Received via email:
Sunday 12th September 2010
To Members and Guests:
Approximately one month ago, the FCCT accepted a booking from the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) for them to hold a press conference in the Clubhouse launching a new report, “From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam”, on Monday, September 13th.
The event has been publicised continuously in The Bulletin, our weekly e-newsletter, since August 16th.
However, this past Thursday evening, September 9th, we were contacted by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking that we cancel the press conference as it might contain information detrimental to a neighbouring country. We pointed out that this press conference was not sponsored by the FCCT but was a paid event, at which point the Ministry asked us to convey to the event organisers that it was Thailand’s intention to deny visas to the scheduled speakers.
We declined to accept that responsibility, reasoning that it was improper for us to act as a messenger in what should be a confidential matter between individuals and a sovereign government, over which we had no control and in which we had no legal standing.
As for taking action to cancel the press conference, we asked the Ministry to explain its position in writing. On Friday evening, we received an e-mail from Khun Thani Thongphakdi, the Ministry’s acting director general of the department of information.
“I wish to refer to the press conference to be organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR) to launch its report, ‘From Rhetoric to Reality: HUMAN RIGHTS IN VIETNAM, Under its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010′, which is scheduled to be held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) on Monday 13 September 2010.
“While the Royal Thai Government attaches great importance to the principles of freedom of expression and diversity of views, 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. I therefore hope that the FCCT will respect this position and not allow its premises to be used for such activities.
“I thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”
The FCCT attaches great importance to the principles of free expression and diversity of views. We also appreciate the importance the Thai government has placed in such principles, as stated in the Foreign Ministry’s note.
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.
As of Sunday morning, the FCCT has not been informed by the Paris-based organisers of the press conference that the event has been cancelled.