Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree is the Director of the Ph.D. Program in Human Rights and Peace Studies (International) of the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University in Thailand. In October of 2009, she was appointed by the national government to act as the Thai Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, a role she served in until December of 2012. In addition to her academic duties, she is currently Co-Chair of the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism advocating for effective regional human rights systems in the ASEAN region. She holds a degree in Political Science from Thammasat University as well as a D.E.A. in Comparative Politics and a Ph.D. in International Politics with distinction from the University of Paris-X.
Which actions and/or policies do you feel are the most effective in the long-term prevention of mass atrocities?
I always believe that one of the most effective and sustainable ways to prevent mass atrocities is to move towards human rights and peace through the promotion and strengthening of education. The mainstreaming of human rights and peace education will ensure that there is greater knowledge of peoples’ rights and that governments are more sensitive to people who are vulnerable to various threats. The existence of more knowledge on these rights, especially in relation to specific issues, will contribute to the alleviation of human rights concerns through better fact-based and grounded policy responses, advocacy, and the capacity of rights-holders and duty-bearers to undertake their commitments. By internalizing human rights through education, various institutions and peoples may eventually be able to adequately respond to or avert serious human rights crises and develop policies and mechanisms to ensure the promotion, protection and eventual full realization of human rights.
What are the current priorities of the Working Group for the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism that you chair? What initiatives and/or activities are planned for the near future?
As part of my pro bono work, I have been engaging with civil society groups, especially the Working Group for the ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, of which I am Co-Chair. Establishing a regional human rights mechanism in ASEAN has been always our priority. However, since ASEAN human rights bodies have been set up, the most challenging task for the Working Group is now to advocate for an effective human rights regime so that rights of people, in particular those who are vulnerable and/or marginalized, will be well promoted and well protected and so that human rights violations, serious crimes, and the persecution of particular groups do not recur in any society.
How does your academic work influence and/or inform your efforts on human rights in the ASEAN context (or vice versa)?
One of my academic pieces has been on the issue of statelessness, those who identified themselves as Rohingya in particular. As an academic, solid research will not only contribute to effective advocacy but also to informing government policies towards long-term solutions. It is also expected that targeted and policy-oriented studies will help provide solutions for the issue of statelessness, which is still widespread and affects both the enjoyment of human rights and the guarantee of human security for those whose status is not recognized by any state(s). This is just one example of how my academic work inform our efforts on human rights at all levels.
For you personally, what was the most important element of your visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and time at the Lemkin Seminar?
In the late 1970s, I was recruited to interview “boat people” from Vietnam and then to support Emergency Operations for Cambodian Refugees. More or less every day, I learned about atrocities including episodes of rape, torture, or killing that those who fled their country had gone through for years. I have never forgotten those stories. I started asking myself how human beings could treat fellow human beings in such a way. My visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau and time at the Lemkin Seminar brought me back to when I was working along the borders and reminded me that these situations could be repeated anywhere if a culture of human rights and peace is not internalized in society.