Thailand

Last updated: 24 August 2022

Update

In February 2021, the Thai Cabinet approved a highly restrictive draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-profit Organizations (“NPO bill”) proposed by the Office of the Council of State (OCS). ICNL, other NGOs, and international experts submitted comments during the open hearing period on the bill in March 2021. ICNL’s “5 things to Know” briefer summarizes the February 2021 NPO bill here. In June 2021, the Thai Cabinet subsequently released principles related to money-laundering and terrorist financing to inform the NPO bill. ICNL submitted a legal analysis of these principles to the Council of State during the July 2021 open comment period. The government also proposed restrictive free speech and ‘anti-fake news’ regulations under emergency decrees in summer 2021, and restrictive amendments to its Anti-Money Laundering Act and communicable disease regulations in fall 2021.

In January 2022, the Thai Cabinet approved a new version of the NPO bill. While containing a few more enabling provisions than the February 2021 version, Section 20 of the bill institutes extremely broad prohibitions on NGO activities that are incompatible with international law, and other provisions require burdensome reporting and disclosures. Thai NGOs have pushed back strongly against the bill, submitting a petition voicing this opposition, signed by 1,800 NGOs and protesting in front of the Ministry for Social Development and Human Security. The bill is still pending and has not yet been submitted to parliament. For more on the bill, see here.

Introduction

Civil society has deep historical roots in Thailand, going back to religious institutions and early voluntary associations. Both Buddhist and Christian institutions have played a crucial role in providing education in Thailand. Buddhist monasteries served as venues for traditional education, while modern schools were first established by Christian institutions. The oldest and best known of the Christian institutions are Bangkok Christian College and Assumption College. The Chinese also set up early voluntary associations with a philanthropic orientation. The best-known philanthropic entity, Poh Teck Tung Foundation, is now Thailand’s biggest non-governmental charitable organization.

The legal framework for Thai civil society organizations (CSOs), including philanthropic and charitable entities, was modeled, at least in part, on Western legal systems, and particularly on the French and German civil codes. Thailand’s first Civil and Commercial Code, adopted in 1925, formally recognized associations and foundations as not-for-profit organizations, and the Cooperatives Act recognized cooperatives three years later. The Labor Act, which provided for the formation of labor unions, did not enter into force until 1956. However, it was rescinded in 1958 after a coup, which also led to the banning of trade unions until another coup took place in 1972. The Labor Relations Act was enacted in 1975 and the Thai Labor Protection Act passed in 1998.

The current legal framework generally facilitates the work of CSOs. However, concerns about national security and the perceived need to curb illegal activities, such as money laundering, have resulted in restrictions on CSOs. For example, the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) is authorized to request relevant CSO documents, suspend suspected CSO transactions, and enter the premises of any CSO under Section 16/1 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 1999 so long as the AMLO has “sufficient evidence.” Also, for the first time, Thailand is considering two specific NGO/NPO Bills that could potentially drastically change the entire non-profit sector. Most CSOs are currently set up as foundations under the Civil and Commercial Code.

Organizational Forms
Associations
Foundations
Cooperatives
Registration Body
Ministry of the Interior Department of Provincial Administration Ministry of the Interior Department of Provincial Administration Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Cooperative Promotion Department
Approximate Number
84,099 (2018 est.)
Barriers to Entry
At least three association members must submit a registration application and accompanying documents, as well as a 2,000 baht registration fee
No fixed time period for officials to respond to a registration application
Government may deny the registration application if it does not comply with the relevant legal provisions or if its objectives are contrary to the law or good morality or likely to endanger public order or national security
At least three people must submit a registration application and accompanying documents, as well as a 200 baht registration fee
Minimum asset requirement of 500,000 baht
The government may refuse to register a foundation if it is found, for instance, to be not truly aimed at promoting public benefit
Before submitting an application to establish a cooperative, there must be a consultative coordination meeting with the responsible officials from the Cooperative Promotion Department, as well as meetings among the cooperative’s organizers
No registration fee
Barriers to Operations/Activities
CSOs may not act contrary to the law, disturb the peace and good morality of the people, or pose a threat to the state’s security. Some CSOs must submit annual financial reports.
Foreign organizations cannot engage in any forms of profit-making or political activities. Their activities and proceedings must not be detrimental to stability and to good relations between Thailand and other countries, and they cannot impede public order or public morals.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy
Criminal code contains lese majeste provisions and provisions on defamation. Recent military governments have taken a heavy-handed approach, charting individuals under the penal code, as well as under sedition, cybercrime, and other legal provisions.
Websites and social media posts with alleged “illegal” content are frequently blocked.
Barriers to International Contact
None None None
Barriers to Resources
Limits on income-generating activities: most or all revenue from economic activities must be dedicated to the promotion of social welfare and benefits; restrictions on types of economic activity Limits on income-generating activities: most or all revenue from economic activities must be dedicated to the promotion of social welfare and benefits; restrictions on types of economic activity Considered a hybrid between a for-profit and not-for-profit organization, so there are fewer restrictions on earning a profit, and cooperatives are typically established to serve the welfare of their members.
Barriers to Assembly
At least 24 hours advance notification is required for an assembly in a public place; permission is required for an assembly that will move in a procession between 6pm and 6am; activities causing undue inconvenience to members of the public are banned.
The government may introduce “urgent measures” in the case of emergency situations.
Population
69,648,117 (2022 est.)
Capital
Bangkok
Type of Government
Constitutional monarchy
Life Expectancy at Birth
Total population: 77.66 years (male: 74.65 years; female: 80.83 years) (2022 est.)
Literacy Rate
Total population: 93.8% (male: 95.2%, female: 92.4%) (2018 est.)
Religious Groups
Buddhist 93.5%, Muslim 5.4%, Christian 1.1%, other <.1%, none <.1% (2018 est.)
Ethnic Groups
Thai 97.5%, Burmese 1.3%, other 1.1%, unspecified <.1% (2015 est.)
GDP per capita
$17,000 (2020 est.)

