnic minorities into Thai society is 
limited.  Only half of the estimated 500,000 to 700,000 members 
of hill tribes reportedly possess documentation as citizens, 
which prevents them from exercising their basic rights, 
including participation in the political process.  Undocumented 
hill tribe people cannot own land, have limited access to 
educational opportunities, and are not subject to labor laws, 
including minimum wage requirements.

Approximately 45,000 Vietnamese who fled Indochina in the 
1940's and 1950's reside in northeastern Thailand and live 
under a set of laws and regulations restricting their 
movements, residences, education, and occupations.  The 
Government has slowly pursued a more lenient policy toward 
longtime Vietnamese residents in recent years.  Noncitizen 
Chinese and their descendants who live in border areas must 
seek permission from local authorities to travel.

     Religious Minorities

Muslims represent a significant minority within Thailand as a 
whole and constitute the majority in the four southernmost 
provinces that border Malaysia.  Although the Government has 
attempted to integrate the Muslim community into Thai society 
through developmental efforts and expanded educational 
opportunities, societal discrimination remains widespread.
The number of incidents of political violence--typically 
involving few, if any, casualties--decreased from 1993.  While 
security officials have attributed a number of those incidents 
to the Islamic Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) 
separatist group, informed observers believe much of the 
violence in the South has been perpetrated by opponents of the 
Government in an effort to weaken the Government.  Occasional 
ambushes of security forces by suspected guerrillas, and 
counteroperations by military units, also occur in remote areas 
in southern Thailand's Muslim provinces.

     People with Disabilities

The Government again took few steps to implement provisions in 
the Disabled Rehabilitation Law that established a quota system 
and employer incentives for hiring the disabled.  Another 
regulation requiring factories to hire one handicapped person 
for every 200 nonhandicapped employees was also not enforced.  
There are no laws mandating access to public facilities for 
disabled persons.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

There were no significant changes in the general labor 
environment, either in terms of new legal initiatives or labor 
unrest.

The law grants freedom of association only to private sector 
workers.  Workers also have the right to form and join unions 
of their own choosing without prior authorization; to decide on 
the constitutions and rules of these associations and unions; 
to express their views without government or employer 
interference; to confederate with other unions; to receive 
protection from discrimination, dissolution, suspension, or 
termination by any outside authority because of union 
activities; and to have employee representation in direct 
negotiations with employers.  However, no law explicitly 
protects workers from discrimination due to their participation 
in organizing new unions that have not yet been officially 
registered.  Union leaders report that employers do 
discriminate against workers seeking to organize unions.

In place of unions, the law allows workers in each state 
enterprise to form a single "association" after at least 30 
percent of the enterprise's employees submit a petition to the 
Ministry of Labor to register such association.  These 
associations submit employee grievances to management and 
propose changes in benefits and working conditions, but may not 
negotiate wages.  Associations do not have the right to 
confederate or to join private sector federations.  Unofficial 
contacts between public and private sector unions continue, 
however, and the Government has not interfered with these 
relationships.  A number of associations maintain affiliations 
their predecessor unions had with international labor 
organizations.

The law denies all state enterprise workers the right to 
strike.  In the private sector, a proposed strike must be 
approved by a majority of the union members in a secret ballot.

In 1991 the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized 
labor law amendments adopted in March 1991 that dissolved state 
enterprise unions, transferred their assets, limited the number 
of associations which may be formed in each state enterprise, 
set unusually high minimum membership requirements for 
associations, denied associations the right to affiliate with 
private sector unions, and completely forbade strikes in state 
enterprises.  The Government has not vigorously enforced these 
restrictions.  The ILO continues to request that the Government 
rescind or revise the law.  The Government has pending a new 
version of the law that would restore for the most part the 
rights enjoyed by state enterprise workers prior to the 1991 
changes.  It was approved by the Cabinet in December 1993 and 
passed its first reading in Parliament on September 28.

The Government has the authority to restrict private sector 
strikes that would "affect national security or cause severe 
negative repercussions for the population at large."  The 
Government seldom invokes this provision and did not do so in 
1994.  Labor law also forbids strikes in "essential services," 
defined much more broadly than the ILO criteria for such 
services.  No strikes were disapproved on those grounds in 
1994.  The number of approved strikes has averaged fewer than 
10 annually for the past 15 years; there were 3 in the first 8 
months of 1994.

Over half of the work force is employed in the unorganized 
agricultural sector.  Less than 2 percent of the total work 
force, though nearly 11 percent of industrial workers is 
unionized.  Cultural traditions and unfamiliarity with the 
concept of industrial relations are often cited as the reason 
for low rates of labor organization.

While violence against labor leaders is rare, the 1991 
mysterious disappearance of outspoken labor leader Thanong 
Po-an remains unsolved.

