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Message-ID: <199803050506.AAA16467@access1.digex.net>
Date: Thu, 5 Mar 1998 00:06:27 -0500
Reply-To: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
Sender: Southeast Asia Discussion List <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>
From: Alex G Bardsley <bardsley@ACCESS.DIGEX.NET>
Subject: Fwd: ET,IN,TH: Delegates to peace meeting harassed (SCMP)
To: Multiple recipients of list SEASIA-L <SEASIA-L@msu.edu>

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 workers.

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 Development.

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 Nations.

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."

[47]Copyright 1998 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.

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