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Thai Foreign Ministry Needs Open Minds For True Human Rights


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Open minds needed for true human rights

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee

The Nation

The Foreign Ministry seems very adept at shooting itself in the foot when it comes to the issue of human rights. Its latest such move was when it blocked Paris-based human rights activists from holding a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) just to please Vietnam - a move that ended up damaging Thailand's reputation on the international level.

Thailand put a lot of effort into becoming a member of the UN Human Rights Council this year. In fact, Thai ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow made it as president of the council - a great honour for a country where a government crackdown led to nearly 100 deaths during a political protest in the heart of the capital.

Thailand, as president of the UN body, was supposed to champion the protection and promotion of the basic rights of its own citizens and those who come to visit and work in this land of liberty.

Unfortunately, the Western educated prime minister and foreign minister are only paying lip service to the idea of human rights.

The Foreign Ministry exercised its authority to ban a press conference that was going to be held on Monday by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR).

Vo Van Ai and Penelope Faulkner, president and vice-president of VCHR respectively, were rejected entry visas to Thailand, where they were to launch their report, "From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam, Under its Chairmanship of Asean in 2010".

On the eve of his departure for Bangkok, Ai received a call from the Thai Embassy in Paris to be told that even though he had obtained a visa to Thailand, he would not be allowed entry following a request from the Vietnamese government.

Similarly, Faulkner was told at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris that she could not board her flight because she would not be allowed to enter Thai territory upon arrival in Bangkok.

The press conference and the report's launch were automatically cancelled.

The Foreign Ministry then sent a rather ridiculous letter to FCCT, saying that "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 organisations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities 'detrimental' to other countries".

It is rather hypocritical to be saying that they respect the freedom of expression, when they stick a gag in people's mouths. Also, the Foreign Ministry's judgement on what is "detrimental" is quite questionable.

It is acceptable that a country will not allow anybody to use its territory to hurt a neighbour, but a report that contains human-rights records cannot be deemed an activity that is detrimental.

In fact, this report could have been useful for Vietnam because it offers concrete recommendations on how it can improve human rights, both within the country and as chairman of Asean, Ai said.

Rather than moving to block the human rights report, the Foreign Ministry should have used its diplomatic skills to explain to Hanoi that Asean had its own human-rights body - the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights - and as chairman it should take into account all voices from human rights NGOs.

If it had done this, all parties namely Thailand, Vietnam and the Asean would have looked rather good.

The only way to practise human rights is to open your mind to what people in power don't want to hear.


-- The Nation 2010-09-16

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Reasonable assumption but people in power are closed minded to most anything other than self indulgence. Human rights? Where? Again this is another situation of press making a mountain out of a mole hill. No-one cares about these obscure reports and as pointed out in the last few days, there seems to be a plethora of brain dead reporting right now. Can't the Nation find more exciting subjects like increased time studies on the drying of paint? Oh never mind...

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