Asia-Pacific is awaiting the birth of three more national human rights institutions. Thailand and Malaysia recently enacted their respective laws for the establishment of national human rights institutions, while Nepal has an existing law that remains unimplemented since 1997. South Korea and Bangladesh, on the other hand, are still preparing the legislative proposals for their respective institutions.
The Thai government is duty-bound to have a national human rights institution because the 1997 Thai Constitution provides for the creation of such institution within two years from its promulgation - that is in 1999. The Thai Parliament enacted the law creating its institution toward the end of October 1999.
The Bangladeshi government, on the other hand, has made the commitment to establish a national human rights institution some years ago. The process of drafting a bill for this purpose started way back in 1996. The draft bill will hopefully become a law next year.
The Thai and Bangladeshi experiences show two approaches in establishing a national human rights institution. Each approach provides a set of advantages worth considering.
What should be noted in both cases is the envisaged participation of the general public in the drafting of the respective bills. Whether it is the public hearings in Thailand or the Participatory Rural Appraisal process in Bangladesh, it serves the same purpose of giving the public the chance to provide inputs in the creation of systems for the protection and promotion of human rights.
At the end of the day, the general public or the affected groups in society (human rights violations victims, disadvantaged people) will have to continuously press the government to establish institutions that have the independence, power, resources and the right people to protect and promote human rights. This task should continue, and even increase in scale, when the institutions have been established.