There is a legacy of corrupt public sector union leaders who 
were exploited by the military, politicians, or employers for 
their own purposes, but private unions generally operate 
independently of the Government and other outside 
organizations.  Unions are free to associate internationally 
with other trade union organizations, and they maintain a wide 
variety of such affiliations.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1975 Labor Relations Act recognizes the right to organize 
and bargain collectively for private sector workers and defines 
the mechanisms for such negotiations and for 
government-assisted conciliation and arbitration in cases under 
dispute.  In practice, genuine collective bargaining probably 
occurs only in 10 to 20 percent of workplaces and in most 
instances continues to be characterized by autocratic attitudes 
on the part of employers.

The Government sets wages for both civil servants and state 
enterprise employees.  A system of labor courts created in 1980 
exercises judicial review over most aspects of labor law for 
the private sector.  Workers may also seek redress for their 
grievances from a tripartite Labor Relations Committee.  
Redress of grievances for state enterprise workers is handled 
by a State Enterprise Labor Relations Committee.  Labor leaders 
did not indicate dissatisfaction with the treatment their 
concerns receive in these forums.

No separate labor legislation applies to export processing 
zones, where wages and working conditions often are better than 
national norms because of the preponderance of multinational 
firms.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, except 
in the case of national emergency, war, or martial law.  
However, there are reports of sweatshops in the informal sector 
that physically restrain workers from leaving the premises.  
There are no estimates of how many such workshops exist, but 
the growing number of illegal aliens, particularly from Burma, 
increases the opportunities for such abuse.

For several years, the ILO has cited Thailand for violations of 
Convention 29 on Forced Labor.  The primary focus of the ILO 
criticism is forced child labor, especially child 
prostitution.  Since the ILO raised these concerns, the 
Government has cooperated in setting up important institutional 
links, particularly with the International Program on the 
Elimination of Child Labor, to help improve this situation.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The legal minimum age for employment is 13; most children 
complete compulsory education at age 12.  The law permits the 
employment of children between the ages of 13 and 15 only in 
"light work," where the lifting of heavy loads and exposure to 
toxic materials or dangerous equipment or situations is 
restricted.  The employment of children at night (10 p.m. to 6 
a.m.) is prohibited.  The Government estimates that there are 
100,000 children between the ages of 13 and 15 in the labor 
force, but the actual number is probably much larger.

The Ministry of Labor has increased the number of inspectors 
specifically responsible for child labor issues, although not 
all these officers are engaged in full-time inspection work.  
Enforcement of child labor laws continues to be inadequate.  
The inclination when dealing with violators is to negotiate 
promises of better future behavior, rather than seek 
prosecution and punishment.  Labor Ministry records indicate 
that the number of prosecutions for violations of labor laws 
was up slightly in 1994 (a total of 168 through August).

The Government is also dealing with child labor by extending 
compulsory education from 6 to 9 years.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

A tripartite wage committee consisting of government, employer, 
and worker representatives increased the daily legal minimum 
wage twice in 1994.  Minimum wage rates now vary between $4.20 
(105 baht) and $5.42 (135 baht) per day depending on the cost 
of living in different provinces.  The wage is not adequate to 
support an urban worker and his family.  With extended family 
member financial contributions, the minimum wage provides the basis for a marginally adequate overall standard of living.  
However, more than half of workers countrywide receive less 
than the minimum wage, especially in the provinces.  Unskilled 
migrant workers who pour into Bangkok from the poorer 
countryside, as well as illegal aliens, often work for less 
than the minimum wage.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible 
for ensuring employers meet minimum wage requirements.  Despite 
encouragement of employees to report violations to Labor 
Inspectors, enforcement of minimum wage laws is mixed.

The Government has not mandated a uniform workweek for the 
entire labor force.  By regulation, commercial employees work a 
maximum of 54 hours per week, employees in industry work 48, 
and those in "dangerous" work such as in the chemical, 
petroleum, mining or other industries involving heavy 
machinery, 42.  Transportation workers are restricted to no 
more than 8 hours per day.  Enforcement of these standards is 
weak.  There is no 24-hour rest period mandated by law.

Working conditions vary widely in Thailand.  In medium-sized 
and large factories, government health and safety standards are 
often maintained, but lax enforcement of safety standards is 
common.  In the large informal sector, the health and safety 
environment is substandard.  The Government designated 1994 the 
"Year of Workplace Safety" and initiated a variety of programs 
to deal with continuing problems.  Employers are able to ignore 
safety regulations in part because nonunionized workers often 
do not understand safety and health standards and do not report 
violations.  When 188 workers lost their lives in the May 1993 
Kader Toy Factory fire near Bangkok, the Government brought 
suit against eight persons, including the managing director.  
The case commenced in June 1994 and is expected to be lengthy.  
There is no law affording job protection to employees who 
remove themselves from dangerous work situations.  The Ministry 
of Labor promulgates health and safety regulations regarding 
conditions of work.  Labor inspectors are responsible for 
enforcement of health and safety regulations; the strictest 
penalty is 6 months in jail.


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[end of document]

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