Source: CIA World Factbook

Ranking Body
Rank
Ranking Scale
(best – worst)
UN Human Development Index
79 (2020) 1 – 182
World Justice Project Rule of Law Index
80 (2021) 1 – 139
Foreign Policy: Fragile States Index
86 (2022) 179 – 1
Transparency International
35 (2021) 1 – 180
Freedom House: Freedom in the World
Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 5
Civil Liberties: 24 (2022)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 40
1 – 60

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements
Ratification*
Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
Yes 1996
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1)
Yes 1968
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
No
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR)
Yes 1999
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
Yes 2003
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
Yes 1985
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Yes 2000
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Yes 1992
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW)
No
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
Yes 2008
Regional Treaties
ASEAN Declaration
Yes 1967

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly, among other rights, are enshrined as fundamental rights in Sections 25-49 of the 2017 Thai constitution (Thai):

  • Freedom of expression: Section 34 provides that “A person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, make speeches, write, print, publicize and express by other means.” This liberty also covers “academic freedom.” “The restriction of such liberty shall not be imposed, except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, protecting the rights or liberties of other persons, maintaining public order or good morals, or protecting the health of the people.”
  • Freedom of association: Section 42 provides that “A person shall enjoy the liberty to unite and form association, cooperative, union, organization, community, or any other group…[T]he restriction of such liberty…shall not be imposed except by virtue of a provision enacted for the purpose of protecting public interest, for maintaining public order or good morals, or for preventing or eliminating barriers or monopoly.”
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly: Section 44 provides that “A person shall enjoy the liberty to assemble peacefully and without arms. The restriction of such liberty under paragraph one shall not be imposed except by virtue of a provision of law enacted for the purpose of maintaining security of the State, public safety, public order or good morals, or for protecting the rights or liberties of other persons.”

As of 2022, the National Assembly of Thailand continues to consider amendments to the 2017 Constitution. The main changes involve amendments to the Organic Act on the Election of Members of the House of Representatives B.E. 2561 (2018) and the Organic Act on Political Parties B.E. 2560 (2017). The proposed changes that have already been approved in the first reading (i.e., approved in principle) are the following amendments to the Organic Act on the Election of Members of the House of Representatives:

  • Section 83, changing the proportion of the number of constituency MPs to the number of party-list MPs from 350:150 to 400:100. This is expected to lead to larger parties gaining more seats at the expense of smaller parties; and
  • Section 91, changing the current single ballot system to a dual ballot system, one ballot for a constituency MP and the other for a party-list MP; and introducing a new method of calculating the number of votes needed to win a party-list seat, in line with the 1997 and 2007 constitutions, and in accordance with the proportion of votes a party receives from all constituencies across the country – a method called a mixed member majoritarian system (parallel system).

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

A. On January 4, 2022, a revised draft NPO law was approved by the Thai Cabinet, replacing the version approved by the Cabinet in February 2021. The drafters made significant revisions from the prior draft, including moving NPO oversight from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security; and narrowing the definition of NPOs to exclude groups gathering to implement a one-time activity or an activity that serves “only the interests of the group, or a political party.” Formal registration no longer appears to be mandatory, and the revised Bill removes the blanket restrictions on foreign funding that existed in the prior draft. Criminal penalties and imprisonment terms have also been removed, and some provision has been made for appeal processes.

Chapter 1 of the revised Bill envisions the establishment of a new “Committee for the Promotion and Development of Not-for-Profit Organizations” (“Committee”), comprised of a mix of government officials, experts, and appointed NPO representatives. The duties and powers of the Committee include determining policies and strategies for the promotion and development of NPOs, supporting NPOs in their civil society work, and formulating recommendations for the development and reform of laws, ministerial regulations, and rules concerning the promotion and development of NPOs. The revised draft seems to also envision funding support and tax benefits for NPOs, in line with good regulatory practices.

Despite these enabling revisions, Chapter II of the Bill introduces new, far-reaching restrictions that undercut most of the positive changes. The Bill’s restrictions run counter to international norms regarding the freedom of association.

Summary of Key Concerns 

The revised draft NPO law will impermissibly restrict the freedom of association of organizations. The following is a summary of concerns arising from the Bill:

  • Prohibitions on NPO operations are far too broad, and capture most legitimate, protected NPO activity. Section 20 of the draft bill, setting forth five areas in which NPOs are barred from operating, is extremely problematic. Each of the five enumerated areas is so broad that, collectively, most legitimate NPO activities could be defined in such a way as to fall under one or more of the prohibited areas. 
  • The Bill is not sufficiently targeted in its reporting and disclosure requirements. Section 19 of Chapter II of the Bill requires every NPO to “to disclose information regarding its name, founding objectives, implementation methods, sources of funding, and names of persons involved with its operations to ensure such information is easily accessible to government agencies and the public.” By adopting a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to reporting and disclosure, Section 19 imposes a disproportionate burden on the NPO sector as a whole. The NPO sector is diverse, and blanket reporting requirements violate the principle that regulation should be commensurate with risk.  
  • The Bill still exerts undue control over foreign funding, in an overbroad manner. Section 21 of the Bill requires NPOs to essentially report all foreign funding received to the registrar with numerous details regarding the source of the funding, the bank account, amount received, and purposes for the disbursement of funds. Section22 requires that detailed income and expense reports for foreign funding be prepared and made public, in violation of NPOs’ right to privacy.
  • The Bill’s fines and penalties are disproportionate. The penalties included are disproportionate, especially considering that almost any legitimate NPO activity can be defined as one of the prohibited acts under Section 20 of the Bill. While reporting violations are punishable by fines up to 50,000 baht and daily fines of 1,000 baht during the period of the breach, NPOs which fail to cease operations after a Section 20 violation are subject to fines of up to 500,000 baht (~USD 15,000) and daily fines of 10,000 baht (~USD 300). These are substantial fines in Thailand, even for larger, more-resourced NPOs.  Section 28 makes NPO leadership individually liable for any organizational violations, thereby undermining a key incentive for registration. Collectively, these provisions could chill individuals from forming organizations.  

B. In February 2021, the Office of the Council of State (OCS) proposed a draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-profit Organisations (Bill). A draft Act on the Promotion and Development of Civil Society Organizations was also proposed by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS), along with an NGO Act proposed by certain Thai civil society organizations. Of the three draft laws, the OCS draft Act on the Operation of Not-for-profit Organisations was most concerning. The OCS draft Act was open for public comment in March 2021. ICNL analyzed an unofficial English translation of the Bill and noted the following concerning features:

