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Thailand: Domestic violence, including state protection, support services and recourse available to victims (January 2009 - December 2010)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 31 December 2011
Citation / Document Symbol THA103653.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Thailand: Domestic violence, including state protection, support services and recourse available to victims (January 2009 - December 2010), 31 December 2011, THA103653.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e43cb852.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Thailand's English-language newspaper the Bangkok Post reports that the rate of domestic violence in the country continues to rise (24 July 2010). In an article on domestic violence, the newspaper cites a survey conducted by the Health Ministry's Health Promotion Foundation and the Friends of Women Foundation (Bangkok Post 24 July 2010), a local organization working for the prevention of violence against women and children (Spikes Asia 2009). The survey, which was based on 459 news reports on domestic violence from the top Thai-language newspapers, found adultery, alcoholism, and financial/health problems to be the main causes of domestic violence in Thailand (Bangkok Post 24 July 2010). This is partially corroborated by a United Nations (UN) Development Programme news article on domestic violence, wherein it states that the cause is often the abuse of alcohol and drugs by husbands, partners and relatives of the victim (UN 23 Mar. 2010).

Legislation

According to the United States (US) State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act, enacted in 2007 (Bangkok Post 2 Sept. 2010), contains certain measures to protect the victim, such as

a fine of up to 6,000 baht ($180) or up to six months' imprisonment for violators and provides authorities, with court approval, the power to prohibit offenders from remaining in their homes or contacting family members during trial. The law implements measures designed to facilitate the reporting of domestic violence complaints and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. Additionally, the law restricts the media's reporting on domestic violence cases in the judicial system. (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6)

The Executive Director at the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW) --- a local non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides temporary shelter and psychological support services for women and children (APSW n.d.) --- stated that the purpose of the Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act is to reconcile the family rather than prosecute perpetrators (APSW 13 Dec. 2010). In her correspondence with the Research Directorate, she said that if a woman wants to press charges against her husband, she can do so through the penal code (ibid.).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a research associate in the department of Gender and Development Studies at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIC), who conducted a study during her graduate degree on the state's response to intimate partner violence in Thailand, corroborated that the domestic violence law has not resulted in the prosecution of perpetrators, as it is not its ultimate goal (Research Associate 19 Dec. 2010). For the Research Associate,

[t]here are three major intentions of this law: first, to protect the rights of victims, meaning provide temporary/permanent protection to victims; second, to maintain familial relationships; and lastly, to uproot determinants causing perpetrator violent behaviour. (ibid)

She maintained that due to "the cultural acceptance of violence in the family," and the belief that "family matters should not be disclosed to others outside of the family and others should not intervene," the law was designed to "encourage mediation and settlement between victims and perpetrators for the sake of intimate partners and children" (ibid.).

The Research Associate also explained that the domestic violence legislation has not resulted in prosecution of perpetrators partially because citizens lack awareness of the law's existence (ibid.). She cited an example from her key informant interviews, wherein a police officer wasn't aware that the legislation was enacted (ibid.).

A Bangkok Post journalist --- at the October 2010 Regional Ministers' and Parliamentarians Conference on the "Review of Parliamentarians' Actions and Legislations on the Elimination of Violence Against Women," in Indonesia (AFPPD Oct. 2010) --- reported those in attendance as saying that, throughout Asia, domestic violence laws are failing women because of a "lack of enabling mechanisms within the justice system, social taboos regarding the problem, and women's economic dependency on their partners" (Bangkok Post 25 Nov. 2010). The parliamentarians at the meeting, which included several from Thailand (AFPPD Oct. 2010), reportedly agreed that unless perpetrators of domestic violence are punished, the problem will continue (Bangkok Post 25 Nov. 2010).

In addition, a Bangkok Post news article reports that the Thon Buri Criminal Court, with the support of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), is finishing a research project on its gender-based violence caseload and creating guidelines to implement the domestic violence act for adoption throughout the country (2 Sept. 2010).

State protection

The APSW Executive Director explained that, for female victims of domestic violence who try to access justice, "[p]olice attitudes are the greatest barrier as they do not want women to press charges and tend to convince the woman victim that violence is a normal thing" (13 Dec. 2010). Moreover, she said there are instances when police have refused protection because they deem domestic violence to be a "family matter" or because of their lack of knowledge about the legislation (APSW 13 Dec. 2010). As a result, staff from women's organizations have assisted women by accompanying them to the police station to "ensure that the police act as they are supposed to" (ibid.).

The Research Associate similarly indicated that women may encounter obstacles when trying to access the criminal justice system, since

[s]ome personnel in the criminal justice system, especially police officers who are contacted by victims for help or an intervention to stop violence, still do not see domestic violence as gender-based violence or the violence that occurs because of unequal power relations between victims and perpetrators, but see it as petty familial matters. Some police officers rejected to file domestic violence cases. (19 Dec. 2010)

She also noted that women's NGOs are able to assist victims by identifying police officers who are willing to file a domestic violence case or by pressuring those officers who demonstrate an unwillingness to file them (ibid.).

