Thai rights news conference called off after police warning

Thai pro-democracy activist Nuttaa Mahattana (second left) protesting with other demonstrators against the junta in Bangkok on Feb 1, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - A news conference by a Thai rights group was called off on Tuesday (Feb 6) following a police warning not to hold the event or risk violating a junta ban on public gatherings.

Activists had planned to hold a news conference at the Maneeya Center in Bangkok - home to the Foreign Correspondents'Club of Thailand (FCCT) - to call on the junta to keep its promise of an election this year, but police issued a warning that stopped the event from going ahead.

The meeting was led by Nuttaa Mahattana, a television reporter and activist, who spoke to Thai and foreign reporters gathered outside the building on Tuesday.

"The police contacted the management of the FCCT yesterday. They were worried that a press conference here would breach security laws and constitute an illegal assembly," Nuttaa told reporters outside the FCCT on Tuesday.

She is among seven activists from the Democracy Restoration Group who have been summoned by police to face charges of defying a ban on public gatherings after organising a protest in downtown Bangkok last month demanding that the junta not postpone a general election that is scheduled for this year.

The police crackdown comes amid growing disgruntlement in the South-east Asian country ahead of the vote and a scandal involving the deputy prime minister that has led thousands to call for his immediate resignation.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha has said an election will be held in November but there is growing uncertainty as to whether the date will be kept.

Anti-junta protests calling for the junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), to return Thailand to civilian governance have mushroomed in recent weeks.

The junta took power following a 2014 coup by the military which overthrew a civilian government.

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