The fate of Amnesty hangs in the balance

BANGKOK: The Labor Ministry says it is considering refusing Amnesty International Thailand a new operating license after finding the rights group failed to meet certain legal requirements.

Activists are joined by lion dancers as they march down Silom Road to rally support for a ban by Amnesty International Thailand in November last year. Photo: Chanat Katanyu

Boonchob Suthamanaswong, the permanent secretary, said yesterday (February 15) that Amnesty International Thailand submitted an application for renewal to the ministry after the old license expired on January 20. License renewals take place every two years, reports the Bangkok Post. The application will be reviewed by a departmental body tasked with enforcing regulations on granting operating licenses to international non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The body’s job is to ensure that NGOs comply with Department of Labor regulations.

A decision to grant or renew a license depends on certain criteria, including the organization not operating for profit or being driven by a political agenda that threatens national security, Mr Boonchob said.

Mr Boonchob said the ministry’s labor department had briefed the rights group on legal requirements that international NGOs must meet in order to operate in Thailand.

You must maintain a neutral stance on political issues and avoid actions that could lead to social unrest.

The organization is required to submit a report on its activities every six months, but reportedly has not done so.

Amnesty was also recently accused of openly supporting three protest leaders whose actions were seen by the Constitutional Court as an attempt to overthrow the democratic system headed by the king.

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

Critics want it thrown out of the country. Amnesty is accused of fomenting unrest by suggesting criminal charges against those pushing for reform of the monarchy should not continue.

In a Facebook post, Somkiat Osotsapa, a former economics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said the organization was technically shut down for two years because it allegedly failed to submit an activity report every six months.

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