NSU's Wilds studies human rights in Thailand

Image of Dr. Michael Wilds.

(Broken Arrow, Okla.)—Discussions about human rights in Thailand took center stage for Dr. Michael Mike Wilds on his recent trip to the country. Traveling abroad as part of Northeastern State University’s International Faculty Development Fellowship Program, Wilds visited Thailand from July 8 – August 9.

A criminal justice professor at NSU-Broken Arrow, Wilds visited Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Loei to learn about human rights issues in Thailand and how they are being addressed.

“One personal goal achieved on this trip was to create partnerships with individuals throughout the United States and in Thailand,” Wilds said. “Through collaboration and the modern marvels of technology, I will be bringing individuals throughout the world into NSU classrooms. In addition, the Chair for the Criminal Justice program in Tampa and I are looking at a joint trip to the International Criminal Court in the Hague, the Netherlands.”

The trip was arranged by the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE) in cooperation with NSU and offered a comprehensive study opportunity.

While in Thailand, government officials and community members discussed legal systems and fundamentals of democratic representation.

“Through dialogue, we mutually addressed issues such as human rights, military coups and the complexities of internationally diverse legal systems,” Wilds said.

The topic of the faculty development seminar was “Human Rights in Thailand: Military Coups, Social Movements and the Rule of Law.” The itinerary included a visit to the Grand Palace and a lecture by former Bangkok Senator Jon Ungpakorn explaining Thailand’s political power structure. Dr. Sriprapha Petchrasamee, Thailand’s representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, also delivered a presentation.

Wilds noted that the Thai constitution is similar to that of the U.S. However, through lese magistrate, Thai people cannot criticize the King, or top government officials in the military, legislature or judiciary. As such, freedoms enumerated in the Thai constitution are hollow. Without freedom of speech little room exists, without a coup, to change the government.

Violence took place in 2010 with members of the Red Shirts, or the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, clashing with the Yellow Shirts, or the People’s Alliance for Democrary supporting the King. More than 80 civilians and six soldiers were killed, and more than 2,100 were injured.

There is also a clash within the population. Wilds said many who adhere to rural and Buddhist traditions feel threatened, whether by growing materialism among the younger generation or efforts by the government or private businesses to purchase land, often assertively, for development or civil projects.

“The parallels between communal Thai villagers and our Native American population are uncanny,” Wilds said. "The U.S. government used a set of complex non-Indian laws and a series of contracts to remove Indians from their traditional, commonly held lands. Back in 1965, the Thai government declared any non-titled land to be owned by the government in the name of national forests and river ways. Since the rural villages were communal only about 20 percent had land titles."

Wilds said the villagers are winning some court cases with the assistance of the Human Rights Commission and non-government organizations.

“With the adaption of the 1997 and the 2007 democratic constitution, the people do have a voice and are, to a small degree, being heard,” he said. “They are learning about and exercising their constitutional rights to free speech, the right to work, the right to assembly and the right to their culture.”

Four other instructors participated in other NSU International Faculty Development Fellowship Program this summer. Dr. Jennifer Edwards visited Northern Ireland, Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford and Dr. Dilene Crockett traveled to Jordan and Dr. Elizabeth “Bea” Keller-Dupree studied in Spain and Morocco. 

Published: 9/1/2011 9:00:19 AM

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