Business group calls for ban on meeting

A group of Thai-Chinese businessmen plans to petition Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to ban the planned meeting of Falungong members here in April.

Dilok Panyaprapaporn, chairman of Business Relations Associations of Thailand, said the move was inspired by concern for national security and Buddhism. Diplomatic relations with China could also be affected.

He denied business interests were the main reason for the group's opposition to the meeting.

The petition would also be submitted to agencies such as the Defence Ministry, Special Branch Police, Religious Affairs Department, and Thai Journalists Association, Mr Dilok said.

He tried to draw similarities between Falungong, a Chinese meditation group reviled and banned by Beijing, and the extremist Aum Supreme Truth cult in Japan.

Pol Lt Gen Yothin Mattayomnat, commissioner of Special Branch Police, said Falungong had not applied for permission to hold a meeting.

Although concerned that the meeting might affect Thai-Chinese relations, he said Falungong members in Thailand had not caused any problems.

"As long as there are no political or any other activities which are a threat to peace and order, this group shouldn't be a problem," he said.

Mr Dilok said authorities should give the matter careful consideration before allowing the meeting.

"Thailand is a Buddhist country and there shouldn't be any cult here which might cause problems. Look at the Aum Supreme Truth cult in Japan," he said.

Followers of the Supreme Truth Cult released Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in 1995, killing 10 people and injuring many more.

Mr Dilok claimed Falungong followers had a hidden agenda.

"This is some kind of cult madness," he said. The Beijing government views Falungong, which claims 70 million adherents in China, as the biggest threat to communist party rule.