Why we believe a child rights approach is the only way to work with and for children.
195 United Nations member countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This means that they have committed to developing the laws and child care systems in their country to fulfill the rights of children and standards of care described in the CRC.
Many countries still have a long way to go. The journey involves developing law, building systems and training child care specialists. Success also requires effective implementation and enforcement.
In some countries like Thailand, aspects of the law protecting children are impressive. However there are gaps that both foreigners and Thai nationals operate in without proper over-site. The absence of effective implementation of child protection laws allows private individuals to work with children in any way that they themselves judge to be “good”.
A survey of expats involved with children in Thailand reveals a broad assortment of the weird, the wonderful and the dangerous.
Children’s Rights in Thailand
Thailand joined the United Nations in 1946 and has ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child on 12 February 1989.
The Thailand Child Protection Act 2003 currently is the main legislation covering the rights of children in Thailand, a full copy of the Act can be seen here.
- The current constitution was proclaimed by His Majesty the King Vajiralongkorn on the 6th of April, 2017.
- Article 32 proclaims the right to have a family along with some other personal rights.
- Article 71 states that State should strengthen and support the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Although the act has been in place for many years, it is fair to say that it has yet to be fully and equally implemented throughout Thailand.
Thailand has a well-established child protection mechanism with a Baan Pak Dek (crises shelter for children and women) in every one of the 76 provinces and also special zones of Bangkok and Pattaya.
The Second World War ended in 1945 and the League of Nations was replaced by the United Nations, tasked with building a lasting peace between all nations.
Thailand joined the United Nations on 16th December 1946. Of the countries now recognized as the ASEAN community, only the Philippines has a longer history with the UN having joined in 1945.
Recognizing the additional care and protection that children need, in 1959 the United Nations further developed the 1924 Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
The 10 core principles of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child
- The right to equality, without distinction on account of race, religion or national origin.
- The right to special protection for the child’s physical, mental and social development.
- The right to a name and a nationality.
- The right to adequate nutrition, housing and medical services.
- The right to special education and treatment when a child is physically or mentally handicapped.
- The right to understanding and love by parents and society.
- The right to recreational activities and free education.
- The right to be among the first to receive relief in all circumstances.
- The right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.
- The right to be brought up in a spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, and universal brotherhood.
Read More History
The declaration was signed by all 78 members of the United Nations in 1959. Although the declaration still lacked a clear definition of a “child”, it was a big step forward in terms of recognising the importance of children’s individual rights. Within the ASEAN countries, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam had not yet joined the United Nations when the 1959 declaration was signed.
On 20th November 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child was born, it was the 30th anniversary of the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Today all 196 member states of the United Nations are committed to the vision of the CRC, except the USA. Although signing the CRC in 1989 the USA has not yet been able to ratify it (agree a plan of action to achieve the vision in the convention). Reasons for this include the strong autonomy that individual states hold in the USA meaning that in effect every state would need to agree separately to follow the CRC. Some of the deeply conservative Christian groups in the USA also find fault with the concept of individual children having rights beyond the realm of their parents.
However it must be remembered that all countries are progressing towards full implementation of the CRC at different rates. Although the USA has not ratified the CRC, child care standards are generally very high when compared to the full spectrum of care services through all 196 countries within the UN.
In 1991 the Committee on the Rights of the Child was formed. Its 18 members were voted for by the countries party to the CRC and they serve for four years. The 195 member states that have ratified the CRC provide regular reports to the committee on their progress towards its implementation.
The committee is in a position to offer advice and encouragement to nations and also to suggest amendments or additional protocols to the CRC where gaps are revealed.
Thailand was represented on the committee for the term of 2008-2012 by Khun Sanphasit Koompraphant.
From the outset of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the situation of children deprived of parental care has been the subject of “constant and serious concern”. Specifically the committee talked about:
- The large number of children coming into alternative care in many countries, too often essentially due to their family’s material poverty.
- The conditions under which that care is provided
- The low priority that may be afforded to these children who, lacking the primary protection normally provided by parents, are particularly vulnerable.
It became clear that a large gap exists between the vision of the CRC and the reality on the ground in many countries especially for children in, or at risk of entering, alternative care. In 2004 the committee gave full backing to the development of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children.
The guidelines were accepted by all governments in 2009. Although not legally binding, the guidelines are now used in the monitoring of progress reports made to the committee by all of the 195 nations that have ratified the CRC.
The committee added a comprehensive handbook in 2012. “Moving Forward, Implementing the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children” is a practical tool enabling all involved to understand the core principles of the guidelines and sharing examples of how those core principles have been successfully implemented in some countries.