Talk on Human Rights in Post-Coup Thailand Canceled on Junta's Orders

Junta chairman Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha at the Government House in Bangkok on 4 June 2015.

BANGKOK — The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) has cancelled a panel discussion on the junta's suppression of human rights after police officers presented the club's board with a written order from the military government this morning.

The event was organized by the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, a group whose talks have been similarly blocked by Thai authorities since the May 2014 coup.

In a statement sent out at 2:30pm, the FCCT said the event was officially "cancelled on the orders of the NCPO and the police."

The junta, known formally as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has maintained a ban on political activities and public criticism since it toppled an elected government one year ago.


The order delivered by police to the FCCT today said authorities had "received information from relevant individuals" that the event "may allow individuals with ill intention to create a [negative] situation and cause unrest, and may lead to a violation of the laws, and will not be appropriate under the current situation."

Writing on Twitter, FCCT President Jonathan Head said the club would be "open as usual tonight," despite the cancellation. "Please be aware there will be a visible police presence," he wrote.

Poonsuk Poonsukcharoen, a member of the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, told Khaosod English that the group still plans to go to the FCCT at 6pm tonight to discuss the junta's human rights violations.

"I insist that we will go ahead [with the event]," she said.

Over the past year, the military government has come under steady criticism from human rights groups for suspending democracy and trampling on civil liberties in the name of achieving "national reconciliation." 

In a press release for tonight's event, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said the junta had "stripped the people of their rights" by detaining people without charges, banning political assemblies, and prosecuting civilians in martial court.

On the one-year anniversary of the coup last month, Human Rights Watch published a detailed report describing how the junta has "used dictatorial power to systematically repress human rights throughout the country."

"Thailand is a political dictatorship with all power in the hands of one man," said HRW's Asia Director Brad Adams, referring to junta chairman and Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. "Backsliding on respect for basic rights and democratic reform seems to have no end in sight."

Today marked the third time Thai authorities have interfered with events at the FCCT, long considered a sanctuary for free debate, since the May 2014 coup. 


Five days after the coup on 27 May 2014, soldiers stormed the FCCT and detained former Minister of Education Chaturon Chaisaeng while he was speaking to a crowd of foreign journalists about why he did not surrender himself to the NCPO, which summoned hundreds of politicians and activists for "attitude adjustment" in the wake of the military takeover.

In September, police barged into the club to stop the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights from holding a talk titled "Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable."
(Reporting by Sally Mairs)
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