Friday, June 26, 2015

Thai Junta Pulls Plug on Human Rights Watch Press Conference

                                Continuing crackdown on Foreign Correspondents Club

Thailand’s junta appears to be squeezing down ever more heavily on the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, on June 26 – today – cancelling a press conference by Human Rights Watch over a report that isn’t about Thailand but rather Vietnam and its treatment of Christian Montagnard minorities.

In recent weeks, the junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, has closed down planned discussions of Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law. On June 4, the junta blocked another FCCT panel discussion sponsored by Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on the country’s human rights situation. Directly after the coup on May 22, 2014, the junta not only stopped a discussion but entered the club, on the 17th floor of a Bangkok office building, to arrest a speaker allied with the ousted Pheu Thai government.

The club is considered the oldest and most prestigious in Southeast Asia and has been known widely for its weekly forums, drawing speakers as illustrious as the Dalai Lama, now-jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and many others. 

Jonathan Head, the club’s president, put out a notice this week that “the FCCT has been alerted to reports of journalists encountering difficulties when trying to start, renew or change their accreditation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some of these problems relate to online registration on the MOFA website, and some to the accreditation process itself.”

The FCCT, head said, “is already in discussion with the ministry of foreign affairs over some of these issues. In order for us to have a more accurate picture of how widespread they are, we would be grateful if anyone who has experienced problems to inform us and give us some details of what happened.”

Although the Human Rights Watch press conference was shut down, the 33-page report on mistreatment of Montagnard Christians can be found here: Persecuting ‘Evil Way’ Religion: Abuses against Montagnards in Vietnam. Asia Times

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