  • Overbroad definition of not-for-profit organizations (NPOs). Section 4’s overly broad definition of NPOs could capture nearly every informal gathering of individuals carrying out almost any activity, opening the door to dangerous government overreach.
  • Ministry of the Interior and Department of Provincial Administration as choice of regulatory agency. These government departments have historically been hostile to civil society and are also responsible for security concerns. If administration of NPOs is located with the Interior Ministry, the government will likely adopt a securitized approach to registration and oversight, rather than a more independent, administrative approach.
  • Mandatory registration requirements. Section 5 requires all NPOs to register under the Minister of Interior’s criteria, essentially prohibiting the existence of unregistered groups in violation of freedom of association.
  • Vague registration criteria and potential arbitrary denials. Section 5 institutes vague and unspecified criteria for registration, leaving open the likelihood of arbitrary denials.
  • Potential interference with NPO activities. Section 5 requires organizations to comply with criteria established by the Minister, none of which are defined, raising the possibility that NPOs will be censored or controlled by authorities.
  • Burdensome, intrusive reporting constraints on NPOs. Section 6 institutes burdensome reporting requirements on all NPOs, without distinction to size, resources, or activities; it also provides blanket powers of surveillance and investigation without any due process protections.
  • Restrictions on foreign funding for NPOs. Section 6 gives the Minister of Interior total discretion to authorize or block any foreign funding for any NPO in Thailand.
  • No possibility for appeal. The Bill does not provide any appeal process for decisions taken by the registrar, including suspension or termination.
  • Criminalization of unregistered groups and disproportionate punishments. Section 10 criminalizes any person operating an unregistered NPO with penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment and/or fines of 100,000 baht (~$3250 USD). It also allows for revocation or termination of NPO registration for failing to comply with designated provisions of the Bill.
  • Inadequate timeline for implementation and registration. Section 11 requires NPOs operating in Thailand to register with the Registrar within 30 days of the Act coming into force. Most laws in other countries allow a minimum of six months and more often a one-to-two-year period in which NPOs can register following implementation of a new registration regime.

ICNL recommended that consultations on the proposed NGO Acts be extended, and that the current OCS version be withdrawn.

C. Below is a summary of the draft Bill on the Promotion and Development of Civil Society Organizations (“CSO Bill”), which was proposed by CSOs and taken up (in part) by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) in 2021.

Rationale

Despite the crucial role of CSOs in promoting the welfare and civil and political rights of all groups of people in society, especially the underprivileged, as well as their participation in politics and the public policy process pursuant to Section 42 of the Constitution, there is no law for the promotion and development of these organizations. The absence of such a law accounts for the lack of mechanisms for the integration of activities undertaken by CSOs and those in the public, private and other sectors. Hence, pursuant to Section 133 (3) of the Constitution, CSOs cooperated under Chapter III on Rights and Liberties of the Constitution in petitioning to introduce a bill promoting the participation of civil societies, and their partnership with the public and other sectors, in the country’s sustainable development and in serving as a mechanism for solving the problems of inequalities and conflict and creating justice in society.

Section 42 of the Constitution endorses the right of persons for form organizations other types of groupings, and Sections 57-58 and 60 provide for the duty of the state to promote formation by the people into social groups, communities, or organizations, and to support the strengthening of the civil society sector as a social force participating and assuming a role in working for community and social development and solving the problems of inequalities in society, thereby helping to drive the country along the path mapped out in the 20-year national strategy and reform. The role of CSOs is conceived of as follows:

1) providing help including welfare and protection to the people, especially children, women, the elderly, the disabled and other disadvantaged groups, so that they have access to opportunities, justice, and better quality of life as a basis for sustainable social development

2) promoting the people’s political role and participation in Thailand’s constitutional monarchy rule

3) promoting the formation of social groups by the people and their participation in the public policy process at both national and local levels and developing their potential for self-management

4) inculcating in the people a value of good citizens who are public-mindedly and aware of the need to solve social problems and protect the rights and liberties of the people as provided for under Chapter II of the Constitution of Thailand.

The Draft Bill on the Promotion and Development of Civil Society Organizations contains the following substantive points:

(1) Definitions (Draft Section 3)

This section defines CSO, the committee, the evaluation committee, the fund, the office of the civil society organizations assembly, the director, local government organizations, and the minister.

“Civil society organizations” refers to organizations which are not state- or private-sector organizations, legal or non-legal entities, established for the benefits of the community, locality, society, or for the common good, without any profit-sharing purpose, but which do not include organizations or groups of people set up and operating for the benefits of political parties, business organizations, or state-sector agencies, directly or indirectly, as to be designated by the announcement of the committee.

“Civil society organizations assembly” refers to the process whereby CSOs, as well as other related sectors, gather to harmoniously share knowledge and engage in mutual learning.

(2) The person/agency in charge of the implementation of this Act

A Minister Attached to the Government Office shall be responsible for the implementation of this Act.

(3) The CSO Promotion and Development Committee

It is provided that a committee on the protection and development of CSOs be formed, which is to assume a proactive role in promoting and developing those organizations.

Under Draft Section 5, the Committee is composed of 17 members, including 5 ex officio members, 7 members representing CSOs, 3 members who are experts in CSO promotion and development, and 1 member who is an expert in fund management. The Director of CSO Committee serves as member and secretary of the Committee. The Committee chairperson comes from the process of selecting the Committee members representing the civil society organizations under Section 5 (2), and the first and second deputy chairpersons come from the process of selecting the Committee members under Section 5 (1) (2) (3).

(4) Authority and functions of the CSO Promotion and Development Office (Draft Section 16)

The Office is authorized to prepare draft policy, strategy, plans, and action plans on the promotion and development of civil society organizations, support the revision of the law and policy for this purpose, and coordinate the activities of relevant agencies in the public and other sectors, among other functions and undertakings.

(5) Authority and functions of the Office regarding revenue-generating activities (Draft Section 17)

  • authority and functions to mobilize fund or resources from various sectors for participatory undertakings
  • authority and functions to engage in investment, joint-investment, or support for investment, shareholding, or partnership with private-sector organizations or legal entities, state enterprises, financial institutions, community enterprises operating under the Community Enterprise Act, social enterprises operating under the Social Enterprise Promotion Act, or funds under the oversight of the Securities and Exchange Act, or any financial mobilization activities or investment endorsed by the Committee
  • authority and functions relating to support for social investment and management of revenue from various types of activities

(6) The Civil Society Organizations Promotion and Development Fund (Chapter III, Draft Sections 24-30)

It is stipulated that a fund be set up in the Office, entitled the “Civil Society Organizations Promotion and Development Fund.” The purpose of the Fund is to provide financial support for the promotion and development of CSOs.

The CSO Fund comprises the following financial resources and assets:

  • money allocated by the government as the initial capital
  • cash subsidies from the private-sector or other organizations, local as well as external
  • counterpart funding contributed by civil society or local government organizations, as designated by the committee’s announcements
  • fees for registration of CSOs, annual fees, stipends, service fees, money or assets left over to the Fund in accordance with the law or as a result of other legal transactions, income from interests generated by the Fund’s cash or assets, and other types of revenue.

