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Thais will sit out NGO meet

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Civil society groups from Thailand will boycott a meeting between NGOs and regional government representatives at this week’s ASEAN summit because their country’s delegate “does not represent Thai civil society”, a spokeswoman said yesterday.

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Premrudee Daoroung, a representative of Thai civil society groups, said her country’s government had shown “complete disregard for meaningful engagement” by selecting a representative who had played no part in the independent Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum, which ran from Thursday to Saturday at the capital’s Lucky Star Hotel.

“In past years ... civil society groups have faced similar problems of having our own government appoint their own people to meet with the leaders of the countries. The same thing has happened again – the government has appointed its own people to [meet] with the [ASEAN] leaders,” she said.

“We condemn this undemocratic process, and we demand that the government of Thailand stop such interfering.”

A Thai government representative did not respond to questions before deadline.

Push for censorship

Meanwhile, civil society and human rights groups yesterday condemned a Friday decision to shut down workshops on topics including land eviction and Myanmar at the independent people’s forum.

ACSC/APF steering committee member Thida Khus said the government had asked her committee to censor information before the forum, which attracted more than 1,000 people.

“During this preparation, they were asking us to remove the four workshops,” she said, adding that hotel management and police had pressured organisers to stop the workshops.

The hotel’s owner could not be reached yesterday.

"Deeply concerning"

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said the incident was “deeply concerning”.

“Civil society organisations have come to Phnom Penh in good faith to discuss issues affecting people across ASEAN and have now been prevented from speaking,” he said.

“The Cambodian government is clearly more concerned with what its neighbours think than looking after its own people. The irony is that Friday’s events are a major embarrassment to Cambodia, when it could have set an example to the people.”

Representatives from various ASEAN nations’ civil society visited Borei Keila and Boeung Kak lake over the weekend.

Rena Herdiani, a delegate from Indonesia, said the representatives encouraged both sites’ residents to demonstrate without using violence.

“We will suggest our government push the Cambodian government – the chair of ASEAN – to provide a prompt solution for all of you,” Rena Herdiani said.

Pressing authority

Tep Vanny, a representative of the Boeung Kak community, gave the ASEAN representatives a letter urging them to press the authority to mark out the 12.44 hectares of land set aside for residents in August.

Municipality police chief Touch Naroth, meanwhile, said his officers had not told the Lucky Star Hotel to shut down any of the workshops.

“It is the right of the hotel to stop these meetings if they want,” he said.

Government spokesmen could not be reached yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Shane Worrell at shane.worrell@phnompenhpost.com
Khouth Sophak Chakrya at khouth.sophakchakrya@phnompenhpost.com

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