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Pressure to drop event denied; FCCT chief denies govt behind U-turn on red-shirt symposium

Marwaan Macan-Markar, president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, has denied being forced by the government to withdraw permission for the red shirts to hold a symposium at the clubhouse.

"All that is BS ... I have been accused of being pro-Thaksin [Shinawatra] before," he said, laughing at the notion that he may now be regarded as pro-government.

The seminar called "Forecast 2010" had scheduled speakers like former Thai Rak Thai party deputy leader Chaturon Chaisaeng, Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship leader Weng Tojirakarn and Supavud Saicheua.

Red-shirt members were upset when an e-mail sent on Thursday from a key member of the anti-government movement to some of its comrades accused the FCCT of caving in to government pressure.

"Bad news! The FCCT board cancelled our seminar because of the inflammatory title, so they said, after their manager agreed in principle two weeks ago ... Clearly, this FCCT decision baffles me since [the red shirts] just had a programme there a month ago and it went fine. Clearly the amart [ruling elite] really got to them about us.

"The FCCT faced ... lese majeste lawsuits, so a lack of courage is what I saw here and on January 14, [Prime Minister] Abhisit [Vejjajiva] will speak at a FCCT banquet two days after the FCCT cancelled the event. This is crap. The man who made the decision is Marwaan [Macan-Markar]! Remember his name!"

"Macan-Markar said the reason the rental of a conference room was refused was because the club wanted to pour all its resources into ensuring that everything went smoothly for the premier's dinner talk on January 14.

"The board was on holiday from Christmas till its first meeting of the year on January 6, and so it just decided that the timing was not good.

"Still, we have every right to decide whether to rent it out," Macan-Markar said.

The FCCT had in the past invited red-shirt leaders to speak at some of its evening talks, he said.

A red-shirt member, who asked not to be named because she is a bureaucrat, yesterday cast doubt on Macan-Markar's explanation and blamed the FCCT for viewing the red shirts negatively while wanting to please the government.

"I'm not convinced. Do they really need that much time to prepare [for Abhisit's event]? They've changed a lot, especially Marwaan. They have done nothing for us. It's as if they're all for their own survival."