The Thai government acted inappropriately in pressuring the Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) to cancel a press conference that would have criticized Vietnam, the Committee to Protect Journalists have said.
The Bangkok-based FCCT had intended to host a press conference by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR). The two independent rights groups had planned to launch a new report
called From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam, under its Chairmanship of ASEAN 2010.
The FCCT said in a statement that the ministry first contacted it by telephone on September 9 to request that the club cancel the press conference because it might contain information detrimental to a neighboring country. The ministry also
requested that the FCCT inform the event's two scheduled speakers, VCHR's Vo Van Ai and Penelope Faulkner, that the ministry would deny them visas on arrival upon landing in Thailand. The event was then formally cancelled by the two groups.
The FCCT provides an important space for journalists to meet and exchange ideas with newsmakers and that space should remain open and free of restrictions, said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Senior Southeast Asia Representative. Regrettably, the
pressure put on the FCCT is consistent with a wider crackdown on the free press and Internet under way in Thailand.
Thani Thongphakdi, head of the Thai ministry's Department of Information, wrote in a September 10 e-mail to the FCCT that the government attaches great importance to the principles of freedom of expression and diversity of views ...BUT...
that it also has a long-standing position of not allowing organizations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries.
There are rising concerns among Bangkok-based journalists that the Thai government will become less tolerant of such programs to guard against regional criticism of its own anti-democratic tendencies.
Update: Vietnam thanks Thailand for gagging human rights criticism
Thailand has drawn fire by again preventing a prominent Vietnamese dissident from speaking at a conference in Bangkok.
The president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vo Van Ai, was refused a visa by the Thai Embassy in Paris, the second time that he has been prevented from travelling to Bangkok in recent weeks.
His previous visa was cancelled in the run-up to a stillborn September launch of a critical report on human rights in Vietnam, a move which brought international criticism upon Thailand.
An empty chair marked the place where Vo Van Ai was to have delivered a lecture titled Universality and Particularity in Human Rights: A Vietnamese Buddhist Viewpoint at the First International Conference on Human Rights in Asia. The event drew scholars and activists from across southeast Asia and beyond and was held by the Southeast Asia Human Rights Network (SEAHRN) and Bangkok's Mahidon University.
Dr. Srirapha Petcharamasree read letter from Vo Van Ai to SEAHRN, in which he said that the attitude of the Thai government is particularly shocking given that Thailand holds the presidency of the UN Human Rights Council. Dr. Srirapha
called on the Thai Government to be faithful to the commitment made to the UN when it made its candidacy to the presidency.