(7) With the purpose of achieving sustainable development of CSOs, the objectives are as follows: (Draft Section 32)

  • supporting the empowerment of CSOs, including the people associated with them, so that they become strong with working potential, good governance and self-reliance
  • strengthening the process and participatory role of CSOs
  • strengthening the role of CSOs in working in partnership with other organizations and agencies
  • promoting the people to form groups working for the community and society, and connecting and coordinating with one another into civil society networks for the purpose of enabling them in an integrated manner
  • enabling CSOs to participate and assume a role in working to encourage the people, community, and families to become public-minded citizens, who are aware of their participation in national development and governance.

(8) Registration of CSOs (Draft Section 34)

CSOs wishing to apply for support and promotion under the Act must submit their application for registration to the Office in accordance with the criteria, methods and conditions stipulated by the Committee.

(9) Benefits for CSOs which have registered under this Act (Draft Section 35)

CSOs that have registered under this Act are eligible to apply for financial support from the Fund in accordance with the criteria, methods, and conditions set forth by the Committee; assistance from the Office in the form of technical support, promotion and development of organizational management efficiency, development of the personnel potential, or assistance to other aspects of the promotion and development of CSOs; as well as assistance in the form of tax benefits under Sections 37-39, which cover the persons providing support to the activities and operations of CSOs registered under this Act.

D. Comparison of the revised draft NPO law proposed by the Office of the Council of State, and the draft CSO law, proposed by civil society organizations to the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

RATIONALE

Draft NPO Law: To promote the “operations” of the NPO sector based on good governance, rule of law, transparency and accountability.

Draft CSO Law: To promote the role and participation of CSOs in sustainable development and to serve as a mechanism for solving the problems of inequalities and conflict and creating justice in society.

Discussion: In principle, Thai NPOs could be considered a subset of the CSO sector. The focus of the NPO law is to regulate the operations of NPOs, particularly certain activities of NGOs such as those relating to foreign funding or political actions. It is apparent that this law aims to control/restrict the operations of NPOs despite its stated objectives of promoting and supporting the sector. This shows a rather contradictory role of the regulator (the MSDHS). That is, Part 1 of the bill clearly states that the regulator is responsible for promoting the sector, whereas Part 2 gives the regulator authority to control NPOs without mentioning this in Part 1. In other words, if the government really intends to promote the NPO sector, the CSO law alone should be sufficient for this purpose, since its structure covers the provision of various benefits, such as tax incentives and government funding. The NPO law amounts to institutional control in disguise.

LEGAL DEFINITION

Draft NPO Law: NPOs are private organizations or groups of people set up with or without any legal form and having a non-profit purpose. NPOs exclude groups of people gathering temporarily or having activities for the benefits of the groups alone or political parties.

Draft CSO Law: CSOs are not state agencies. A CSO can be established as an ordinary or legal person, for the benefits of the community, locality, society, or for the common good, without any profit-sharing purpose. CSOs exclude any organizations or groups of people set up and operating for the benefits of political parties, or state agencies.

Discussion: The core requirement of both NPOs and CSOs is a non-profit and non-political purpose. This does not mean they cannot generate any revenue/profit, but rather they are not allowed to share profits among their members. The CSO law focuses on helping certain target groups while the NPO law makes no mention of such a purpose, encompassing a wider range of activities. The NPO law comes with several restrictions, whereas the CSO law aims to provide incentives to the sector. In such a case, CSOs will always be under the control of the proposed NPO law, whereas not all NPOs would benefit from the CSO law.

REGISTRATION AND SOURCES OF FUNDING

Draft NPO Law:
– Even though the NPO law does not clearly mention about registration, NPOs are required to disclose important information, particularly financial data. Such a disclosure is not that different from a compulsory registration. If the law is approved, it is likely that all non-profit, non-political groups, and even all CSOs will automatically become NPOs and are subject to a strict disclosure rule.

– Even though the NPO law provides certain tax benefits, it is apparent that it aims to control rather than promote activities of NPOs.

– The NPO law obviously aims to monitor all sources of income of NPOs, either governmental, private or foreign funding.

Draft CSO Law:
– In order to get funding and incentives under CSO law, prospective organizations and groups of people are required to register as CSOs.

– The registration is voluntary.

– Main benefits include state funding and tax incentives.

MANDATORY DISCLOSURE RULE AND EXCEPTION

Draft NPO Law:
– NPOs are required to disclose information on their NPO name, objectives and operational methods, as well as sources of income and the names of people in charge. This seems to include all responsible individuals who are not in registered documents.

– Any NPO funded by foreign organizations is required (1) to disclose sources of its funding, (2) to receive the funds only through a registered bank account, and declare the amount and purpose of the fund transfer, (3) to spend such funds only for the registered purposes, and (4) to abstain from spending the funds for the interests of government agencies or political parties.

– Any NPO with sources of income from donations either by individuals in the country or abroad is required to submit and publish a financial report certified by those in charge. The report must be kept for three years.

– Disclosed information will be open to public through an electronic system provided by the MSDHS.

Exception

– NPOs having objectives of promoting the civil society sector (objectives specified in CSO law) might be suspended or exempt from complying with the disclosure rule. However, this will be considered by the NPO committee and approved by the Cabinet.

Draft CSO Law:

– So far, the CSO law has not stipulated any disclosure rule. Those who want to apply for support under the CSO law need to provide the CSO committee with some information for approval. Even though it has yet to specify any details, the required information generally includes background information and objectives. Such information might not be open to the public.

Discussion: The disclosure rule under the NPO law is very strict with penalties for breaking it. It is very burdensome for both NPOs and CSOs since the law seems to define all non-profit, non-political organizations or groups as NPOs at first glance with only a few exceptions.

REGULATOR AND PENALTIES

Draft NPO law:
– The NPO Regulator is the NPO committee under the MSDHS. Its main function is to promote the operations of the NPO sector (but rather in a disguised form of control).

– The NPO registrar is the Permanent Secretary to the MSDHS. Its main function is to implement the disclosure rule and give orders/punishment to NPOs that do not comply with the rule.

– For NPOs not complying with the disclosure rule, the registrar is authorized to give warnings, to inquire about documents or evidence, to order and suspend certain activities, and to stop part or all of its operations.

– If the registrar’s orders are ignored, NPOs as well as those in charge are subject to fines.

Draft CSO law:
– The CSO Regulator is the CSO committee under the MSDHS. Its main function is to promote the CSO sector.

– There is no CSO registrar.

– There are no penalties.

