Labor Ministry Could Deny Amnesty’s Operating License

The Labor Ministry could deny the human rights organization Amnesty International Thailand a new operating license for failing to comply with specific legal requirements.

On Tuesday, Permanent Secretary Boonchob Suthamanaswong said Amnesty International Thailand had submitted an application to the ministry to renew its license after it expired on January 20. First, however, the request must be reviewed by a ministerial panel, whose job is to ensure that international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) comply with the Labor Ministry regulations.

Mr. Boonchob stated that the decision to grant or renew a license depended on certain criteria and conditions, such as whether the NGO is not working for profit or is not driven by a political agenda that threatens national security.

Amnesty International Thailand has been informed of such rules and must maintain a neutral stance on political issues and avoid acts that could cause social unrest. Therefore, the organization has to submit a report on its activities to Thai authorities every six months, but it has allegedly failed to comply with that requirement.

Also, royalist activists have raised 1.2 million signatures in a petition to close the organization’s Thai branch, arguing that it has failed to meet the country’s operating requirements by openly supporting three protest leaders.

The movement was launched after Amnesty International criticized the Constitutional Court for deeming the three pro-democracy protesters’ actions as an attempt to overthrow the monarchical system with the king as head of state.

“The panel will also consider whether the organization’s activities affected the public’s faith in the Constitutional Court, judicial process, laws, and the country’s image,” said Mr. Boonchob.

While Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has not commented on the petition, he said in November that he had ordered the police and the Interior Ministry to check whether the organization had broken any laws in support of activists protesting to reform the monarchy.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, a law professor who has worked at the United Nations on human rights issues, said the restrictions on Amnesty International would affect confidence and international relations.

“They will also embody regressive steps detrimental to Thailand’s position as a hub for non-governmental organizations and as a crossroads for the international community,” he added.

But former Chulalongkorn University economics lecturer Somkiat Osotsapa wrote in a Facebook post that the organization had been technically closed the past two years for failing to submit its semi-annual activity report.