The Thai government blocked a planned news conference on Monday on Vietnamese human rights because it feared the disclosures might insult the neighbouring country.
Two international human rights groups whose report pledged to “shed light on the human rights situation in Vietnam,” were supposed to speak at the conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok, the club said.
But late last week Thai authorities contacted the club asking it to cancel the event and then refused to allow speakers from the two Paris—based groups to enter Thailand.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said in an e—mailed explanation to the journalists’ association 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.”
One of the rights groups and the club denounced the Thai government’s move.
“We are dismayed by the Thai authorities’ decision to ban entry on the Thai territory of two well—known human rights defenders who have been peacefully advocating for human rights in Vietnam for years,” according to a statement from the president of the International Federation for Human Rights.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, which hosts local and international news conferences, also 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 group said in a statement dated Sunday.
New York—based Human Rights Watch noted that Thailand is the current chair of the U.N. Human Rights Council and the writers of the report, “From ‘vision’ to facts- Human rights in Vietnam under its chairmanship of ASEAN”, had chosen Thailand because of its reputation for honouring 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 groups’ report on Vietnam alleges a raft of rights violations committed by authorities.
“Human rights violations in Vietnam have increased during its chairmanship of ASEAN, with a serious crackdown against freedom of expression, repression of religious communities, stifling of freedom of the press and Internet, widespread use of the death penalty, and abuses of women’s rights,” the report says.
Thailand has been criticized recently over its press freedoms 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.