Lumpini police station denies pressuring FCCT into cancelling ‘Run Against Dictatorship’ press conference

On Monday (9 December 2019), the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) issued a statement on their Facebook page that they have been asked by Lumpini Police Station to cancel a booking for a press conference for the “Run Against Dictatorship” event, organized by activist Tanawat Wongchai.

The FCCT said that the police explained that the title of the event was “objectionable” and that “they considered it likely to create what they called a ‘mob.’” The police also reportedly threatened the FCCT with “serious consequences,” possibly closure, if they did not comply with the request.

“Thailand has been under a civilian government since May this year, which should make such orders or even ‘suggestions’ to curb free speech a thing of the past. In demanding the cancellation of this week’s event the police gave no legal justification, although they made it clear they were acting on orders from higher up,” said the statement.

Lumpini Police Station has since denied that they pressured FCCT into cancelling the event. Kampol Rattanaprateep, Superintendent of Lumpini Police Station, told BBC Thai that the police only asked the FCCT for information about the event, and claimed that it was the FCCT’s decision to cancel the event.

The “Run Against Dictatorship” is an event organized by activist Tanawat Wongchai and others. After the cancellation of their FCCT booking, the organizers said that they will find a new venue for their press conference.

Tanawat Wongchai (left) submitting the complaint to Pannika Wanich (right), vice chairperson of the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights

Earlier today (11 December), Tanawat and the team behind the event also went to Parliament to submit a complaint to the Standing Committee on Legal Affairs, Justice, and Human Rights of the House of Representatives, calling for the Committee to summon the superintendent of Lumpini Police Station to explain what happened. 

FCCT STATEMENT ON CANCELLATION OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY ‘RUN AGAINST DICTATORSHIP’

The professional committee of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand is concerned about pressure from Thai police to cancel a planned press conference. Over the weekend the FCCT’s management was asked by Lumpini police station to cancel a booking by a group involved in the ‘Run Against Dictatorship’ planned for next month. The group had agreed to pay to use the FCCT for a press conference announcing the event. The police explained that the title of the event was objectionable, and that they considered it likely to create what they called a “mob.” They also stated that there would be serious consequences for the FCCT – suggesting possible closure -- if it did not comply with their request. After discussion with the group, the organizers agreed to find an alternative venue.

On several occasions during the preceding five years of military rule the FCCT was forced to cancel events, both those run by the club and those booked by outside customers. In all those cases the police explained that they were under orders from the military authorities, saying neither they nor the club had any choice in the matter.

Thailand has been under a civilian government since May this year, which should make such orders or even “suggestions” to curb free speech a thing of the past. In demanding the cancellation of this week’s event the police gave no legal justification, although they made it clear they were acting on orders from higher up.

The FCCT continues to host a rich variety of events, including many which focus on free expression and dissenting political views, and believe such events contribute positively to the broader debate on Thailand’s future. We hope we will be allowed to continue this role in the future.

FCCT Professional Committee