Thai police quash panel on Rohingya

‘LOST OPPORTUNITY’::One scheduled speaker said the shutdown was disappointing, as Thailand should take a leadership role in addressing the humanitarian situation


Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 5

Police in Thailand shut down a forum organized by foreign journalists to discuss whether senior military officers in Myanmar should face justice for alleged human rights abuses committed by their forces against Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities.

About a dozen policemen showed up ahead of a panel discussion scheduled for Monday evening at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand and ordered the panelists not to speak.

The speakers included Tun Khin, a prominent UK-based Rohingya activist; Kobsak Chutikul, a former Thai diplomat; and Kingsley Abbott, senior international legal adviser of the International Commission of Jurists rights advocacy group.

Last month, a specially appointed UN human rights team recommended that Burmese military leaders should be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya.

Critics of Myanmar’s military have also accused it of carrying out ethnic cleansing and other war crimes.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh after the Burmese army launched a counterinsurgency campaign in response to attacks by Rohingya militants in August last year.

Myanmar’s army, which for decades has been accused of violating the human rights of various ethnic minorities, has denied having committed organized rights abuses.

The police at the Bangkok event handed over a letter requesting the panel discussion titled “Will Myanmar’s Generals Ever Face Justice for International Crimes?” be canceled, because it could damage national security, affect foreign relations and a give a third party the opportunity to create unrest.

However, Royal Thai Police Colonel Thawatkiat Jindakuansanong told the organizers: “We are not asking. We are ordering you to cancel the event.”

Club president Dominic Faulder expressed his disappointment and said he had no choice, but to announce the cancelation.

It was reportedly the sixth time police have forced a cancelation of one of the group’s programs since Thailand’s military seized power from the elected government in 2014. Politically sensitive events in other venues have also been stopped.

Abbott chided Thai authorities for the shutdown.

“This is an issue of global concern and Thailand, as Myanmar’s neighbor and a leading voice in ASEAN, should be taking a leadership role in addressing the situation,” Abbott said.

“Thailand’s decision to order the event not to proceed is enormously disappointing and represents a lost opportunity to discuss the situation and identify possibilities for accountability in an open forum in the region,” he said.