Debating Vietnam's human rights record under its ASEAN Chairmanship is more than ever impossible
Paris, 12 September 2010: The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT) announced today that it has been under pressure by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cancel a press conference on human rights in Vietnam, organized by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR).
The press conference was intended at presenting to the Bangkok-based media a new report entitled "From "vision" to facts: human rights in Vietnam under its chairmanship of ASEAN". Vo Van Ai and Penelope Faulkner, respectively President and Vice-President of VCHR, were scheduled to speak at this press event.
On the eve of his departure, Vo Van Ai received a call from the Royal Embassy of Thailand in Paris, and was told that in spite of the fact that he had obtained a visa for Thailand, he would not be allowed to enter Thai territory, following a request by the Vietnamese government. This morning, Penelope Faulkner was told by the air company at the Paris airport that she would not be allowed to board her flight because she would not be allowed to enter the Thai territory upon arrival in Bangkok.
"We are dismayed by the Thai authorities' decision to ban entry on the Thai territory of two well-known human rights defenders who have been peacefully advocating for human rights in Vietnam for years. This is frightening: it illustrates that it is impossible to speak about Vietnam's human rights record not only in Vietnam, but also in neighbouring countries", declared Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.
"Our report is exclusively based on international human rights law and statistics from the Vietnameseofficial press. It includes concrete recommendations to the authorities of Vietnam in order to improve their human rights record, both in the country and as Chair of the ASEAN. It echoes voices inside Vietnam that are calling for the respect of human rights and the rule of law", added Vo Van Ai, President of VCHR.
The pressure on the FCCT and the refusal to allow advocacy activities on human rights in Vietnam to be held on the Thai territory witness the powerful nuisance capacity of Vietnam at regional level, and the total incapacity of the authorities of Vietnam to tolerate any debate on their human rights record.
The decision of the Thai authorities blatantly violates the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which notably provides that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Art 6.b); and that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" (Art. 12). In addition, under this Declaration, the Thai authorities should "take all necessary measures" to ensure the protection of human rights defenders against any threats, retaliation, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the above-mentioned rights.