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GMA News.tv : Thailand blocks news event on Vietnam human rights

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BANGKOK, 13 September 2010 (GMA News.TV) — The Thai government blocked a news conference planned Monday on Vietnamese human rights because it feared the disclosures might insult the neighboring country.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand was hosting the news conference in Bangkok by two international human rights groups whose report pledged to “shed light on the human rights situation in Vietnam,” the FCCT said.

But late last week Thai authorities contacted the FCCT asking for the event to be canceled and subsequently refused to issue entry visas to speakers from the groups — the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said in an e-mailed explanation to the FCCT on Friday that the Thai government “attaches great importance to the principles of freedom of expression and diversity of views” but it also has a “long-standing position of not allowing organizations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which hosts local and international news conferences, lamented the government’s stance.

“We feel it is unfortunate that the Thai government has chosen to apply pressure on us in this way,” the FCCT said in a statement dated Sunday.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch noted that Thailand is the current chair of the UN Human Rights Council and that the writers of the report, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam,” had chosen Thailand because of its reputation for honoring freedom of expression, unlike the Communist government of Vietnam and others in the region.

“But the actions of Thai officials have betrayed that reputation,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “The Thai government owes the FCCT and the public an explanation (of) why instead it took a page from Hanoi’s playbook.”

Thailand has been criticized recently over its press freedom as anti-government websites and publications have been censored for allegedly helping fuel deadly political protests.

Vietnam strictly controls media, and human rights groups say journalists and others have been arrested, fired and fined for criticizing the government or disclosing information it considers sensitive.—AP

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