Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 00:06:27 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
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From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: ET,IN,TH: Delegates to peace meeting harassed (SCMP)
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Delegates to peace meeting harassed
From Agence France-poste, in South China Morning Post
Tuesday March 3 1998
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE in Bangkok
Human rights advocates ridiculed the notion of "Asian values" as a
conference to discuss peace in East Timor was invaded by Thai police
demanding permits from delegates yesterday.
Organisers said Foreign Ministry officials had tried to shut down the
International Symposium on the Peaceful Settlement for East Timor in
Bangkok out of fears it could offend Indonesia during a visit to
Jakarta by Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai.
Police and government officials demanded organisers show work permits
for foreign delegates, including politicians, academics and social
Nobel Prize laureate Bishop Carlos Belo, a leading human rights
activist in East Timor, was invited to attend but declined amid doubts
he would be able to obtain a visa.
"This shows what Asian values are all about," said conference
organiser Somchai Homla-or, of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and
He said Labour Department officials arrived at the opening of the
meeting and asked if the foreign participants had work permits.
The harassment followed pressure from the Foreign Ministry on
Chulalongkorn University last week, forcing the institution to cease
its involvement with the conference.
Mr Somchai said the Government's actions contradicted Thailand's new
constitution guaranteeing free speech and freedom of association, as
well as Mr Chuan's public statements about the need for "open
societies" in Asia.
The Foreign Ministry is understood to be nervous about Thailand being
seen to encourage interference in Indonesia's "internal affairs",
which goes against the policy of the Association of Southeast Asian
The meeting yesterday heard an Amnesty International report detailing
deteriorating human rights in East Timor.
Amnesty (Thailand) chairman Songsan Udomsilp said the international
community had ignored the human rights record in East Timor when it
agreed to bankroll Indonesia's crippled economy last year.
"The human rights situation in East Timor shows no signs of
improvement," she said.
"Let us not let the issues of the financial crisis deflect from the
longstanding issues in the region."
Copyright 1998 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.