– Thailand news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community
PHUKET: A symposium and the ceremonial opening of a conference room in honor of a taxi driver who killed himself in protest against the 2006 coup was banned by the authorities after they visited the organizers on Tuesday.
More than 10 soldiers, police officers and local officials visited the pro-red-shirt Heroes of Democracy Foundation in Nonthaburi province on Tuesday and ordered the event scheduled for Sunday to be cancelled.
Yesterday, the foundation’s manager, Vipa Daomanee, received an “invitation” to attend a “reconciliation seminar” today hosted by the junta. She was in Pattaya when she received a phone call from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) yesterday. It appears that a number of other pro-democracy activists have also been summoned for today’s “seminar”, including law lecturer Ekachai Chainuvati and mother of slain medic volunteer Phayaw Akkahad.
The invitation letter stated that those invited are people with knowledge that could help with national reconciliation.
“The military has continued calling me, but I don’t answer the phone any more. What should I do?” an obviously frightened Ms Vipa said yesterday afternoon.
“They want to see me because I am the manager of the foundation and signed the invitation letter [for the event]. I don’t feel safe, even though I work for a foundation fighting for democracy.”
She said the foundation tried and failed to negotiate with the military officers, who showed up to cancel the event.
The event was slated to include a symposium entitled “Democratic Path and What we can Learn from Nuamthong Praiwan”.
Mr Nuamthong sustained injuries after ramming his cab into an Army tank after the September 19, 2006 coup, and then he hanged himself on October 31 after a military officer challenged him, saying nobody was ideological enough to sacrifice their life for a cause.
Ms Vipa said the authorities told foundation staff that using Mr Nuamthong’s name was in itself a “political symbol” and warned that if something went wrong, they would be arrested.
Meanwhile, National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara said those affected by the cancellation should lodge a complaint.
Mr Niran, however, acknowledged that given the current situation, there was little that could be expected from the rights commission. “We can summon and tell [the NCPO] that this is something that should not have been done, but they are unlikely to act on our advice,” he said.
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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