Remarks at the Opening Ceremony for the "Beyond Barriers" Photo Exhibition (Mr Monthian Buntan)

by Mr Monthian Buntan, Senator of Thailand and President of Thailand Association of the Blind

Statement | Bangkok | 15 May 2008

Mr. Guy Thijs, ILO Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific
Mr. Claude Scheffer, General Manager, Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel
Honored guests
Ladies and gentlemen

I am honoured to be present this evening and to have an opportunity to say a few words at the opening of “Beyond Barriers”, an exhibition of photographs depicting decent work for persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.

I am grateful to the International Labour Organization and to the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel for your cooperation in presenting these valuable photographs in an exhibit so that a large number of persons in Thailand and many visitors can appreciate them.

The timing of the exhibit is auspicious because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has entered into force as international law this month. I was privileged to be a part of the Thailand delegation to the United Nations meetings that drafted and negotiated the Convention from the beginning until its adoption. I am pleased to note that this photo exhibit demonstrates many of the general principles of the Convention, including:

a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons;

b) Non-discrimination;

c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;

d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;

e) Equality of opportunity;

f) Accessibility; and

g) Equality between men and women.

Employment opportunities are crucial for everyone’s well-being. Employment for persons with disabilities, as for everyone else, provides a measure of independence and permits those persons to make a positive contribution to their community and family. Yet, the unfortunate fact is that about 80 per cent of persons with disability in Asia are not working. Even among those who are working, many are not able to pursue a job in accordance with their knowledge, skills and interests due to lack of understanding or confidence by others.

This is a tragic waste of human resources because numerous studies in Asia and in more developed regions demonstrate that persons with disabilities are usually exceptionally reliable workers. Workers with disabilities generally have better attendance and safety records, and higher retention rates, than other workers. I believe that this is because persons with disabilities who are working have demonstrated exceptional determination and perseverance in the face of obstacles, exactly the traits that all employers would like to see their workers possess.

The photos in this exhibit on “Beyond Barriers” demonstrate the wide range of productive jobs that persons with disabilities are performing in Asia and the Pacific, as fishermen, artists, technicians and teachers, among others.

On behalf of the Thailand Association of the Blind, other organizations of persons with disabilities and disability communities at large, I again wish to express my gratitude to the ILO for making these photographs available and to the Imperial Queen’s Park Hotel for providing such a splendid venue for the exhibit. I sincerely hope that this exhibit will be part of the movement for change toward descent work, including persons with disabilities.