E. On January 11, 2022, the Thai Cabinet approved the draft Act on Media Ethics and Professional Standards, which will be up for parliamentary debate and approval. In principle, it claims to support self-regulation by media professionals. However, civil society members still have concerns over it becoming another tool for state censorship because the law aims to create a state-funded Media Council that will oversee the ethical compliance of media professionals or organizations applying for membership under the Council. The media recognized by the Council will have access to privileges that the Council may provide, such as trainings. Although the ethical standards have yet to be established, the Council can sanction violations through warnings, probations, and public reprimand. The issues that most worry media professionals seem to be the legal definition of media, media ethics standards, state membership in committees, and an annual 25-million baht (around $747,384) budget.

F. In November 2021, Thailand’s Anti-Money Laundering Office proposed a draft amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act B.E. 2452 (1999) (AML Act) in order to make it comply with the International Standards on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism & Proliferation under the FATF Recommendations. One of the key amendments involves new reporting duties imposed on associations, foundations and non-profit organizations (Section 16/1), which would place a great burden on NPOs and could affect the civil society sector as a whole. Under the proposed amendment, associations, foundations and NPOs would be required to prepare the following documents.

(1) Annual financial reports which clearly provide details of income and expenses. Sources of cash income or donations must be disclosed.

(2) Records of the financial transactions as provided in (1).

(3) Information on the persons/entities in control of or having management power in the organizations, and on ultimate beneficial owners.

It is still unclear whether the submission of such documents is necessary but they must be made available for inspection by relevant regulators at any time.

G. Owing to the draft amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act regarding the reporting of information on ultimate beneficial owners, the Draft Information on Ultimate Beneficial Owners Act introduces further disclosure rules on NPOs as follows:

“Non-profit organization” is defined as associations and foundations under the Civil and Commercial Code, as well as foreign private organizations operating in Thailand whose purposes are to promote charities, religion, culture, education, society and any other non-profit objectives. (Section 3)

Information on ultimate beneficial owners refers to information of an ordinary person who is a direct or indirect owner of an NPO’s money or capital, or who has a controlling power of an NPO. (Section 3)

Ultimate beneficial owners of NPOs include

(1) Living founders of NPOs,

(2) Owners of capital invested in NPOs,

(3) Board of directors of NPOs,

(4) Any person with controlling power of NPOs (Section 10).

Organizational Forms

Thai law recognizes a diverse range of organizational forms, including associations, foundations, trade associations, chambers of commerce, employer associations, labor unions, state enterprise labor unions, and cooperatives. These organizational forms all are regulated under their own stand-alone laws. For example, trade associations are governed by the Trade Association Act, whose regulator is the Department of Business Development in the Ministry of Commerce. Associations and foundations, by contrast, are regulated by the Civil and Commercial Code, with the Ministry of Interior as the regulator.

CSOs are most often formed as associations or foundations, both of which are “non-profit organizations” that pursue public benefit purposes. The main difference between these two organizational forms relates to the establishment requirements. An association is formed by at least 10 members. (Civil and Commercial Code, Section 81) There are many types of associations, such as trade associations, professional associations, and sport associations. Section 78 of the Code states that associations may not be established for sharing profit and income among members. A foundation is formed with property or cash assets of at least 500,000 baht (approx. 15,000 USD) to be used as an operating fund in the pursuit of their objectives. Section 110 of the Civil and Commercial Code states that “A foundation consists of property specially appropriated to public charity, religious, art, scientific, education or other purpose for the public benefit and not for sharing profit, and has been registered under the provisions of this Code. The property of a foundation must be managed for implementing the objects of that foundation, and not for seeking interest for any persons.”

In addition to associations and foundations, cooperatives may be formed under the Cooperatives Act. Section 4 of the Cooperatives Act states that cooperatives are “a group of persons who jointly conduct affairs for socio-economic interests of the members whose nationality is Thai on the basis of self-help and mutual assistance, and are registered under this Act.”

According to Section 3 of the Social Enterprise Act, a social enterprise “refers to a company, a partnership, or any other legal person, set up under Thai law” that “engages in the production, or sale of goods, or provision of services with social mission as the main objective and are registered under this Act.” Section 5(1) of the Social Enterprise Act also states that a social enterprise “must have objectives of promoting employment of disadvantaged people; or solving the problems of, and developing the community, society, or the environment; or for other social benefits.” Most social enterprises are established as companies or foundations, and in some cases as cooperatives, and are regulated under the Social Enterprise Act, the Public Limited Company Act, Civil and Commercial Code, and/or the Cooperatives Act.

Foreign private organizations (FPOs), as CSOs established under foreign laws, are a distinctive legal form. Since FPOs are considered foreign entities, their operations are more limited, and their objectives must be purely not-for-profit and non-political.

Unincorporated associations (e.g., a dancing club at a university) may serve a social purpose for a small group of people and need not be registered under the law.

Community enterprises are regulated by the Community Enterprise Promotion Act B.E.2548 (2005) and its 2019 amendment. These enterprises fall under the Department of Agricultural Extension in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. They are not required to register as a legal entity and exist mainly as unincorporated associations whose objectives are quite similar to cooperatives.

The various organizational forms of CSOs are regulated under different authorities. For example:

  • Associations and foundations are under the authority of the Department of Provincial Administration in the Ministry of Interior.
  • Cooperatives fall under the authority of the Department of Cooperatives Promotion in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
  • Social enterprises are under the authority of the Department of Social Development and Welfare in the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.
  • FPOs fall under the Department of Employment in the Ministry of Labor.

It is difficult to determine the exact number of all CSOs because they are registered under different government agencies, and information about them is usually not available online. Nevertheless, according to the National Statistical Office, there were 84,099 CSOs in 2018. These included 48,248 religious organizations; 26,326 social welfare organizations; 3,496 trade associations and chambers of commerce; 3,397 cremation associations; 1,757 employer associations, labor unions, and state enterprise labor unions; 740 educational organizations (private schools and universities); 83 foreign private organizations (FPOs); and 17 private hospitals.

Public Benefit Status

Associations and foundations are recognized by the Civil and Commercial Code as “non-profit organizations” that must pursue public benefit purposes. Section 78 of the Code states that associations may not be established for sharing profit and income among members. Section 110 of the Code states that foundations are set up for public charity, religious, art, scientific, education, or other purposes for the public benefit and not for sharing profit.

