Public Forum on Culture of Rights in Thailand

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Public Forum on Culture and Rights in Thailand

Hosted at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies

June 26th, 2015 from 10:00am – 2:15pm

Panya Pipat Building, Room 109

Looking at the Relationship between Culture and Rights through different perspectives

Thailand is rich in ethnic diversity and has integrated immigrants of different origins throughout its history.  But this diversity often has not been recognized in ways that allow for ordinary people to hear the dissonance and see the contestations that sometimes go along with diversity.  Instead a fictive but nonetheless powerful cultural ideal called ‘Thai-ness’ is promoted in textbooks, government documents and in the media and ‘Thai-ness’ absorbs difference.  Difference in Thailand gets encompassed in narratives of belonging which foreclose the possibilities of overt contestation or rights-claiming.

Some issues to be discussed include: How has the 'culture of rights' in Thailand changed over the past year from the early 2000s? To what extent is diversity--both cultural and political--strengthened by rights ideas and legal instruments?  The international discourse of cultural rights is relatively new to Thailand: do  practitioners, scholars, rights advocates and community leaders reference them and draw on rights norms in their own work?

Morning Session:  Revisiting Rights to Culture

Thailand participates actively in the international rights regime and has a rich discursive and political history of contesting civil and political rights, but thinking through, let alone claiming, cultural rights is a challenge given how effectively state-initiated, top-down policies on ‘culture’ have been enacted. The morning session revisits a research program that investigated this landscape and resulted in the publication of a book “Rights to Culture”. Cultural rights for minorities, or the rights of communities to participate in managing their cultural and natural resources showed signs of gaining a foothold from the late 1990s into the early 2000s, though political developments subsequently made it harder for communities to get official support where cultural rights claims were being made. Nor is there any single understanding within Thailand of what it means to make a claim to protecting one’s culture referencing rights language or legal documents.

Afternoon Session: Culture of Rights in Thailand

This afternoon forum provides an opportunity to discuss the challenges at present of building a stronger culture of rights in Thailand.  Over the past year there has been a narrowing of space for political and artistic expression in Thailand and it is much harder for minorities or communities who challenge the current government to participate in a meaningful way in managing their cultural and natural resources. These developments shape the ways people think about rights both at present and into the future.


10.00 - 10.15        Welcome Remarks

Coeli Barry, Insitute of Human Rights and Peace Studies

10:15 - 11:30     Panel Discussion, Revisiting Rights to Culture

Coeli Barry, IHRP

Peter Vail, National University of Singapore

Sirijit Sunantha, Mahidol RILCA

Chris Baker, Independent Scholar

11.30 - 12.15       Lunch Break

12.15 - 14.15       Panel discussion on "Culture of Rights in Thailand" - Perspectives on the state of conflict over natural resources

and freedom of expression.

Pawinee Chumsri, Thai Lawyer for Human Rights

Khornchanok Saenprasert, Dao Din Group

Tyrell Haberkorn, Australian National University

Bencharat Chua, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies

//The discussion will in English and Thai. Simultaneous interpretation will be provided.


Dr. Tyrell Haberkorn

Tyrell Haberkorn is a Fellow at the Department of Political & Social Change, School of International, Political & Strategic Studies at Australia National University (ANU). Her academic and human rights work has been focused on addressing state and para-state violence in Southeast Asia and in Thailand in particular. She is the author of "Revolution Interrupted: Farmers, Students, Law, and Violence in Northern Thailand", where she explores how the state and para-state violence suppressed the activism of tenant farmers in the 1970s.

Dr. Peter Vail

Peter Vail is an Associate Professor in the University Scholars Programme (USP) at National University of Singapore (NUS). His research focuses on cultural and linguistic issues in mainland Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. He has examined, among other things, issues of language shift, code switching, statelessness, cross-border relations, and the role of Muay Thai in Thailand's national mythos.

Dr. Chris Baker

Chris Baker has a PhD from Cambridge University where he also taught Asian history and politics. He works as an independent writer, editor, and researcher.  He is honorary editor of the Journal of the Siam Society, and has edited four volumes of the Thailand Human Development Report for UNDP. He has published several articles on the history of Ayutthaya. He has also written several books, such as:

A History of Thailand, 3rd edition 2014

Thailand: Economy and Politics, 2nd edition 2002

Thailand’s Boom and Bust, 1998

Thailand’s Crisis, 2000

Thai Capital after the Asian Crisis, 2008.

Dr. Sirijit Sunanta

Dr. Sirijit Sunanta is a lecturer and the chair of the PhD Program in Multicultural Studies at the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand. She received her PhD. in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada, in 2009. Parts of her PhD. dissertation on transnational marriages in Northeast Thailand have been published in leading academic journals and an edited volume. Her current research interests include the globalization of care and intimacy, discourses around ethnic diversity, cultural rights and the multicultural debate in Thailand. During her time at MPI, Dr. Sunanta will develop a theoretical framework for the study of Thailand and Thai women’s engagement in intimate globalization through transnational marriages and the booming Thai health and beauty tourism.

Khornchanok Saenprasert

Khornchanok Saenprasert is a student in the MA Human Rights and Development, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University. Khornchanok is also a member of Dao Din Group, a group of university student activists based in northeastern Thailand. Dao Din works with grassroots communities affected by the state's natural resources policies and aims to promote human rights and social justice. After May 2014 coup, members of Dao Din group are also active in the campaign against military junta.

Pawinee Chumsri

Pawinee Chumsri is a lawyer at the Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR). TLHR was formed soon after the 2014 coup to provide legal aid to people affected by the exercise of state power. Cases taken by TLHR include freedom of expression, rights to assembly, lese majesty, Before joining TLHR, Pawinee provided legal assistance to victim of torture in Deep South of Thailand.

