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Phuketwan reporters Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian

Campaign to Rescue Rohingya, Reporters

Monday, September 15, 2014
PHUKET: Australians are being urged to ask the Thai Government to investigate claims of human trafficking of Rohingya boatpeople and to lift criminal defamation charges against Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian.

Anyone with an interest in either of these issues could follow the lead of the Justice and International Mission of the Uniting Church in Australia, which recently published this advice:

IN BURMA in October 2012, ''ethnic cleansing'' and crimes against humanity were committed by security forces against the Rohingya ethnic group, resulting in the murders of hundreds of Rohingya and causing more than 100,000 of them to fled the country while leaving another 140,000 displaced and living in dire conditions.

Violence and discrimination against the Rohingya, who are Muslims, has been fuelled by Buddhist extremists and there had been sectarian violence between Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Arakanese in Rakhine (Arakan) State in June 2012. The Burmese government calls the Rohingya illegal ''Bengali'' migrants from Bangladesh.

Most of the 1.1 million Rohingya living in Burma's western Rakhine State are denied citizenship. Human Rights Watch has alleged on-going persecution of the largely stateless Rohingya.

Thousands of the Rohingya fled Burma on often-rickety boats were then intercepted. They were then passed through ''trafficking camps'' in southern Thailand. Traffickers forced the asylum seekers to call relatives in Malaysia and Thailand to demand a ransom of around $2000 for their return.

Those who could not find a relative to pay the ransom were reportedly sold as slaves on Thai fishing boats or as manual laborers on farms. Some were murdered at the camps and others died of disease.

Media reports allege that Thai officials collaborated with the traffickers by transferring Rohingya held in Thailand to the custody of the traffickers. The UN has called for an investigation into the reports Thai officials moved refugees from Burma into human trafficking rings.

On January 27, 2014, after pressure from the US Government and the UN, Thai authorities raided one of the trafficking camps and took into custody 531 people.

In addition Thailand permitted 2055 Rohingya migrants to enter the country in 2013. Thailand has no refugee law and does not allow Rohingya to register asylum claims or to seek protection as refugees.

Thus they were treated as ''illegal migrants'' and did not receive protection as refugees under international law.

The government separated families, holding adult men and some male children in immigration detention centers while women and younger children were held in shelters run by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.

The Rohingya had no ability to be accepted as refugees by Thailand and thus were being subjected to indefinite detention.

In 2013, eight Rohingya men died in detention from apparent poor health conditions exacerbated by extreme heat and lack of access to health care.

Almost all the 2055 Rohingya who were held in detention have since either fled the shelters, escaped, were deported or were transferred into the hands of human traffickers.

Many thousands more Rohingya have been intercepted at sea by Thai officials and either redirected to Malaysia or handed over to people smugglers and human traffickers.

Journalists face imprisonment for reporting on trafficking of Rohingya

Journalists Alan Morison (an Australian from Melbourne) and Chutima Sidasathian (a Thai) are being pursued by the Royal Thai Navy on defamation charges for republishing a paragraph from Reuters news agency alleging the involvement of ''naval'' personnel in the trafficking of the Rohingya asylum seekers. The charges were laid on December 16, 2013.

Under Thai law, defamation is a criminal offence and the two journalists could face up to seven years imprisonment if found guilty. Efforts by the Thai Human Rights Commission to broker a resolution to the case were stalled by the military coup in Thailand on May 22, 2014.

The trial date for the two journalists has been set as July 14, 2015.

Reuters and other news outlets in Thailand that published the same information have not been charged, indicating that seven years of award-winning coverage of the Rohingya issue has earned Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian unjust special treatment.

