Bangkok, Thailand, February 2, 2012 — On January 26, 2012, the Thai National Human Rights Commission presented a prestigious award to The Asia Foundation for its landmark public affairs television talk show, Let’s Talk Rights. The National Human Rights Commission awards individuals, organizations, and media that promote human rights on Human Rights Day, December 10. Due to the recent Thai flood crisis, the award ceremony was postponed until January 26, 2012.
Frank, issues-based talk shows disappeared by 2006 in Thailand. To provide a platform for citizens to address social issues, The Asia Foundation in September 2009 created Let’s Talk Rights, a weekly one-hour talk show, conducted in the Thai language. Former National Human Rights Commissioner Sunee Chaiyarose hosted the show with the goal to create more space in the Thai media to discuss human rights violations. Let’s Talk Rights brings disparate groups together and tackles timely concerns that Thais—regardless of social or political background—face.
The show aired on Thai Public Broadcasting Service television from 2009 to August, 2011 and aimed to raise public awareness about human rights issues in Thailand through candid debates between policymakers, politicians, top government officials, academics, activists, and marginalized individuals. Each episode set out to educate and empower the public about their basic constitutional rights by creating a stage to discuss pressing issues, such as community rights, gender equity, and labor disputes.
Let’s Talk Rights has enacted real, practical change. For example, women working in hospitals, restaurants, and convenience stores in the Deep South were not allowed to wear a hijab, or religious headscarf, in the workplace. During a November 2009 episode, the head of the Thai Nurse Association of Thailand affirmed that Thai law permits the wearing of the hijab in public hospitals. After the show aired, the founding director of the Women’s Network Stopping Violence and Promoting Peace, based in the southern province of Yala, reported that employers in her area had begun allowing Muslim women to wear the hijab at work.
Let’s Talk Rights was directed by Ruengrawee Pichaikul, senior program coordinator for The Asia Foundation in Thailand and supported by a team of dedicated Asia Foundation staff members who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to produce the show in Bangkok.
In an interview given at the award ceremony Ms. Pichaikul said, “I would like all media, not only Thai PBS, to produce programs similar to Let’s Talk Rights to promote human rights and to provide an opportunity for people who think differently to sit at the same table and discuss the issue. These small people can then have their voices heard by the national authorities.”