Bangkok hotel ban on Aids group raises rights debate

Red ribbons, a symbol of solidarity for people living with HIV/AIDS.
PHOTO: Bangkok hotel ban on Aids group raises rights debate

A network of people living with HIV/Aids and their advocates yesterday asked the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to investigate alleged rights violations and discriminatory practices after a Bangkok-based hotel reportedly denied HIV/Aids NGOs' requests to host events at the hotel.

Aids Access Foundation director Nimit Tienudom said there were still problems such as the hotel's refusal to accommodate the HIV/Aids NGOs.

"We don't know exactly what caused [the hotel ban] but [we] think, as a service provider, it should respect others and not discriminate against people living with HIV/Aids, because that is a very bad vision," he added.

He praised as good policy the NHRC's July 25 announcement that a job application requirement of an HIV-blood test was a rights violation.

Nimit said his foundation had used the hotel's services on at least 10 occasions a year without problems over the past four years. But the Path2health Foundation's planned event was turned down in July.

His foundation's request to use the facility for 1663 Aids' hotline volunteers' training on July 14 was also denied, he said.

They were told by hotel staff that it was a new policy to refrain from taking Aids or anti-drug organisations following customers' complaints, he added.

Nimit said the request for an NHRC probe was to find out if the decision was discriminatory - as well as urging hotel executives to get correct information about HIV/Aids, to improve services, and to refrain from discrimination or rights violation.

"If we simply accept the hotels' conditions and find another hotel, it means we confirm to society that we cannot live together. We have to inform society that this is a bias, a wrongdoing, a rights violation and a discrimination that stemmed from misunderstanding," he said.

Thai Network of People Living With HIV/Aids president Apiwat Kwangkaew said such discrimination stemmed from misunderstanding about the virus and they wanted the NHRC to probe them.

"We hoped this would lead to talks for better understanding and public awareness that Aids is not a disgusting thing, while the hotel would learn to see it in a new perspective," he said.

He added that the network's mission was to continuously campaign against HIV/Aids-related stigma so people could live together without rights violations.

NHRC member Taejing Siripanich, who took up the complaint, said the agency had no duty to judge who was right or wrong, but to determine if the action was a rights violation.

The NHRC would investigate and summon the hotel for explanation.

"I believe this kind of discrimination [exists] in society - due to lack of information or ignorance. Sometimes we accept it because we don't want to cause troubleā€¦ If Thailand still has this kind of thinking, how can people living with HIV/Aids live? Where else will they go?" he added.