Prompting Thai Law Reform
One of Rights and Humanity’s most important interventions took place in April 1991, when during a mission to Thailand, we persuaded the Government to withdraw an AIDS Bill that raised considerable human rights concerns. We also persuaded the Government to lift travel restrictions.
Human rights advocates in Thailand had long been concerned about the Bill, but had been unable to change the Government’s mind. One of the Thai Ministers, Minister Meechai, sought WHO’s assistance in explaining the dangers to public health that would result from the coercive policies proposed. WHO commissioned Rights and Humanity’s President, Ms Häusermann, to undertake a mission to advise the Royal Thai Government.
The Bill envisaged the isolation of people with HIV in former leprosy colonies and the introduction of a number of other restrictive measures.
Our President met with the Attorney General, the Minister of Health and other senior Governmental officials. She was able to persuade the Thai Government of the public health rationale for respecting human rights and dignity in the context of HIV/AIDS.
Speaking at a special hearing at the Privy Council she encouraged a response based on the Buddhist principle of ‘metta’ – loving-kindness, compassion and the absence of hatred and hostility. She called on Thailand to lead the global response from this perspective. She drew parallels between this principle and the principles underlying human rights, thus rooting international human rights law within the values of the country.
As a result of her mission, and whilst she was still in the country, the Thai Government announced its withdrawal of HIV-related travel restrictions, and the Bill was dropped shortly afterwards. Thailand is now regarded as having one of the better AIDS policies in the region.