Dr. Bencharat Sae Chua

Bencharat Chua teaches at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University. Her research interest is on grassroots social movements and their contribution to the construction of human rights discourse in Thailand.

Dr. Coeli Maria Barry

Coeli Barry writes about culture, politics and rights in Asia. She served as Advisor to the Culture and Rights in Thailand project during which she wrote an essay for the edited volume Rights to Culture which linked Thailand's rights traditions with the current scholarship on cultural rights. She is currently Chair of the MA (International) program in Human Rights at Mahidol University's IHRP.


IHRP Professor presents at Asian Perspectives on Film, Literature, and Society conference

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Professor Coeli Barry presented on “The Changing Character of Christian Conversion in Buddhist Thailand” at the Cultural Encounters: Asian Perspectives on Film, Literature, and Society conference. The conference was jointly organized by The English Department Research Cluster, Yonsei University, South Korea and the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. It was held at the University of Nottingham Malaysia (city campus), 15-16 May, 2015.

Link to event:


 Link to Yonsei University:


Contributing to the Global Classroom: IHRP Professor presents at the European Inter-University Centre in Venice, Italy

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Recently, IHRP’s Professor Matthew Mullin took part in the Global Classroom 3rd Session hosted at the European Inter-University Centre (EIUC) for Human Rights and Democratization in Venice, Italy. The Global Classroom is an activity designed to strengthen the integration of the Master’s Programs and Diplomas in Human Rights and Democratization of the Global Campus. The focus for the 3rd Session dealt with the impact on human rights of foreign debt and economic crises. The goal for the session was meant to provide an in-depth analysis of the same topic through the lenses of the different macro-regional perspectives.

Professor Mullin contributed to the Global Classroom 3rd Session with his presentation on: “Contesting market-based human rights advocacy: the rising importance of collective action in the World's Factory.”

Learn more about Global Classroom:


Update 15-05-2015:Mahidol University and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Scholarship

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Mahidol University and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Scholarship

***EXTENDED DEADLINE: 15 June 2015***

***Scholarships to be filled are currently open for MA candidates

and Nationals from the following countries ONLY:

Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, and Indonesia***

General Information

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with Mahidol University, is proud to provide full scholarships for citizens from Myanmar and least developed countries in Asia to study in the MA in Human Rights (international program) and Ph.D in Human Rights and Peace Studies (international program) at the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University.

Criteria for Qualified Applicants

MA (Human Rights)

  1. Candidates must have a Bachelor’s degree in any field with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.50 or equivalent.
  2. Candidates must have English language proficiency, with an IELTS score of 6.5 or above is required with no band below 6.0.
  3. Candidates must be a Myanmar national or nationals of countries in the least developed countries  in Southeast Asia listed by the World Bank.
  4. Preference will be given to candidates who are attached to a research center or academic institution, or have experience with NGOs, human rights institutions or private human rights/peace entities.
  5. Exceptions to the above qualifications may be made by the Program Committee and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  6. Special consideration will be given to candidates from minority and marginalized groups.

Application Requirements

Application Forms

Applicants must submit TWO application forms: one form to study in the IHRP graduate program, MA or PhD, and one form for the scholarship.  Scholarship application forms can be submitted either online through the Faculty of Graduate Studies website (see link below) or by post directly to IHRP at:

ATTN: Academic Program Coordinator

Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies  (IHRP)
Panyaphiphat Building, Mahidol University (Salaya Campus)
Salaya, Phuttamonthon, Nakhon Pathom 73170 THAILAND

Application Documents

Separate from the application materials required for the IHRP graduate programs, scholarship applicants must also submit hardcopies of the following documents by post to:

ATTN: Academic Program Coordinator

Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies  (IHRP)
Panyaphiphat Building, Mahidol University (Salaya Campus)
Salaya, Phuttamonthon, Nakhon Pathom 73170 THAILAND

MA applicants must submit the following:
- Personal statement
- Academic transcript(s)
- English language test certificate(s)
- Curriculum Vitae
- Concept note of prospective research topic

- Reference Forms sent to IHRP directly from referees

Application Deadline: 15 June 2015

For the Faculty of Graduate Studies online application and other information related to the application process for the past round of scholarships, please visit the following link:


For more information about the scholarship please visit the following links:



For more information about the scholarship please contact: ihrp, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Innovative Partnership: IHRP and UN-ACT establish new opportunities for research and university

curriculum on migration and trafficking in persons

On March 19, 2015 Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) Chair of the Master of Arts Human Rights (International Program) Dr. Coeli Barry met with United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons (UN-ACT) Regional Research Analyst Sebastian Boll to discuss a new partnership aimed at research and curriculum development in the fields of migration and trafficking in persons within the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and Southeast Asia more broadly.

UN-ACT was established in 2014 to ensure a coordinated approach to more strategically and effectively combat trafficking in persons in the GMS and beyond. The project builds upon the work previously undertaken by the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP). In realizing their mission UN-ACT works with universities and human rights institutions within the region to support research by PhD students while also providing opportunities to students at the undergraduate and graduate levels to conduct research, attend seminars, and undertake internships in the fields of migration and trafficking in persons.

Opportunities discussed in expanding these UN-ACT programs and establishing new projects by partnering with IHRP included:

  • Undergraduate level migration and trafficking in persons curriculum development
  • Original research opportunities for IHRP PhD students supported by UN-ACT through the provision of work space within their offices and access to data sets and trainings in proven research methods in the fields of migration and trafficking in persons
  • Internship opportunities at UN-ACT for IHRP MA and PhD students

The partnership between IHRP and UN-ACT will be further developed and established over the coming months through the assistance of the IHRP Outreach and Recruitment team. Future updates will be provided through the IHRP and UN-ACT websites.