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The Nation : Rights activists banned from talking here

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The Foreign Ministry has banned two French activists from launching a report in Bangkok today on human rights abuses in Vietnam.

The ministry pressed the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) to cancel the event scheduled for this morning, but it asked the government to reconsider its request, the club said in a note to members yesterday.

Vo Van Ai, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, and Penelope Faulkner, from the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, both based in Paris, were due to launch the report, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam”, at the FCCT.

But it is understood the two opted not to fly after being warned by the Thai embassy in France they would be refused permission to enter Thailand.

Deputy director of the Foreign Ministry’s Information Depart-ment Thani Thongpakdi wrote to the club on Friday, asking it to cancel the event.

He suggesting the report may contain information detrimental to a neighbouring country.

The FCCT pointed out the press conference was not one organised by the club, but was paid for by the activists. The club declined a ministry request to tell the activists they would be denied entry visas.

“We feel it is unfortunate that the Thai government has chosen to apply pressure on us in this way. We would appreciate if the government reconsiders the wisdom of such pressure,” the FCCT said in its note.

The activists sent a note last night saying they were forced to cancel their press conference.

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