Vo Van Ai, centre, is pictured here with Anwar Ibrahim, right, and Penelope Faulkner. Pic: AP
In September, a press event on human rights in Vietnam was to take place at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand (FCCT), when the FCCT got a letter from the Thai ministry of affairs which pressured it to cancel the event, asking that it not allow “organizations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries”.
Shortly thereafter the event was indeed actually canceled after the speakers and activists have been denied entry to Thailand. This dubious act by the Thai government drew public criticism.
Why am I telling you this, you might ask? Well, maybe they have learned some lessons and actually try to…. Ah, what the hell – this is Thailand we’re talking about! And guess what? They’ve done it again!
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. (…)
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.
Speaking today, 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 is Thailand’s representative at the AICHR, but stressed that she was speaking in a personal capacity. She called on the Thai Government “to be faithful to the commitment made to the UN when it made its candidacy to the presidency.”“Thailand Again Bars Vietnamese Activist”
The Irrawaddy, October 15, 2010
While this case has generated less outcry than the first ban, it nevertheless bluntly reveals Thailand’s current stance and hamfisted handling of these thorny issues.
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and journalist based in Hamburg, Germany. He can be followed @Saksith (http://twitter.com/saksith).