Position Statement: Thailand’s Extraterritorial Obligations in Transboundary Investments

We are a group of non-governmental organizations, community networks and civil society groups from Thailand concerned over the human rights and environmental footprint of Thai investment in neighboring countries. In line with Thailand’s commitment to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs)and International Human Rights Treaties, we call on the Thai government and state authorities to enact robust mechanisms to ensure that Thai enterprises and/or state- and non-state owned- and/or sponsored-investment act with transparency and in compliance with human rights and environmental standards in the ways in they pursue projects and conduct business abroad.

Thailand’s transboundary investment in Southeast Asia has intensified in recent years through state-sponsored and private sector projects. This trend is accompanied by growing concerns over a lack of accountability for the human rights and environmental impacts of such investment. Major Thai projects in neighboring countries have caused both implicit and explicit human rights infringements, including the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and Salween hydropower dams in Myanmar; Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey sugar plantations under the Economic Land Concession Policy in Cambodia; the Hongsa Mine and Power Station, and Xayaburi Dam and other Mekong hydropower projects in Laos PDR.

Local communities have pursued accountability for breaches of human rights and environmental standards through litigation in Thai courts and by accessing quasi and non-judicial mechanisms. The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) has investigated numerous complaints around Thailand’s transboundary investments, developing procedures for concretizing extraterritorial human rights obligations (ETOs) for Thai state and non-state actors and scrutinizing infringements in collaboration with regional and local human rights-responsive organizations.  As a result of its investigations, the NHRCT issued policy recommendations to the Thai government on ensuring adherence to the UNGPs. The Thai Cabinet recognized these recommendations in its resolution, dated 16 May 2016, pertaining to Extra-Territorial Obligations (ETOs)/ Business and Human Rights (B-HR) and Thai transboundary investment in development projects in Southeast Asia.

Following the Cabinet resolution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a meeting with several state authorities,[1] recommending that a mechanism be established to ensure private sector respect for fundamental human rights, in compliance with the Guiding Principles. Human rights due dilligence together with a grievance mechanism is necessary to ensure a preventative approach to human rights violations and access to an effective remedy. 

We call on the Thai government to comply with the recommendations and establish such a mechanism, together with other measures to ensure full adherence to the three pillars of the Guiding Principles, and obligations of the government and Thai state agencies to protect and respect human rights and remedy human rights abuses in transboundary investments.

Specifically, the Thai government should:

  • Express the clear expectation that Thai private and state-owned enterprises respect human rights in their operations abroad, and take steps to monitor, prevent, investigate, punish and redress abuses and infringements of human rights.
  • Develop a national action plan on business and human rights to progress implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including in relation to extraterritorial obligations and transboundary investments.
  • Ensure that Thai business enterprises enact human rights policies, due diligence requirements pertaining to their transboundary investments, and company level grievance procedures accessible by communities affected by their operations.
  • Take additional steps in relation to the obligations of state-owned enterprises, companies contracting with the state companies investing in conflict-zones, including requiring comprehensive human rights due diligence before investments are approved.
  • Establish or strengthen accessible and effective state-based judicial and non-judicial grievance mechanisms to address human rights abuses linked to the activities of Thai companies operating abroad.
  • Engage with multilateral institutions, including ASEAN and multilateral development banks and other institutions to ensure that they promote respect for human rights and compliance with the Guiding Principles in their activities.

Endorsed by:

1 The Network of Thai People in Eight Mekong Province

2 Living River Siam Association

3 Mekong Community Institute Association

4 The Assembly of NGOs for the Protection and Conservation of Environment and Natural Resources

5 Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance

6  Spiritual Education Movement

7  Karen Studies and Development Center

8 Local Act

9  Energy Watch

10 Sustainable Agriculture Fiundation

11 Alternative Agriculture Network

12  Land Watch Thai

13 Khao Khu-ha Community Rights Association

14 Network for Community Organization in 7 Mekong Province (E-san)

15 Greenpeace Southeast Asia

16 Human Rights and Environment Promotion Association

17 E-san Natural Resources and Environment Network

18 Eco-cultural Study Group

19 Enlaw.

20 Community Resource Centre Foundation-CRC

21  Salween River Community Network

22 MyMekong

23 Sevana Project

24 Local Community Rights Protection and Recovery Center

25 Cross Cultural Foundation

26 Ecological Alert and Recovery – Thailand (EARTH)

[1] Ministry of Commerce, the Office of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Finance, the Bank of Thailand, the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (Public Organization), the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

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