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A critic silenced: How a Thai academic wasn't allowed to speak at MEA's Delhi Dialogue

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 13 July 2017, 16:45 IST

Listed as one of the speakers at the recently held Delhi Dialogues on 5 July, Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun has claimed that he wasn't allowed to participate in the inaugural ministerial session on 4 July which was inaugurated by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Chachavalpongpun, who is an associate professor at the University of Kyoto, alleges that the decision was taken under pressure from the Thai authorities. He made these claims in an article for the Washington Post.

“Hours before the first one, the Thai Embassy in Delhi noticed my name on the schedule and expressed concerns to the Indian hosts. They were worried that I was going to speak critically of the junta,” wrote the academic, who had sought refugee status in Japan after the Thai Junta revoked his passport wrote.

“The Thai Foreign Ministry had assigned a deputy foreign minister, a junta appointee, to represent Thailand at the event. My attendance, it seems, would have “embarrassed” the Thai delegates,” he wrote.

Virasakdi Futrakul, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Thailand was one of the speakers in the ministerial session. Sources say participation in the ministerial interactions on 4 July was by invitation.

“Under pressure from the Thai Embassy, the organisers told me that my participation at the ministerial session was no longer welcome. In other words, having traveled to India, I was kicked out of the first day’s activities,” Chachavalpongpun alleges.

Sources also indicate that he was not invited by the Government of India but by Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a private think tank, which was the academic partner of the event.

The boycott

The Thai academic was slated to speak on the second day in an academic session titled New Connectivity Paradigms in the Asia-Pacific. However, he claims to have been stunned by the Indian response.

“I decided to boycott the whole event and left Delhi abruptly (not least because I began to worry about my personal safety). I was used to being silenced by own government, but now I had been silenced by the same host that had invited me to the meeting in the first place,” he wrote.

The sources, however, say “he was requested by the orgainsers to speak at the academic session on 5 July. ”But “it is not known as to why he did not particpate in that session despite availing of international travel and local hospitality extended by the organisers,” sources say.

Meanwhile, in his article, Chachavalpongpunin criticises the Indian government. “It is disappointing that India, which revels in its status as the world’s most populous democratic state, is now working closely with an illegitimate and un-elected government in Thailand.”

Delhi Dialogue is an annual Track 1.5 forum for discussing politico-security, economic and social-cultural issues between ASEAN and India. Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi recently hosted the IX edition of the event. The event is hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs in collaboration with FICCI and ORF.

First published: 13 July 2017, 16:45 IST