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Thai press club told to cancel discussion of stolen plaque

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/05/2017
FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, a small bronze plaque commemorating Thailand's 1932 revolution rests in the pavement of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand. In early April, the plaque was mysteriously removed by parties unknown and substituted by one praising the Chakri Dynasty, whose 10th king took the throne last December. The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has accepted a police request that it cancel a panel discussion on the mysterious theft of a plaque commemorating the end the country's absolute monarchy in 1932. (AP Photo/Apichart Khunnawatbandit) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 2, 2016, file photo, a small bronze plaque commemorating Thailand's 1932 revolution rests in the pavement of the Royal Plaza in Bangkok, Thailand. In early April, the plaque was mysteriously removed by parties unknown and substituted by one praising the Chakri Dynasty, whose 10th king took the throne last December. The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand has accepted a police request that it cancel a panel discussion on the mysterious theft of a plaque commemorating the end the country's absolute monarchy in 1932. (AP Photo/Apichart Khunnawatbandit)

BANGKOK — The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand announced Wednesday it has accepted a police request that it cancel a panel discussion on the mysterious theft of a plaque commemorating the end the country's absolute monarchy in 1932.

The journalists' club said it canceled Wednesday's event after receiving a letter from police saying it was a threat to national security and a source of possible disorder.

The club said it understood the letter to be tantamount to an order from the country's ruling military junta, and had "no choice but to comply."

It disputed the police assessment, saying its programs "are always well-moderated and allow for constructive and civilized discussions." The only major disruptions to its events in recent years have come from police and the military, which have intervened to stop proceedings and in at least one case, to detain speakers.

A small bronze plaque commemorating the 1932 revolution was stolen from Bangkok's Royal Plaza in April and replaced by one praising the country's Chakri dynasty. Police declined to investigate and several people seeking official probes were detained by the authorities.

The plaque's removal coincided with the signing of a new constitution by King Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, the 10th Chakri monarch, who succeeded his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, last year.

The junta is led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a strong royalist who has made defense of the monarchy one of his government's priorities. The authorities have vigorously enforced the country's lese majeste law, which makes criticism of the monarch punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.

Critics say the government uses the law to suppress its opponents, particularly pro-democracy activists.

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