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dpa : Journalists told no room at ASEM Peoples Forum in Vietnam

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HANOI, Sept 6, 2004 (dpa) – Journalists will not be allowed to attend workshops at an Asia-Europe (ASEM) Peoples Forum set to begin in Hanoi, due to unexpected delegate demand, an organizer said Monday.

The number of people registered has gone beyond expectations, said Ho Anh Dung from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organization, the organizers of the forum. Around 500 people were expected, but 800 have registered to attend, Dung told a press briefing Monday afternoon. Foreign and domestic journalists will only be allowed to attend the opening and closing ceremonies of the forum.

The ASEM 5 Peoples Forum is due to open Monday evening and end Friday, and 450 foreign delegates from Asian and European non-government organizations are expected to attend.

The forum – held a month before the ASEM 5 meeting where heads of states from several European and southeast Asia countries will come together – is intended to make the process of dialogue between Europe and Asia more accountable, transparent and open to civil society, according to the website of the Asia Europe Peoples Forum.

The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (V.C.H.R.), a Paris-based human rights group, lashed out at one-party Vietnam’s hosting of the meeting in a written statement.

“Vietnamese civil society will have no voice at the forum”, said Vo Van Ai, president of the V.C.H.R. “The real proponents of civil society – the ordinary men and woman who are calling for peaceful, democratic development and the enjoyment of human rights, are subject to intimidation, surveillance, and arrest in Vietnam today.” Organizers were unable to supply a list of delegates, or a list of papers that will be delivered, but said the forum will be centred around the subjects of “Peace and Security, Economic and Social Security and Democratization and Peoples Rights.”

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