The Bangkok Post reported that all 70 judges and 100 court clerks from the Thon Buri Criminal Court have attended a gender-sensitivity workshop so that they will "react kindly" when women and girls seek justice from the court as domestic violence victims (2 Sept. 2010). The Thon Buri Criminal Court also developed a new coding method to distinguish domestic violence cases from other criminal cases:

The distinction of various DV [domestic violence] cases obligates staff and judges to follow a set of guidelines specifically designed for handling such cases. This includes liaising with police officers to ensure that all cases cite the DV Act in tandem with other criminal offences such as assaults and rape, [and] making sure the hurt women feel safe and psychologically ready to testify in court …. (Bangkok Post 2 Sept. 2010)

According to a news report by the Thai News Service, Thailand's Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, addressed the Asia-Pacific regional launch of the UN Secretary General's "UNiTE to End Violence Against Women" campaign with the following remarks on state protection for domestic violence:

The government has duly adopted a multi-disciplinary approach to address violence against women, which comprises measures in prevention, protection and responses. Partnerships to end violence against women have been formed with various ministries, as well as with non-governmental and civil society organizations. Partnerships have also been established with local administration organizations at the community level. …

For instance, the One Stop Crisis Centre initiative set up in 1999 under the coordination of the Ministry of Public Health has been recognized by the World Health Organization Regional Office for Southeast Asia. These centres, now located at all provincial hospitals and almost all district hospitals, are working to provide multi-disciplinary support to female victims of various forms of abuse -- particularly domestic violence. … [T]his year the Centre has helped more than 25,000 women and girls, or about 71 people a day. (Thai News Service 29 Nov. 2010)

A separate Thai News Service report on domestic violence cited the Public Health Minister as saying that in 2009, 23,000 people in Thailand were victims of domestic violence and in urgent need of "mental rehabilitation" (ibid. 26 Nov. 2009). The report noted that the Ministry of Public Health Minister had plans to increase the number of One-Stop Crisis Centres to assist victims of violence by 150 from the existing 783 (ibid.). Because the centres are not specifically for domestic violence, the Ministry will reportedly publish guidelines for doctors to help victims (ibid.).

Support services

According to Country Reports 2009, there are emergency hotlines, counselling services and temporary shelters that are supported by non-governmental organizations in Thailand (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). A Bangkok Post news article, reporting on the high level of domestic violence cases in Thailand's Upper North provinces, also indicates that there are 10 branches of the Friends of Women Foundation set up across the country that help women and children victims of domestic violence (21 Aug. 2010). To address the increasing violence in the North, a hotline centre was established to receive complaints about violence against women and children, and a network of residents and local government agencies was created to protect children (Bangkok Post 21 Aug. 2010).

However, Country Reports 2009 states that several government-sponsored crisis centres, some of which are located in state-run hospitals, "faced budget difficulties" (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). Moreover, when domestic violence services at the state-run hospitals were not available, victims were referred to "external organizations" (ibid.).

The Research Associate also stated that various support services are available for women seeking help in cases of domestic violence, such as

Shelters for Children and Families or One Stop Crisis Centers, which were established in all provinces. Some of the social workers working there were already trained and registered to work as competent officers who are assigned by the law to assist victims (regardless of gender and age) in reporting a case to police…; [h]owever, the number of competent officers is still low, and not all of the trained competent officers of gender-based violence can enforce the law effectively.

Another channel that female victims of domestic violence can seek for help is women's NGOs. Some local NGOs, at least in Bangkok, have worked to promote women's rights for decades…. [T]hey have also provided legal as well as social welfare assistance to women who experienced domestic violence. (19 Dec. 2010)

According to the APSW Executive Director, her organization is successful in running a shelter for battered women because victims leave feeling empowered (APSW 13 Dec. 2010). However, the organization is limited in its success because it encounters difficulties in helping to rehabilitate the perpetrators of domestic violence (ibid.).

The Research Associate further stated that the barriers to accessing domestic violence support services include not knowing that services are available, the gender bias in Thailand's health care system and the limited funding/loans available to women to "establish a new residence or source of livelihood" (19 Dec. 2010).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD). October 2010. "Parliamentarians' Actions and Legislation on Elimination of Violence Against Women." Asian Forum. No. 8. > [Accessed 13 Dec. 2010]

Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW), Bangkok, Thailand. 13 December 2010. Correspondence with the Executive Director.

_____. N.d. "Major Activities of the APSW." > [Accessed 17 Dec. 2010]

Bangkok Post. 25 November 2010. Surasak Glahan. "Despite Laws Asean Women Still Suffer." > [Accessed 2 Dec. 2010]

_____. 2 September 2010. Supapohn Kanwerayotin. "Delivering Women-Friendly Justice." (Factiva)

_____. 21 August 2010. Somsak Suksai. "Battling Violence at Home." (Factiva)

_____. 24 July 2010. "Society: Domestic Violence Is Rising." (Factiva)

Research Associate of Gender and Development Studies, Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Thailand. 19 December 2010. Correspondence.

Spikes Asia. 2010. "Winners & Shortlists" [Accessed 22 Dec. 2010]

Thai News Service. 29 November 2010. "Thailand: Remarks at the Asia-Pacific Regional Launch of United Nations Secretary-General's 'UNiTE to End Violence Against Women' Campaign." (Factiva)

_____. 26 November 2009. "Thailand: More Centers to Be Established to Deal with Violence Against Women and Girls." (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). 23 March 2010. UN Development Programme (UNDP). "Thailand: Breaking the Silence on Domestic Violence." [Accessed 1 Dec. 2010]

United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Thailand." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: An associate professor of social work at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, was unable to provide information for this Response. Attempts to contact the director of the Women and Child's Protective Services in Chiang Mai, Thailand, were unsuccessful.

Internet sites, including: Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Asia Times Online, Association for Women's Rights in Development, European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), Global List of Women's Organisations --- Thailand, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, International Women's Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), Inter Press Service, Stop Violence Against Women (STOPVAW), Thailaws.com, United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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