Thai Falun Gong meeting shelved after pressure

BANGKOK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - A group of Falun Gong practioners in Thailand said on Tuesday they were postponing a proposed meeting in Bangkok in April because of opposition from Thai officials and Beijing.

Falun Gong practitioners from around the world had been invited to the two-day meeting from April 21-22.

But Nopphdol Eakabuse, one of the meeting's organisers, told Reuters the gathering was being postponed due to "a lot of pressure."

"We'll have to wait until the dust settles," he said.

Falun Gong, based on elements of Taoism, Buddhism and traditional Chinese meditation and exercises, was banned by the Chinese leadership as an "evil cult" in 1999.

Thailand said on Tuesday it had not received any official request for permission to hold the meeting, but hinted that permission would anyway be witheld.

Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai told reporters he would not allow any activities directed against Thailand's neighbours to take place in the country.

"We do not allow anybody to use Thai soil to hold any political activities," Surakiart told reporters.

"If their request arrives, we will tell them what they can and cannot do, and we will prosecute them if they break the agreement."

A senior foreign ministry official told Reuters the comments amounted to a rejection of the meeting.

"If you read between the lines of what minister Surakiart said, the answer is a red right, not a green light," he said.

Asked whether the group had planned to protest against the Chinese government during the meeting, Nopphdol said: "We didn't have such intentions."

Thai officials had voiced concerns that the planned meeting would upset Beijing and hurt Thailand's interests.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported on Tuesday that China's charge d'affaires in Thailand, Chai Xi, met senior officials at the Interior Ministry early this month to try block the event.

But the Thai officials told him Bangkok could not take legal action against Falun Gong members even if Beijing felt that the planned gathering might violate Chinese laws.

06:40 02-20-01

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