Statement of

Mr. Pracha Guna-Kasem,
Advisor and Special Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Head of the Thai Delegation

to the World Conference against 'Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,

Durban, Republic of South Africa

31 August - 7 September 2001


Madam President,

The delegation of Thailand wishes to join the previous speakers in expressing our deep appreciation to the Government of the Republic of South Africa for kindly hosting this very first World Conference of the new millennium. The venue of this World Conference serves to remind us of the heroic struggle against Apartheid of the South African people. Until today, that struggle continues to serve as a guiding light to those fighting against racism and racial discrimination all over the world.

At this juncture, my delegation would also like to congratulate Your Excellency, Madam President, on your election, as well as those of the members of the Bureau who have been entrusted with this very important responsibility to ensure the success of this World Conference. I am confident that under your able leadership and wisdom, you will guide this conference to a successful conclusion. On this note, my delegation also wishes to express our profound appreciation to Mrs. Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her tireless efforts, persistence and optimism have proved invaluable throughout the preparation process in Geneva and here in Durban.

Madam President,

It is undeniable that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance exist, no matter where we are on the globe. Today, the phenomenon of globalization has certainly contributed to exacerbating the various forms of racial hatred and intolerance. This World Conference is a defining moment for us to collectively address this very important issue and try to find ways and means to do away with it.

To do away with' racism and all its related forms, we cannot afford to address the problem at its end. We need'to attack its root causes, be they ideological, economic, social or political. We need to cultivate the mind that is free of prejudice, bias and hatred. It is our collective responsibility to leave for our children a world free of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In order to achieve this objective, education and public awareness building are crucial means.

Coupled with education and awareness raising schemes, legal measures must also be provided. National laws must prohibit all forms of discrimination and must provide clear provisions for punishment and remedies. In this connection, Thailand is now in the process of drafting a non-discrimination act to guarantee that people, regardless of their differences, are treated on an equal basis, with due respect, and can enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms, as provided for in our Constitution. Furthermore, Thailand will soon join the 158 State Parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Madam President,

Our society respects differences and values diversity greatly. His Majesty the King of Thailand is the patron of all religions practiced in our country. As an example, children of Islamic faith enjoy the full right to attend Islamic schools. More importantly, our Ministry of Education is introducing the concept of getting local community involved in designing school curricula. Such participatory method will significantly enrich the quality of national education and will enable the country as a whole to benefit from local wisdom. Through this kind of educational scheme, we believe, diversity will be cherished and understanding will be reached.

Madam President,

This World Conference is preparing two important documents : the Declaration and the Programme of Action. The first document, the Declaration, we hope, will become the Magna Carta against all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The second document, the Programme of Action, we hope, will be the blueprint for the construction of a new world free of the evils of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. These are vital documents that may truly make the world a safer place for the humankind. Let us, therefore, not endulge ourselves in this Conference with petty fightings, but let us be, in the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "generous of the spirit."

One of the issues facing us here in Durban and during the preparation process is what constitutes grounds for discrimination and who falls under the categories of the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We have debated to a great extent whether to base them upon the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or to include others. My delegation feels that deep in our heart, we all know who the victims of discrimination are; we can all feel and witness the suffering of those discriminated against. The victims certainly cannot be denied, for how can we deny truth.

Madam President,

Just as human rights are indivisible, so is human suffering. In the Middle East now, both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples are suffering. We at this Conference should not exacerbate their plight, but should do what we can to alleviate and to put an end to it. The paramount question in our mind should be whether what we say and do here will lead to an end of human suffering of both peoples. We strongly believe that all peoples are entitled to lead their daily lives without fear. All parties concerned, therefore, need to resume negotiations as soon as possible in order to avoid the recurrence of violence and the loss of innocent lives.

On the issue of past injustices, though Thailand has never suffered from colonialism and slavery, we fully empathize with the victims of such injustices. We, therefore, feel that it can never be possible to fully repair the wounds and the pain sufferred by the victims. In this connection, we would like to urge that the consequences of past injustices should be addressed by assisting victims of those injustices in coping with their development challenges in the spirit of international solidarity and partnership. In this regard, Africa truly deserves recognition and priority attention.

Madam President,

It is incumbent upon us to deliver to our people a clear direction towards the future. With the spirit of cooperation, I am confident that we shall not fail our people and our children. My delegation will participate in this World Conference with the spirit of cooperation and utmost flexibility. We do not view this World Conference as a one-time event that needs to achieve immediate results. We regard the Conference as a part of the process that will continuously enlighten us and advance us closer to the world with less hatred, bias, and prejudice, the world where diversity is cherished, and the world where our children will not have to struggle simply because of differences in their races, their beliefs or the colours of their skin.

My Government is determined to implement the measures and strategies that will emerge from the World Conference. But eliminating racism and all its related forms cannot be limited to the role of the State, NGOs and the civil society must also play their parts. In this regard, my delegation welcomes the strong and active role of the NGOs community in the process of the World Conference. We also feel encouraged by the active participation of the Thai NGOs. We do value our dialogue and constructive partnership during the preparation process for the World Conference and we look forward to working closely with the NGOs community in following up the outcome of the World Conference.

Thank you, Madam President.