Associations and foundations are entitled to tax exempt status under certain provisions of the Revenue Code (Thai; English (not updated)). The list of these organizations can be found in the Ministry of Finance’s Announcement on Income Tax and Value Added Tax (Issue 2) Re: Criteria for Consideration and Announcement of Organizations, Public Charitable Institutions, Clinics and Educational Institutions under Section 47(7)(b) of the Revenue Code and Section 3(4)(b) of the Royal Decree under the Revenue Code Regarding Value Added Tax Exemption (No. 239), B.E. 2534 (1991) as Amended by the Royal Decree Issued under the Revenue Code Regarding Value Added Tax Exemption (No. 254), B.E. 2535 (1992). As of August 2020, a total of 974 associations and foundations were recognized as tax-exempt.

To receive tax exemptions, associations and foundations must apply to the Revenue Department in the Ministry of Finance for “public charitable” status, which is a legal designation, and meet certain requirements, namely: they 1) must not have income from sales or services which yields monetary consideration in an ordinary course of business; 2) charitable expenses must exceed 60 percent of their income; 3) charitable expenses must exceed 65 percent of their total expenses; and 4) charitable expenses must be made general and wide-ranging (See the Ministry of Finance’s Announcement on Income Tax and Value Added Tax (Issue 2) re: Criteria for Consideration and Announcement of Organizations, Public Charitable Institutions, Clinics and Educational Institutions under Section 47(7)(b) of the Revenue Code and Section 3(4)(b) of the Royal Decree under the Revenue Code regarding Value Added Tax Exemption (No. 239), B.E. 2534 (1991) as amended by the Royal Decree issued under the Revenue Code regarding Value Added Tax Exemption (No. 254), B.E. 2535 (1992)).

Cooperatives benefit from government support in various forms, including exemption from corporate income tax; from fees for the acquisition, disposal, or retention of ownership of immovable property; and from stamp duties on certain documents. Cooperatives, however, still have to pay other taxes, such as withholding tax, VAT, and specific business taxes.

Once the regulations under the 2019 Social Enterprise Promotion Act are finalized, social enterprises are expected to be entitled to various forms of support and benefits from the state; however, these regulations are still being finalized as of August 2020.

Barriers to Entry

The law does not prohibit the formation and operation of unregistered groups, including social clubs, so long as they do not engage in social vices or disturb the peace and good morality of the people. There are, for example, numerous clubs and societies in universities, or social groups such as dancing clubs. Unregistered groups can be formed for the full range of purposes CSOs may register to undertake; not all of them, of course, are public benefit-oriented. There are no sanctions or penalties for carrying out activities through unregistered organizations, unless, of course, these activities are illegal (for instance, gambling).

Associations

The law requires at least three members of the association to submit a registration application on an official form to the district office (governed by the Department of Provincial Administration in the Ministry of the Interior) in Bangkok or a provincial area where its head office will be located. (Civil and Commercial Code, Section 81) There is no capital or asset requirement for setting up an association.

The application for the establishment of an association must be accompanied by a number of documents as required by regulations issued by the Ministry of Interior:

  1. The association’s regulations;
  2. The names, addresses, and occupations of at least 10 people who will be the association’s members, and of those who will be members of the association committee;
  3. The minutes of the association’s founding meeting;
  4. A sketch map of the location of the association’s head office and its branch offices (if any) and a paper permitting the association to use this location as its office;
  5. Photocopies of identification, other government-issued cards, house registration, and resident books of all association committee members;
  6. A photocopy of the paper permitting the formation of the association if its objectives are related to the work of the National Culture Council; and
  7. Other documents, if required. (According to officers involved in registration, requiring other documents is rare but can happen on a case-by-case basis, such as when the name of an association is similar to the name or trademark of another organization, in which case the applicant has to provide a letter certifying that they are not the same organization; or when an association—usually a sports association—wants to use “of Thailand” after its name.)

The registration fee for setting up an association is 2,000 baht (approx. 60 USD), plus a number of small miscellaneous expenses that are generally not burdensome. These include, for instance, the document amendment fee of 200 baht (approx. 6 USD), the document check fee of 50 baht (approx. 2 USD), and a fee of 5 baht for any other request (approx. 0.15 USD). These fees have remained unchanged since 1994.

There is no fixed time period for officials at a district office to review the application before forwarding it to the Ministry of the Interior Registrar for approval. The district officer or the Interior Minister may deny the registration application if it does not comply with the relevant legal provisions or if its objectives are contrary to the law or good morality or likely to endanger public order or national security. Vague terms such as “good morality” rarely result in rejection of an application. The applicant has the right to appeal a registration refusal in writing to the Minister of Interior, who will make a final decision on the issue.

Foundations

At least three people are required to apply for the registration of a foundation. (Civil and Commercial Code, Section 111) An application to establish a foundation may be submitted to the district office (governed by the Department of Provincial Administration in the Ministry of the Interior) in Bangkok or a provincial area where its head office is to be located. A foundation must be endowed with a cash asset of 500,000 baht (approx. 15,000 USD), or a cash asset plus other types of assets, which together amount to 500,000 baht.

The application to establish a foundation must be accompanied by the following documents:

  1. The name and address of the assets’ owner;
  2. The list of assets to be given to the foundation;
  3. The names, addresses, and occupations of all persons who will become members of the foundation committee;
  4. The regulations of the foundation;
  5. A written promise of the owner to donate the assets to the foundation, or a photocopy of the will if the foundation results from an inheritance;
  6. Photocopies of identification, other government-issued cards, house registration, and resident books of the assets’ owner and all foundation committee members;
  7. A sketch map of the location of the association’s head office and its branch offices (if any) and a paper permitting the association to use this location as its office;
  8. Minutes of the establishment meeting of the foundation; and
  9. Other documents, if required.

The registration fee for setting up a foundation is 200 baht (approx. 6 USD), plus miscellaneous expenses such as the document request fee of 10 baht/document (approx. 0.5 USD), the document amendment fee of 50 baht (approx. 2 USD) or the document check fee of 50 baht (approx. 2 USD).

The responsible authority (the Registrar, who in Bangkok is the Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary but in other provinces is the provincial governor) may refuse to register a foundation if it is found, for instance, to be not truly aimed at promoting public benefit, but rather seeking to benefit from special treatment, such as tax exemption for a foundation. The applicant has the right to appeal a registration refusal in writing to the Minister of Interior, who will make a final decision on the issue.

Cooperatives

Establishing a cooperative involves a far more complicated process comprising many stages. The Cooperative Promotion Department within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is responsible for the registration and governance of cooperatives. (Cooperatives Act, Section 5) Typically, before the final stage of submitting the application for the establishment of the cooperative, those preparing to set up a cooperative must have a consultative coordination meeting with the responsible officials from the Cooperative Promotion Department, as well as meetings among the cooperative’s organizers. All necessary preparations must be completed at these stages. Because details are typically worked out through these meetings, the actual application stage usually proceeds without problems. The application must include the following documents:

  1. Application form;
  2. List of names of the prospective members;
  3. Plans for business or other activities;
  4. Regulations of the cooperative;
  5. Minutes of the meeting of the prospective members; and
  6. Minutes of the cooperative founding meeting.