Write polite and respectful letters to (a letter from Australia to Thailand will cost $1.85):

General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Prime Minister and Head of NCPO

Royal Thai Army Headquarters

Rachadamnoen Nok Road,

Bangkok 10200, Thailand

Fax: (+66-2) 226 1838

E-mail: prforeign@gmail.com

Salutation: Dear General

His Excellency Mr Maris SANGIAMPONGSA

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

Royal Thai Embassy

111 Empire Circuit

Yarralumla, ACT, 2600

Email: thaican@mfa.go.th

Salutation: Your Excellency


Points to make in your letter:

.. Express deep concern at allegations that the Thai government officials have been involved in trafficking and selling Rohingya asylum seekers.

.. Request the Thai authorities conduct a thorough and impartial investigation to establish if any government officials have been involved in human trafficking of Rohingya.

.. Urge the Thai Government to shut down the camps in southern Thailand that have allegedly been used to traffic Rohingya.

.. Ask that the Royal Thai Navy drop the defamation case against the journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian.

.. Point out that if progress is to be made in eliminating human trafficking and other human rights abuses, journalists and human rights defenders need to be able to research and expose such criminal human rights violations.

.. Point out the current prosecutions are over-shadowing the important efforts the Thai Government has been making to try and eliminate human trafficking, forced labor and child labor.

Also write to:

The Hon Julie Bishop MP

Minister for Foreign Affairs

PO Box 6022

House of Representatives

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

E-mail: Julie.Bishop.MP@aph.gov.au.

Salutation: Dear Minister

Points to make in your letter:

.. Express deep concern at allegations that the Thai government officials have been involved in trafficking and selling Rohingya asylum seekers into bonded labor.

.. Ask that the Australian Government raise concerns over these allegations with the Thai authorities and request a thorough investigation.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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"Reuters and other news outlets in Thailand that published the same information have not been charged, indicating that seven years of award-winning coverage of the Rohingya issue has earned Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian unjust special treatment."
No, not 'the same information', but full information, whereas PW only published part of it.

Posted by stevenl on September 15, 2014 09:53

Editor Comment:

The action is over one 41-word paragraph, stevenl. A 41-word paragraph written by Reuters journalists then republished by Phuketwan and other news outlets around Thailand and the world. The fact that the Reuters article was a long feature and the PW article was a news story has nothing to do with it. We even put quote marks like so '' '' around the 41-word paragraph and fully attributed it to Reuters. Your comment is ill-considered and false. Please do your research.

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"Please do your research."

Oh, I did. And I'm sure your knowledge here is bigger than mine will ever be, but I'm also sure you're more biased than I am. And unbiased I reached a conclusion which differs from yours.

Posted by stevenl on September 15, 2014 11:33

Editor Comment:

We try to avoid bias, even in this case. And believe me, we've done our research. Perhaps you've been confused by Reuters, who noted at some length that their article was different to ours, and assumed that this case would be similar to defamation cases in the West. They assumed wrongly, stevenl. We've asked Reuters to clarify the facts. They have chosen not to, which only proves the difference between the corporate Reuters and the agency's reliable journalism. The case is over one paragraph, a Reuters paragraph reproduced word for word. There is no ''opinion'' here. It's a simple factual matter. And smarm is never impressive.

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The action is over one 41-word paragraph,
So stevenl is right that you published a part of it and not all.

Posted by FS on September 15, 2014 11:48

Editor Comment:

See the other comments, please.

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I thought Reuters had issued a statement where they said that the reason they did not support you was that you published part only of their article and you took it out of context.

Posted by phuket Saviour on September 15, 2014 11:52

Editor Comment:

Not so. Corporate Reuters, in defending itself, was at pains to make the point that their article was different to ours. Of course it was. We focused on the news in the feature. To lift the entire article would be plagiarism. What we are being sued over - and what the police case against Reuters will be over, if it ever sees the light of day - is one Reuters paragraph, faithfully reproduced word for word in Phuketwan and on several other news outlets throughout Thailand. The rest of the article/s has/have no bearing on the case. Strangely, more than a year later, only PW has been charged.

