Open remark of the Human Rights Agenda

20 April 2023

Amnesty International

By Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International

Venue: Lan Khon Mueang, Bangkok, Thailand


Distinguished guests,

On behalf of myself and the dedicated, impassioned and close-knit teams at Amnesty International Thailand and Amnesty International’s Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, allow me to express my thanks for giving me a chance to speak today.

Amnesty is a global movement of 13 millions supporters around the world campaigning for human right protection around the world, working together with human rights defenders, and our partners and allies. I am here with my Thai colleagues from AI Thailand. 

It’s truly inspiring and hopeful to see so many people come to talk about human rights today, and thousands of you tuning in to this event.

It is inspiring because the world is in such a bad shape: multiplications of conflicts and sufferings, climate disasters killing thousands, thousands of people imprisoned for simply expressing their peaceful opinions; impunity everywhere: those responsible for killings, torture, rape, corruption -escaping justice.  Double standards, “pick and choose” approach to human rights fueling instability, mistrust, cynicism. Contributing to in the breaking down of international rule based order.


This year, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 75. It is more than ever crucial for all to respect and protect the rule OF law.  Not the rule BY law.

This starts with Principled leadership, all those in government. And those with power – economic, financial and other.

Change must come from within our countries, our institutions, our political parties.

I’m so pleased therefore to be here today at an open debate on the future of Thailand.

I am particularly pleased because young people have told me here in Thailand and elsewhere, that they have no future. Because of repression, violence, climate injustice.

As candidates for elections and this country future leaders, you have a central responsibility to hear this message, listen to the youth, and work with them and others in building a present and future for all people in Thailand.  This can only mean a present and future respecting human rights.

Let me be honest when I say that after speaking with members of Thai civil society, activists and Amnesty’s own national and regional teams, Thailand’s next government has its work cut out for it on human rights.

What does this mean for you candidates for the elections, country future leaders?

Children and young people make a significant contribution to society – including through claiming their rights to express their opinions and to peacefully protest.

But hundreds of children and young people, along with political activists and human rights defenders face criminal charges simply for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protests. Many have been deprived of their liberty and may face the stain of a criminal record.

As I speak to you, a 15-year-old has been held in juvenile detention for weeks.

It must be a priority for all of you to stop the intimidation and surveillance of all protesters, including children, to drop all charges against any peaceful protesters, and to amend or revoke all laws and policies that impede adults and children’s full enjoyment of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

We are all more secure when human rights are protected.

The protection of rights extend to all people, including those coming from other countries, either as refugees and migrants.

People who do come here seeking shelter and safety live in fear of being forcibly sent back. Just last week, we learned of a Vietnamese activist and UNHCR registered refugee who has mysteriously ended up in police custody in Vietnam. Myanmar nationals who have fled across the border still live in fear of being sent back and are stuck in limbo. These people have the right to live with dignity and have access to asylum.

Thailand has historically hosted and provided humanitarian support to refugees across the region.  It must continue to do so, and it could do more.

As Thailand’s leaders, and possibly in charge of its future government, you should ensure that refugee and migration policies are not politicised. That they do not become tools in assisting repression by other countries.

I urge you to commit to addressing the crisis in Myanmar and providing much-needed protection to people fleeing repression across the region, including Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

This is good for people. It is good for the Mekong region. It is good for Thailand. Thailand can and should become a model of human rights leadership within and beyond ASEAN.


Thank you for giving me the chance to share our thoughts on ways we can work together to build a world where human rights are a priority and not an afterthought.