There is no fee for establishing a cooperative.

Barriers to Operational Activity

Once established and registered, CSOs may not act contrary to the law, disturb the peace and good morality of the people, or pose a threat to the state’s security. The committee members of associations and foundations may not have criminal records or known moral misconduct. An annual finance report may be required for certain categories of CSOs.

Only the offences under the Act Prescribing Offences Relating to Registered Partnerships, Limited Partnerships, Limited Companies, Associations, and Foundations carry penalties. These penalties include fines, imprisonment, or dissolution of the organizations. Offences under the Act include using the terms “association” or “foundation” or insignia for an organization that has not been properly registered as an association or foundation, misleading others to think that an organization’s activities are undertaken in the name of an association or foundation, or failure to register changes to the committee members and regulations of an association or foundation. (Chapter II, Section 60) In addition, these penalties must be imposed in compliance with the law. Government protection for CSOs facing threats of violence typically follow a normal legal process: the CSO must report the threat to a police station, which will then take action.

FPOs’ operational activities are limited. They cannot engage in any forms of profit-making or political activities. Their activities and proceedings must not be detrimental to stability and to good relations between Thailand and other countries, and they cannot impede public order or public morals. (Application for Obtaining Permission to Operate in Thailand for Foreign Private Organizations, Rule 6) The permission to operate in Thailand is initially a maximum of two years, but then FPOs must apply to extend their registration (Application for Obtaining Permission to Operate in Thailand for Foreign Private Organizations, Rule 7) every one or two years The decision on whether to grant a one- or two-year extension mainly depends on the period of the organization’s project.

As a result, FPO operations are impermanent and can be stopped by the government at any time, whether or not the registration is being renewed. At the same time, there have generally not been cases of government intervention to terminate the operations of a foreign organization. Amnesty International, for example, can still freely operate in Thailand, even though it sometimes harshly criticizes the Thai government.

Barriers to Speech and Advocacy

The 2017 Constitution contains provisions protecting freedom of expression. Section 34 stipulates that “A person shall enjoy the liberty to express opinions, make speeches, write, print, publicize and express by other means. The restrictions of such liberty shall not be imposed, except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, protecting the rights or liberties of other persons, maintaining public order or good morals, or protecting the health of the people.” This section also provides protection for academic freedom, and Section 35 stipulates that “a media professional shall have liberty in presenting news or expressing opinions in accordance with professional ethics.”

While the Constitution provides robust protection for the freedoms of expression and advocacy, the Criminal Code contains provisions on libel and defamation that protect the King and the Royal Family, as well as individuals and institutions. Violation of these provisions can result in fines and/or imprisonment. In particular, the lese majeste provision of Section 112 on Insulting and Defaming the Royal Family stipulates that “whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” Section 326 of the Criminal Code protects individuals and institutions against defamation.

In principle, individuals or CSOs may criticize the government or advocate politically sensitive causes, including human rights and democracy. CSOs (with the exception of foreign private organizations) may also engage in political or legislative activities. In practice, however, governments, including fully elected governments, may take a more restrictive approach. Under recent military governments, there has been an increase in harassment, arrests, and retaliatory lawsuits against critics of the monarchy and the government, as well as against human rights defenders. The government has routinely censored opinions critical of the monarchy, including on social media platforms, charging individuals under the penal code, as well as under sedition, cybercrime, and other legal provisions.

Authorities have also frequently blocked websites and social media posts with alleged “illegal” content, defined as “inappropriate content that could harm the country’s security, including content that harassed the monarch.” This has resulted in the blocking of over 2,200 websites, and the government threatening action against social media companies for failing to remove illegal posts.

Generally, when dealing with fake news, the government could enforce Section 14(2) of the Act on Commission of Offences Relating to Computer, B.E. 2550 (2007) (also called Computer Crime Act). It stipulates that whoever enters false Computer Data into Computer System in a manner that is likely to cause damage to national security or stir up public agitation shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not exceeding five years or to a fine of not exceeding 100,000 baht or to both. However, this Section has been criticized as restricting media freedom, which is protected under the Constitution as it gives the government overbroad authority to punish anybody, either individuals or organizations. Moreover, the legal texts of the Section (particularly the terms “national security” and “public agitation”) are too broad for a criminal offence.

In addition to the Computer Crime Act, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government declared a state of emergency to enable it to handle alleged disinformation more effectively. According to the Emergency Decree Issue 27 (effective from July 12, 2021), Regulation 11 provides measures to prevent the distortion of information that will result in misunderstanding of the emergency situation, reports of news or dissemination of books, printed matters, or any other media containing statements which may create fear among the people, or which intentionally misinform with a view to creating misunderstanding of the emergency situation, thereby threatening the security of the state, or law and order, or good morality of the people. The government further introduced the Emergency Decree Issue 29 which additionally granted government authorities new enforcement powers, enhancing their ability to censor online speech and investigate internet users. Public opposition to the Issue 29 Decree resulted in its revocation on August 9, 2021. The Issue 27 Decree will still take effect. The Emergency Decree gives the government direct authority to punish people without going through the judicial process.

Whistleblowers have faced retaliatory lawsuits and intimidation by the Thai authorities after they reported alleged corruption related to hoarding and profiteering of surgical masks and medical supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some medical staff were also threatened with disciplinary action for speaking out about shortages of essential supplies needed to treat Covid-19.

Barriers to International Contact

There are no formal restrictions on the ability of CSOs to contact and cooperate with colleagues in civil society, business, and government sectors within or outside the country, apart from the speech and internet restrictions mentioned in the previous section.

Barriers to Resources

There are no special restrictions or rules for domestic CSOs to receive foreign funding.

Associations and foundations, particularly those having charitable purposes, face restrictions on income-generating activities (Civil and Commercial Code, Section 78). While permitted to engage in economic activities, associations and foundations must dedicate most or all of their revenue to the promotion of social welfare and benefits. Moreover, there may be restrictions on the type of economic activity; for example, a foundation dedicated to helping rice farmers is not permitted to open a coffee shop. Therefore, most foundations rely heavily on grants and donations, and some of them separately establish a for-profit organization, such as a company.

