Chula Faculty of Law Launches Human Rights Law Laboratory Combining Textbook Knowledge with Real-life Experience


The Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University has launched the “Human Rights Law Laboratory” project to integrate classroom knowledge and field experiences to enable students to learn from their real work experience with legal partners to protect and promote understanding of human rights in Thai society.

Learning from experience and the ability to apply knowledge to life to benefit both oneself and society is what learning is about at Chulalongkorn University in the same manner in which the Faculty of Law has launched the project “LawLAB for Human Rights”.  The lab is for undergraduate students who are interested in human rights issues to volunteer at the Human Rights Lawyers Association and Human Rights Lawyers Alliance in Thailand, which not only gives the students work experience unavailable in the classroom but a chance to participate in helping to promote and to protect human rights issue among the public as well.

The Beginning of the Human Rights Law Lab

The “Human Rights Law Laboratory” project first took place in October 2020 when a large number of students came forward to demand political action leading to a clash with the state, including arrests and prosecution of demonstrators. Many faculty members and human rights lawyers were compelled to take action to help the students.  Among them was DrPat Niyomsilp, from the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University.

Dr. Pat Niyomsilp
Dr. Pat Niyomsilp

“In Thailand, human rights are guaranteed by the Constitution. The state must respect the rights of each individual, and yet human rights violations persist. Many times, those who are violated do not know that they are being violated, for example people are sued in order to obstruct the expression of their opinion that might be of public interest,” Dr. Pat said.

“The mechanism to protect human rights cannot be established if people do not know what rights they have.  And when they know their rights, they have to make sure the government protects those human rights.  This is because violation of the rights does not only happen to the demonstrators, but to everyone. If we see others being violated, we should extend our help to them because it is the rights that people must protect together.”

Political events, along with the rising tide of human rights awareness in Thai society on aspects such as politics, the environment, life hardship, fairness in public health, education, gender equality, etc., have inspired Dr. Pat to establish the “LawLAB for Human Rights” project for a better understanding of human rights in Thai society among students.  This is through hands-on learning with human rights agencies that support the project, namely the Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), EnLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW), Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), the Human Rights Lawyers Alliance, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Zen-Dai Foundation, and Amnesty International Thailand.

3 labs, 3 learning areas

The Human Rights Law Lab project has 3 laboratories with different focus areas as follows:

Lab 1 Monitoring the work of human rights agencies

is open for students in years 2- 4 to intern with the Human Rights Lawyers Association.

Lab 2 Learning through internship with human rights agencies

Students in years 2-4 will participate in human rights training and work with the League of Human Rights Lawyers    

“Lab 1 and 2 will focus on students learning from working with human rights organizations such as the TLHR, and the HRLA. Students will be able to observe how to work cases and create databases. Some of the information will be developed into content for dissemination.  For instance, TLHR keeps records of witnesses which students can help, and they will have the opportunity to work on analytical articles too.  Moreover, students will also be exposed to real gatherings and write articles for dissemination with iLaw, Dr. Pat explained.

Lab 3 is a specialized learning laboratory

for students in years 3-4.  Most recently, students attended training on “Anti-SLAPP Law” (SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) or the use of law to silence people and interviewed victims affected by SLAPP Law.

Students in the 3 labs will learn about various processes related to human rights protection, such as accompanying lawyers to submit petitions, file complaints, conduct legal research, observe protests, rallies, and judicial proceedings.

“In addition to creating a database and content on human rights law to disseminate to the public about human rights violations, students in the project will have the opportunity to help people who suffer from human rights violations, such as being part of lawyers group who bring their clients to file complaints, protest, claim environmental rights together with villagers, and sue the government for negligence related to PM2.5 pollution.” 

“Most importantly, we hope that working with human rights organizations will help students open up to new perspectives and attitudes, as well as raise questions about some of the laws that have contributed to human rights violations,” Dr. Pat emphasized the key aims of the project.

Learning from field experience

Studying theories is very different from practical learning. Dr. Pat said that in the Faculty of Law classroom, the materials, e.g., contents, and facts, are pre-designed by the professors.  Students then analyze those preconceived materials.  On the other hand, studying in the lab is based on real events, with an experience that textbooks or classroom learning cannot offer.

“In the classroom, we learn the roles of government officials, and the courts, and how they should function according to the law. However, law in action is different from law in books.  In political cases, in which the defendant or the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, h/she should not be treated as a prisoner. But in reality, the defendant serves time in jail like a prisoner, which theoretically should not happen,” Dr. Pat explained.

“Students need to ask questions and find their answers based on legal issues and facts. Do the facts support the actions each party claimed? What are the laws that may be applied?”

The future of law education

The project’s feedback so far has been satisfactory. Students questioned the events in society based on the laws with a heightened awareness of the protection and promotion of human rights. They also saw ways to enhance the understanding of society on human rights issues, such as disseminating information through various channels about legal processes, laws, and the current human rights status.

“We will continue to develop the lab by focusing on more unique issues such as Anti-SLAPP Law. We see that the process of learning law from the real events is better because it gives a clearer picture of how Thai legal mechanism works,” Dr. Pat said about the future approach of the Human Rights Law Laboratory Project.            

In addition to the “Human Rights Law Laboratory” project, the Faculty of Law also offers several practical classes for students to gain experience in various areas of law, such as the Privacy Protection Law Laboratory, the Startup Law Laboratory, and the 5G-Era Investigation Law Laboratory.

Chula produces able graduates who become quality citizens for society.

Prof. Bundhit Eua-arporn President of Chulalongkorn University

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