Thai police shut down an event in Bangkok yesterday where experts and activists were scheduled to discuss a recent UN report that accuses Myanmar military leaders of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in ethnic minority areas.
The speakers – Tun Khin, a prominent U.K.-based Rohingya activist; Kobsak Chutikul, a former Thai diplomat; and Kingsley Abbott, a representative of the International Commission of Jurists – were ordered not to speak by about a dozen police who appeared at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) before the event was scheduled to begin.
Police handed the event’s organizers a letter saying it had to be shut down because it could “damage national security, affect foreign relations, and a give a third party the opportunity to create unrest”.
“We are not asking. We are ordering you to cancel the event,” Police Col. Thawatkiat Jindakuansanong told the organizers.
“There are no grounds whatever for such suspicions. 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,” FCCT said in a statement following the cancellation.
“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,” the statement went on.
Investigators appointed by the UN Human Rights Council recommended last month that Myanmar military officials be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya and crimes against humanity against other ethnic minority populations.
“This incident has 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,” reads the FCCT statement, also pointing out that this is the sixth program cancelled at the FCCT since the Thai government was overthrown in a coup in 2014 and the country became subject to military rule.
Two of the panelists who were scheduled to speak at the event expressed their disappointment on social media:
Disappointed at being denied the opportunity to speak on #accountability in #Myanmar at @FCCThai tonight, particularly as one of my observations was going to be how #Thailand and others in region need to step up & show leadership on the issue | @ICJ_org @SZarifi https://t.co/nM7V2acPjA
— Kingsley Abbott (@AbbottKingsley) September 10, 2018
Really disturbing to see it. I am just ready to speak from London through Skype at the event. https://t.co/BHdzhpH5Wr
— Tun Khin (@tunkhin80) September 10, 2018