The Thai government wants to pass a law on non-profit organisations by the end of the year. To avoid “terrorist initiatives”, the authorities want NGOs to disclose foreign funding to the Ministry of the Interior. Civil society groups see the bill as another step to stifle criticism and freedom of association.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wants to exert greater control over Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
The government led by the former general recently laid down some guidelines for the Office of the Council of the State concerning the Bill on the Operations of Not-for-Profit Organisations, in order to include further restrictive measures.
First and foremost, the government wants the legislation to include preventive control on funding to avoid “the use of NGOs to launder money or financially support terrorist initiatives”.
According to critics, the bill is meant to further restrict the right of association in the country, and to impose even more stifling rules on civil society various groups.
Sources close to the government noted that the authorities are determined to see this law through by the end of the year.
In Thailand discussions had centred for some time on the law to define more clearly the role, functions and prerogatives of NGOs active in the country.
More than one eyebrow was raised after 23 February, when the government announced that it was reviewing the draft proposal then on the table because of “concerns” over national security issues.
Now some changes, deemed necessary, have been added, most notably the mandatory registration of all non-profit groups, compulsory disclosure of all foreign funding to the Ministry of the Interior, and new but vague procedures on revoking registration.
Violators risk up to five years in prison and a fine of 100,000 baht (about US$ 3,000).
Many international organisations and donors have expressed concern about and opposition to such measures.
For this very reason, several countries, as well as various UN agencies, have asked the government to send the text to the Council of State for further consideration and review.
Many fear that the law, once approved, could be used by the authorities to put greater pressure on NGOs. The current government is the direct successor to the military junta that took power in 2014 in yet another coup.