In 2020, ministries of the Thai government began circulating draft acts on the regulation of not-for-profit and civil society organizations. By February 2021, three different drafts had emerged: (1) a draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-profit Organisations proposed by the Office of the Council of State (OCS); (2) a draft Act on the Promotion and Development of Civil Society Organizations proposed by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS); and (3) a draft Act on the Promotion and Development of Civil Society Organizations proposed by some Thai civil society organizations.
An unofficial English translation of the Office of the Council of State’s draft not-for-profit organization (NPO) bill reveals numerous restrictive regulatory approaches, including mandatory registration, the criminalization of unregistered groups, regulatory authority vested in the Interior Ministry, revocation of registration for potentially minor penalties, burdensome reporting and invasive surveillance for NPOs, and other concerning provisions. The MSDHS and civil society drafts are reportedly not as restrictive as the OCS draft. Local partners are concerned that the Council of State version will be fast-tracked for approval, potentially in the next month or two. ICNL prepared a legal analysis of the draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-profit Organisations (Bill) and submitted it to the OCS on March 30 (during the open comment period, ending March 31). Please see the Pending Legislative Initiatives section below in this report for further details.