On 27th October 2022, Embassy of Finland in Bangkok awarded Thai Lawyers for Human Rights a HÄN Honor for its exemplary work advancing human rights and equality in Thailand.
The honor was delivered by the Director General of the Department for the Americas and Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Jari Sinkari, in an award ceremony at the Finnish Ambassador’s Residence.
“Thai Lawyers for Human Rights has made a significant contribution to strengthen the rule of law and access to justice in Thailand. This makes Thailand more equal and contributes to its further success.” – said Sinkari, the Director General of the Department for the Americas and Asia at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland during the ceremony.
Yaowalak Anuphan, Director of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights gave a speech to express the appreciation to the Embassy of Finland in Bangkok for their continuous support and for being one of the most important alliances to TLHR’s work on human rights issues.
During the appreciation speech Yaowalak also addressed the important contributions made by volunteer lawyers, volunteer sureties, lawyers’ assistants, documentation officers in their work towards human rights in Thailand.
“This award is not only awarded to TLHR but also to the activists, funds raised by the people, and organizations advocating for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”
“Our work cannot succeed without their support.”- said Yaowalak.
HÄN Honor Acceptance Speech
Your Excellency and Distinguished Guests,
On behalf of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, my colleagues and I feel extremely grateful to receive the HÄN Honor in Thailand for 2022 from the Embassy of Finland in Bangkok. This award is a testament that our work is internationally recognized and in line with universal values—which are human rights, democracy, and rule of law.
Finland is a country that has consistently supported our human rights work, especially with regard to its observation of political trials. In so doing, Finland guarantees freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to a fair trial of all Thai people.
Since the coup d’état in 2014, we have provided litigation assistance to human rights defenders, documented and publicized violations of human rights, and engaged in human rights advocacy. Along this journey, we have discovered that the one element in Thailand that has been eroded the most is the rule of law. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights works diligently to restore and breathe new life into the rule of law, so that Thailand can become a truly democratic country with the rule of law as its pillar and human rights as its foundation.
I would like to use this opportunity to speak about the human rights situation in the country. Although Thailand held an election in 2019, the 2017 Constitution nevertheless paved the way for the military-led government to entrench and hold on to its powers. The 250-member Senate will also vote for the next prime minister candidate.
In 2020 and 2021, youth groups and the people participated in the political movement in an unprecedented manner, calling for the change in the prime minister, constitutional amendments, and reforms to the monarchical institution. However, these demands have been ignored. The state cracked down on political demonstrations and violated human rights. State violence came in the form of demonstration dispersals, detention of activists, and prosecutions.
Since July 2020, at least 1,860 individuals in 1,139 cases have been charged and/or prosecuted due to their participation in demonstrations and/or political expressions. At least 283 of these individuals are children. The offense which has the highest number of cases is the offense under the Emergency Decree. Ranking after the Emergency Decree offense is the lèse-majesté offense, pursuant to which 215 individuals have been charged and/or prosecuted. There are at least 15 political prisoners who are currently behind bars.
Political conflicts will not simply end after the next general election if the right to freedom of expression, human rights, and democracy are not truly and genuinely guaranteed by the state. Furthermore, the conflicts will not end if the culture of impunity with respect to the violence inflicted on the people by the state persists.
The HÄN Honor in Thailand for 2022 honors and provides moral support to the officers at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, volunteer lawyers, volunteer sureties, lawyers’ assistants, and documentation officers in their work in the human rights field. This award also goes to the activists, funds raised by the people, and organizations that fight for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Our work cannot succeed without their support. Similarly, many international organizations provide international support to the human rights work in Thailand. Finland especially has been providing human rights support without discriminating on the basis of sex, nationality, language, or political opinions, so that we can achieve equality and realize a better world.
You’re a hän. I’m a hän. Everyone’s a hän.
Hän Honours is an Award that follows Finland’s missions around the world to support people, groups, or organizations who are working locally to bring more equality to their society. The award is to acknowledge and to express gratitude from Finland to individuals who are working in such difficult circumstances and might not receive as much recognitions as they should.
In Finnish Hän is the gender-neutral pronoun that addresses everyone equally regardless of their gender. This word was chosen as an inclusive symbol for equal opportunity in the world.