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(moderated)

We can all argue with the Editor about this and that but the fundamental freedom of the press should be paramount in any free society.

Posted by phuket Saviour on September 15, 2014 12:28

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(moderated)

Posted by Paul brook on September 15, 2014 15:10

Editor Comment:

Goodbye, paul. You opinion is of no interest and has no value.

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Of course the Freedom of the Press is fundamental which is why it is unbelievable and reprehensible that an international media outlet whose cornerstone is publishing international news without fear or favour based on the tenet of Freedom of the Press is not supporting PW. It's also disappointing that some PW readers are putting points scoring against one of the journalists ahead of the the main issue i.e.the persecution of the Rohingya.

Posted by Alan on September 15, 2014 15:50

Editor Comment:

Indeed. My willingness to interact with readers brings out the dingbats.

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A further cynical and perhaps humorous comment:
The trouble with you Alan is that you are a nobody..No connections, influence or fame.
Imagine the headlines in The Age if you were perhaps distantly related to Donald Bradman, Nicole Kidman, Albert Mathews or a Murdoch.
Headline:
Alan Morison the esteemed/awarded editor of an English Language Phuket online newspaper...related to XXXXX indighted by Thai Government military yada yada..
Public outcry??..questions in the house???..SEALS, carriers and troops on high alert ?

Posted by David on September 15, 2014 17:45

Editor Comment:

That's just the kind of comment I needed, David, to illustrate what a dingbat is and how a dingbat responds. Totally irrelevant, pretentious know-all look-at-me stuff. Pity you can't see what a laugh it gives me to be labelled a nobody by a dingbat. Some of us have no problem being nobodies, David, as long as we make a difference. Dingbats never do.

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Editor - freedom of press - it's you who is the dingbat - you only publish what suits you - I hope the navy lock you up and when your deported Australia deport you to a Rohinga boat for slagging off your own government - a pussy behind a keyboard comes to mind !,

Posted by Paul brook on September 15, 2014 18:22

Editor Comment:

Why thank you, dingbat.

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bTW ed - thought you had learned to keep your GOb shut.....obviously not

Posted by Paul brook on September 15, 2014 18:24

Editor Comment:

Speaking of keeping one's gob shut . . . I have an excuse. You don't, dingbat.

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(moderated)

Posted by Paul brook

Ed - Maybe you should leave in the comments like this so we can all see them. It's generally accepted you're an arrogant twit, and so given that the inflammatory comments are what readers want to see (even if you don't), why not leave them in and attract more keen viewers and improve your hit rate?

Posted by phonus balonus on September 15, 2014 18:34

Editor Comment:

Arrogant? Nah. I've got nothing to be arrogant about. My only desire is to give intelligent readers who genuinely have something to add the space to do so. You, PB, are not one of those people. You're a . . . dingbat!

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FAO: MORISON THE MARTYR aka MORONSON aka A NOBODY
Your Blog is going downhill very fast and now virtually no likely-hood of reaching your planned last publication date in February of next year ... Time to bring back a few more supporters like "Caroline" to try and "balance the books" ... Not a good time to go for a YES [in support] vote ... ha5ha5ha5
The information you provided in YOUR penned article will be appreciated by many readers [mainly alleged ding-bats] ... I can imagine a considerable amount of correspondence heading in their direction but not to assist you in your latest pointless game-plan ... "The Group" are currently drafting individual contributions and will be sent soon ... We [The Group] assume it will be in order to clarify your position with regard to the "WORLD EXCLUSIVE"
Whilst writing: Can you confirm that "A TOTAL of 431 readers' comments have been posted to PhuketWAN over the past five days." will continue for a least another month [subject to the obvious]?
Final comment: That David is a scream ... He should get a job on stage ... The same for you but your talents would be better suited to sweeping up - bog cleaning and polishing

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on September 15, 2014 20:30

Editor Comment:

There are dingbats . . . and then there's you, AiT, among a small group of perhaps two who have some issues that should be seen to by a specialist before you lose the plot entirely. Come back, please, after you have been properly treated and cured.

