|opinion & analysis|
|June 26, 2004|
Not allowed to |
present the facts
In this space on June 19 was announced that a panel discussion on the Thai-US FTA negotiations would take place at 8pm on June 23 at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
I was scheduled to speak on "The rule of law in Thailand and the FTA negotiations" and present excerpts from the documents I tabled at the FTA public hearings in March in Washington DC.
Whatever substantive provisions are finally negotiated, enforcement is key to the FTA's success or failure, a point stressed by several of my fellow witnesses in Washington. (I was the only witness from Thailand.)
Four hours before our panel's scheduled appearance, our convenor phoned to tell me apologetically that the FCCT had received phone calls from two official agencies, details of which he could not reveal. Their import was that I must not be permitted to present the materials tabled at the Washington public hearings.
When our panel went on stage without my advertised presence, the FCCT president kindly helped to clarify an awkward situation by confirming receipt of the phone calls, denying any official censorship, and explaining that the FCCT had made an independent decision (which coincided with the official "requests").
His delicate choice of words ("I have received legal advice") signalled to us that the FCCT was under threat of litigation if it facilitated documentation of the condition of the rule of law in Thailand.
Many attended our panel expecting the vigorous discussion promised on this page on June 19. I beg to apologise to them for my absence and to the FCCT and the panel convenor for any inconvenience caused. Those interested in my speaking notes may contact me at <email@example.com>.
Old-timers will recall we went through a similar period after the 1976 coup d'etat here. The wonderful people of Thailand recovered from that dark age and I remain hopeful they will eventually recover from this one as well.
[Published in Bangkok Post "Postbag" 26 June 2004, available online (free registration required) at <http://www.bangkokpost.com/260604_News/26Jun2004_news31.php> ]
Text copyright © 2004 by Jeffrey Race
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