Thailand: Military’s shutdown of event highlights free speech crackdown
The Thai military government’s last minute shutdown of a panel discussion on human rights is a blatant attempt to silence criticism in violation of Thailand’s international legal obligations, Amnesty International said.
The event, a report launch by the NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, on human rights violations in the year since the 2014 military coup, was today cancelled by Thai authorities at the last minute. Media reports said that authorities claimed the event was “likely to cause disturbance”.
“Authorities must stop repressing free speech and peaceful assembly in the name of security. The shutting down of this event is a blatant attempt to silence criticism of the authorities and flies in the face of their obligations to respect freedom of expression,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific Research Director.
“The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group was releasing a report documenting a range of human rights violations since the 2014 coup. Ironically, the violations they have documented include the military’s arbitrary cancellation of meetings and public events on topics such as human rights – it seems that the Thai authorities have just proved the report’s point.”
“Of course, by preventing the event, the Thai authorities have done a good job of drawing attention to the report and its findings.”
“The crackdown on peaceful dissent in Thailand must end. Human rights defenders, journalists and everyone else should enjoy the right to speak out peacefully without fear of arrest. Reports that plainclothes officials were photographing people outside the event’s venue are also worrying – no one at Thai Lawyers for Human Rights should face arrest, prosecution or any punishment simply for arranging a press conference.”
Amnesty International calls again for charges to be dropped against all those facing prosecution solely for peaceful dissent.
The cancellation of today’s event follows authorities laying criminal charges against four activists this morning for their involvement in a peaceful assembly, as well as earlier charges against students from Khon Kaen University for gathering to protest on the anniversary of the 2014 coup.
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