01/30/2015, 00.00
THAILAND - GERMANY
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Bangkok, military junta cancels seminar on press freedom

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation forced to cancel conference, part of a series of annual events on the difficulties of journalists in Asia. Thai Media confirm a growing censorship. Prime Minister announces zero tolerance against dissent: anyone critical of authority will be summoned.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Thai military junta has forced the cancellation of a seminar on media and press freedom in the country, in the context of a growing repression towards dissent and opposition. The German human rights Friedrich Ebert Foundation reports that a group of army officers has forced the cancellation of the event, scheduled for today at a hotel in the capital Bangkok. The event that is part of a series of annual reports on the challenges and difficulties facing journalists in Asia.

The censorship imposed today is quite clearly a new military junta attack against opposition and civil rights, after the impeachment and trial for the former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and sentencing to two years jail of Jatuporn Prompanm, leader of the Red Shirts. The ban, however, coincides with the convening - ordered by the army - of two former ministers of the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Analysts and local political experts confirm the growing censorship and the fight against internal dissent in place in Thailand, since the military leaders seized power in a bloodless coup. "It's the sad truth," says an employee of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation: "At first we got a call that announced the news, then the military showed up at the hotel and we were told we were not allowed to hold the event".

Thailand's crisis began in 2005, as major clashes broke out between "red shirted" pro-Shinawatra protesters, drawn especially from the countryside and among the poor, and the "yellow shirted" supporters of the Democrat Party, which represents Thailand's upper and middle classes, as well as the capital's elite, led in parliament by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.

In the spring of 2010, confrontations between protesters and police degenerated, leaving about a hundred people dead. This was followed by a political process and new elections that saw the temporary return to power of the Shinawatra family.

Still things remained deadlocked and last May, the military intervened to stop street protests that had left at least 27 dead, ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's sister, who had won the previous election by a wide margin.

Although nothing is known about the nature of future political reforms, the country remains in the hands of the military with, as prime minister, the head of the Armed Forces who is tasked with reforming the state, a situation that could easily move the country towards further authoritarian rule.

The current prime minister was in fact responsible for the bloody crackdown in 2010. Since then, and this despite the many dead, no member of the armed forces was ever held accountable for it.

 

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