Thai junta blocks rights meeting in Bangkok

BANGKOK Tue Sep 2, 2014 7:32am EDT

1 of 2. Newly appointed National Legislative Assembly members sign documents during a registration session at the Parliament House in Bangkok August 1, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's ruling junta ordered that a rights talk at a journalists' club in Bangkok be shut down on Tuesday, further stoking concerns over freedom of expression in the country since a military power grab in May.

Police, armed with orders from the junta, turned up at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Thailand as an event, entitled "Access to Justice in Thailand: Currently Unavailable" and organized by Thai rights groups and Amnesty International Thailand, was about to take place.

In the order the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), as the junta is formally known, asked organizers to cancel the event in order to "follow the policy of the NCPO".

The military says it took power in May to avert further bloodshed and restore stability after six months of street protests pitting supporters of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra against Bangkok-based royalist opponents.

Rights activists say the junta has worked systematically to snuff out all challenges to its authority, including through the detention of hundreds of activists, academics and journalists in the weeks following the coup.

Tuesday's panel discussion was to have included a presentation on the rights situation in Thailand 100 days after the army seized power.

Martial law, which bans gatherings of more than five people, has been in place since May 20. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the coup, said the law was still needed to maintain order.

"The event was organized to report the human rights situation in Thailand ... which has to do with access to justice after the coup. It is not a political gathering," Amnesty Thailand said in an emailed statement.

"The NCPO has always said it would respect human rights. Asking to stop activities is a violation of freedom."

(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Andrew R.C. Marshall)

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