Thai authorities shut down a panel discussion on a UN fact-finding report regarding human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar Army against the Rohingya that was scheduled to take place on Monday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in Bangkok.
Thai police went to the FCCT to cancel the discussion, according to FCCT president Dominic Faulder.
Faulder said he told police that the event would only be canceled if they issued a written order.
Authorities produced a written order about 30 minutes before we intended to start the program, he added.
A group of Rohingya rights activists planned to discuss a hard-hitting report by the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar released last month. The report recommended prosecution of Myanmar’s military leaders for alleged genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in ethnic minority areas.
A statement released by FCCT said the professional membership of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand was deeply disappointed by the decision of the Thai authorities to shut down the event.
The Thai police stated that the discussion might be used by ‘third parties’ to cause unrest and endanger national security. There were no grounds for such suspicions, according to the FCCT statement.
The club has regularly held orderly and informative panel discussions on current affairs for over 62 years, and these have never led to any unrest or subversion, the statement reads. The FCCT has also hosted dozens of events on Myanmar over the decades, and these have generally contributed to a better understanding of the country and its relations with others in the region.
This was the first time Thai authorities blocked an FCCT event related to the Rohingya, Faulder said.
“The important point is that this is an international story, which has coverage globally. Stopping an event in Thailand will have no effect on press coverage of the topic. But, it reflects badly on press freedom in Thailand. It is very sad because Thailand has long history press freedom,” Faulder added.
The FCCT statement reads that the professional membership of the FCCT believes that Thai authorities overreacted.
This incident caused unnecessary further harm to the country’s already dented reputation for media freedom – Thailand was once one of the freest countries in Southeast Asia with a vibrant press, it stated.
This is the sixth program that has been canceled at the FCCT since a coup was staged in 2014 and the country became subject to military rule.