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Thai military force cancellation of press freedom event

January 29, 2015

German NGO Friedrich Ebert Foundation has been ordered by Thailand's military government to cancel a briefing on media freedom. The ban is seen as part of a crackdown on freedom of expression.

Thai army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha
Image: STR/AFP/Getty Images

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a German political foundation associated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD), said Thursday military officers had ordered it not to convene at a Bangkok hotel on Friday to present a series of reports focusing on the difficulties faced by journalists in Asia.

"We received a call from the government asking us to postpone the event indefinitely because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the political climate within the country, said Thatsanavanh Banchong, the foundation's media and civic education officer.

The organization said the junta, also known as the National Council for Peace and Order, requested the non-governmental organization to ask permission from the military before organizing any further events.

Thursday's order was the first time the organization had had such a problem with the military, its spokesman said.

Junta chief and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (pictured above) on Thursday warned against criticizing the regime.

"Whoever comes out and criticizes (the Junta), they will be summoned," the prime minister said. "I am not autocratic. Why don't people understand and keep challenging me?," he said at a press conference.

The country's military took over in May last year after months of violent protests that saw the democratically-elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra ousted.

Media freedom organizations report that censorship has increased considerably since the takeover.

The foundation, named after Germany's first democratically elected president, promotes democracy and international understanding and has more than 100 offices worldwide.

jlw/rg (AFP, dpa)