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Authorities prevent launch of Vietnam human rights report in Bangkok

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is alarmed by the decision of the Thai Foreign Ministry to prevent two Paris, France-based human rights advocates from launching in Bangkok their organisation's report on human rights abuses in Vietnam on 13 September 2010.

Though the Thai Foreign Ministry earlier granted visas to Vo Van Ai, president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, and Penelope Faulkner, the organisation's vice president, Thai authorities decided at the last minute not to allow them to enter the country at the behest of the Vietnamese government.

They were supposed to launch in a news conference in Bangkok their report entitled, "From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam Under its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010", which is also a joint project with the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdi in a statement said the Thai government "has a long-standing position of not allowing organisations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries."

SEAPA views the Thai government's decision as a violation of the rights to free expression, the rights to information and the rights to peaceful assembly protected under the 1945 Universal Declaration on Human Rights to which Thailand and other ASEAN members subscribed to.

This incident also violates the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which provides that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Art 6.b); and that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Art. 12).

SEAPA urges the Thai Foreign Ministry to reverse this decision and at the same time it appeals to ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan and the ASEAN Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to ensure that member-states uphold the human rights aspirations and guarantees enshrined under the ASEAN Charter.

In giving priority to the principle of non-interference over a legitimate public debate aimed at promoting and protecting human rights, Thailand not only undermines its own human rights record but also challenges ASEAN's fragile efforts to promote and protect human rights in the region.

This incident will also set a bad precedent on ASEAN in its future engagement of civil societies in the promotion and protection of human rights.

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