Vietnam: Pannella and Perduca write to the Thai Ambassador in Rome to complain about the canceling of a Press Conference schedule at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand

What follows is the text of a letter that Marco Pannella, President of the senate of the Nonviolent Radical Party and Senator Marco Perduca have written to the Thai Ambassador in Rome to express their serious concern on the Thai decision to cancel a press conference on 12/09/2010, where Mr. Vo Van Ai and Ms. Penelope Faulkner, respectively President and Vice-President of VCHR, were scheduled to speak. Mr. Ai and Ms. Faulkner are also member of the General Council of the Nonviolent Radical Party. Mr. Pannella and Mr. Perduca have asked to meet the Ambassador to be briefed on the decision.

Rome, 17 September 2010
To the Kind attention of:
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Royal Thai Embassy
Via Nomentana132, 00162 Rome
Tel. +39(06)8622-0524
Fax. +39(06)8622-0555, 8622-0556
Mr. Ambassador:
We take the liberty to write to you to bring to your attention an ordeal that we believe deserves maximum attention as it could create a serious precedent in terms of freedom of speech in Thailand as well as the rest of South East Asia.
On 12 September last, we received the news that the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), and the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) had announced that they been under pressure from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cancel a press conference on human rights in Vietnam, organized by the FIDH and the VCHR.
The press conference wanted to present to the Bangkok-based media a report entitled “From “vision” to facts: human rights in Vietnam under its chairmanship of ASEAN”. Mr. Vo Van Ai and Ms. Penelope Faulkner, respectively President and Vice-President of VCHR, were scheduled to speak at the press event.
The Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, has had the opportunity to work both with Mr. Ai and Ms. Faulkner for over a couple of decades; we trust their objective analysis of the Vietnamese situation, and we consider their nonviolent struggle for peace, freedom and democracy all over the world together with the resistance carried out by the leadership of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam from within their country, as one of the most enduring examples of how to resist a regime that, after a ferocious war, has not opened up to liberal reforms. Both Mr. Ai and Ms. Faulkner are long-time members of our Party and since 2002 they sit in the General Council of our organization. This is why, in addition to the seriousness of what happened to them last week, we consider our Party directly involved in the matter.
But let us recapitulate the facts: 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. On 11 September, 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.
The report they intended to present was, is, based on international human rights law and statistics taken from the Vietnamese official press, and 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. I totally share Mr. Ai’s view that it “echoes voices inside Vietnam that are calling for the respect of human rights and the rule of law”, that I am sure you are aware exist and resist.
At the Radical Party we were all surprised to see the decision of the Thai authorities, which, we believe, violates the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders that I am sure you now 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). We have always looked at Thailand as an example of how South East Asia should develop in social, economic and political terms. What happened with our fellow Party members raises doubts on the current state of the play of human rights protection in Thailand.
In addition to what highlighted before, under the above mentioned Declaration, the Thai authorities should have taken “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.
For all these reasons, we would welcome an opportunity to discuss the matter in person as, we believe, setting these types of precedents in this critical field may pose serious problems for those who are engaged daily in promoting and protecting the rights of millions of people that cannot live in peace, freedom and democracy.
Hoping to hear soon from you, we remain at your disposal for any additional information concerning the long-time friendship and political relationship that we enjoy with Mr. Ai and Ms. Faulkner and our Nonviolent Radical Party.
Marco Pannella                                                                                            
President of the Senate of the NRPTT
Sen. Marco Perduca