By contrast, CSOs that register as cooperatives, social enterprises, or community enterprises are considered to be a hybrid between a non-profit and for-profit organization, which means they are less restricted in making a profit. For example, a social enterprise is characterized by its ability to generate revenue but is subject to spending limitations. Social enterprises must use most of their revenue for reinvestment or social or community benefit; investors or shareholders are entitled to no more than 30% of the profit. Section 5(3) of the Social Enterprise Act, for example, states that “At least 70% of profits must be reinvested for the objectives mentioned in Section 5(1) and not over 30% can be shared among shareholders. This reinvestment is for social benefit.” While cooperatives are typically established to serve the welfare of their members, social enterprises that are established as cooperatives must be more oriented to social or community benefits rather than those of only their members.

The perception of increasing risks of the misuse of CSO funding for money laundering and terrorism, however, has led the Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) to receive authorization to request any relevant CSO documents, suspend any suspected CSO transactions, and enter the premises of any CSO under Section 16/1 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 1999, so long as the AMLO has “sufficient evidence.” Under the Thaksin government, Thai editors and journalists purportedly faced fabricated investigations by the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

Barriers to Assembly

Section 44 of the Constitution protects freedom of peaceful assembly, stating that “a person shall enjoy the liberty to assemble peacefully and without arms” and that “the restriction of such liberty under paragraph one shall not be imposed except by virtue of a provision of law enacted for the purpose of maintaining security of the State, public safety, public order or good morals, or for protecting the rights and liberties of other persons.”

Public assemblies are regulated by the Public Assembly Act, B.E. 2558 (2015) (Thai). The Act makes a distinction between public assemblies and other types of gatherings, such as religious gatherings and gatherings within educational institutions. A public assembly is defined as an assembly of individuals in a public place, which may amount to a demonstration. The text of the law does not leave room for excessive government discretion. The law was published in the Royal Gazette and has been generally publicized in other sources. In addition, a number of legal websites and NGOs have provided interpretation/explanation of the law to ensure public understanding, including tcijthai.com, ilaw.or.th, cpg-online.de (see also here), and tlhr.com.

Advance Notification and Permission

Assembly organizers must provide the police with advance notification of an assembly in a public place at least 24 hours beforehand. (Public Assembly Act, Section 10) The notification does not amount to a request for permission to hold the assembly; instead, police are notified so they can make necessary preparations to facilitate the event. The Public Assembly Act authorizes fines for failure to notify the police of an assembly in advance.

If the assembly will move in a procession between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM, i.e., during the night, then the organizers must seek and secure permission. (Public Assembly Act, Section 16(8))

Other requirements primarily involve protection for public peace and order, for example a prohibition on activities, including delivering speeches, with amplifiers from midnight until 6:00 AM, and on activities causing undue inconvenience to members of the public. The law also permits those who suffer adverse impacts or damages from the assembly to lodge a complaint with the court to order an end to the gathering. (Public Assembly Act, Section 21)

Emergency Situations

The Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) potentially limits freedom of assembly, as it provides for the introduction of “urgent measures” in the case of emergency situations. In practice, its use has been limited to Thailand’s Deep South, which has been plagued with continuing unrest and separatist violence.

Hundreds of protesters were arrested in anti-government protests related to the worsening coronavirus crisis and other government policies in summer 2021. Police used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to break up many of the demonstrations.

Thailand has since replaced its COVID-19 lockdown regulations with quarantine rules, and is no longer policing gatherings under the same COVID-19 justifications.

Policing/Enforcement

There have been repeated incidents of the state using force to break up public assemblies. For instance, in 2010, assemblies turned violent, with evidence of some assembly participants using weapons. The Armed Forces were called in to restore order, resulting in 87 deaths (79 civilians and 8 soldiers). More recently, in November 2020, ongoing pro-democracy protests were forcibly cleared, with at least 55 people injured when police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters.

UN Universal Periodic Review Reports
May 11, 2016
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs

Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

Council on Foundations Country Notes
N/A
U.S. State Department
2020 Human Rights Report: Thailand
Fragile States Index Reports
Foreign Policy Fragile States Index
IMF Country Reports
Thailand and the IMF
International Commission of Jurists
Thailand
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library
Thailand

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at ngomonitor@icnl.org.

Key Events

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General News

Media ethics bill is suspect (March 2022)
On January 11, 2022, the Thai Cabinet approved the draft Act on Media Ethics and Professional Standards, which will be up for parliamentary debate and approval. In principle, it claims to support self-regulation by media professionals. But civil society members still have concerns over it becoming another tool for state censorship.

Ex-red shirt boss seeks Amnesty ban (November 2021)
A former red-shirt leader is backing a key government figure’s call to have the human rights watchdog Amnesty International banned in Thailand. Anon Saennan, the ex-leader of the protest group Red-Shirt Villages of Thailand but still a member, said the group will launch a campaign to pressure the group to stop operating in the kingdom. The move came after Seksakol Atthawong, an assistant minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the human rights group should be expelled from the country.

Pro-monarchy group to rally against Amnesty (November 2021)
A group of Thai citizens claiming to protect the monarchy plans to rally in front of Government House on November 25 to demand that Amnesty International cease its operations in Thailand. The group, led by Noppadol Prompasit, revealed to the public a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling for the government to conduct an investigation into Amnesty International Thailand to determine whether its activities could be regarded as a threat to national security and the royal institution.

Protests call to kick out Thai PM on coup anniversary (September 2021)
Hundreds of protesters drove through Bangkok’s streets to mark the 15th anniversary of a military coup that removed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The billionaire ex-leader – now living in self-exile – has remained a prominent figure in the country’s politics since the military deposed his government on September 19, 2006. Scrutiny of the government increased after a new COVID-19 wave in April snowballed.

Immediately Repeal Emergency Regulation that Threatens Online Freedoms (August 2021)
17 international human rights organizations denounced the Thai government’s newly announced Regulation No. 29, which empowers the authorities to censor online expression, and investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for communications that may “instigate fear.” The Regulation is the government’s latest attack on the right to freedom of expression and information in Thailand. The terms “fear”, “security”, “public order” and “good morals” used in the Regulation are vague and overbroad.

Civil rights activist contests new version of NGO bill (March 2021)
A civil rights activist is accusing Thailand’s cabinet of revising a law without gaining the public’s input. The new version of the bill, which is intended to dictate transparency in the promotion and development of civil society organisations, includes the words “non‐profit,” while the original version did not. The bill is also supposed to provide oversight of NGOs that may receive financial assistance from overseas sources.

The foregoing information was collected by ICNL’s CFM partner in [Country Name].