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I must admit that when I first stumbled across the Phuketwan I did wonder who the Ed was. My initial thoughts, given his sometimes scathing retorts to comments was that he was in the words of my Scottish brethren a bit of a bloater.

However, having taken the time to research his previous employment and review a large body of his work I can fully understand his standpoint against the uneducated responses that litter the comments cemetery.

At least the Editor is willing to publish stories that may be uncomfortable for some to read, leading to this current situation, which is nothing less than censorship. But one must suppose it's hard to get the big picture when you have such a small screen, dear detractors.

For the Editor , I salute you Sir and think you provide an excellent service and believe that justice will prevail.

As to your detractors, well, judging by the old saying, "What you don't know can't hurt you," they must be practically invulnerable.

Now where is my moustache net, time for bed!

Posted by Lord Melchett on September 16, 2014 01:20

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In respect of (online) petitions in regard of PW case, I think that these two are of the top priority, although surely all others are of help too, just to prioritize:

1. to the Administration signed by Thais - I think it is of paramount importance to show to the administration that the mainstream Thai society is supportive of the cause, not only few ones closely associated with foreigners or international organization.
My understanding is that neither of online petitioning tools provides comprehensive summary from what countries a petition was signed , bar to detect this country accurately.
Therefore in order to demonstrate that the the petition is supported indeed by Thais, probably this one should be drafted in only one language - Thai, that will remove doubts who signed it (possible foreigners who speak Thai are of immaterial %).

Clearly, it is not an easy task to make a mainstream Thai feel for a cause...
Here I took a notice of a statement in the last sentence of a paragraph from a recent article in WSJ on PW case:
"A similar case arose earlier this year in Thailand, where the Navy accused two journalists, Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian. Their Phuketwan website republished part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters report about officers' alleged mistreatment of Rohingya boat people, and are now in legal limbo awaiting trial.
Since the Muslim refugees are unpopular with the Thai public, the prosecution is an opportunity for the military to quash criticism without creating a backlash."

I hope, that if the issue is properly presented and in Thai language, there still will be enough sympathizers for a PW cause, to make enough numbers for a petition to be able to impress the Administration.

Honestly saying, if any petition that is signed mostly by expats in Thailand will likely have an opposite effect on the Administration, by irritating them and rising their objection why these people interfere in the internal affairs of the country..

2. Another petition addressed to Australian government , requesting them to take an acute role in the case - it is not that much what they can do, but finally they should do at least something.
Obviously , at first place , of should be signed by Australians.


Other petitions of course are helpful, but these two seems to be most important to implement.

Posted by Sue on September 16, 2014 03:49

Editor Comment:

The difficulty in harnessing public opinion is that in both the Andy Hall case and the PW case, we are being pursued for daring to suggest fair treatment for the oppressed and the voiceless. In Andy Hall's case, it's the downtrodden migrant workers, in PW's case, the stateless Rohingya. Supporting the voiceless and stateless is likely to remain less than popular until Self goes out of fashion everywhere, and that may take a while yet. Thank you for your suggestions, Sue.

''A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.''
- Primo Levi

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Phuket Saviour, Paul Brook, AIT, stevenl, David, FS, phonus balunos. I bet each of you - rides a 115cc motorbike imagining you are Marlon Brando, holds barstool conversations every day with sycophantic listeners, were losers in their own country but now finally have a Phuket girlfriend (so must be someone) and are incredibly jealous of someone like the Ed whose principles are so far above yours daylight shines through. Keep up the good fight Ed. Your actions are greatly admired by my circle of car driving, lounge seated friends.

Posted by Helen on September 16, 2014 07:08

Editor Comment:

Thanks, Helen. You left out Laurie Howells.

Come to think of it, so did I . . . actually these poor people don't have much choice. PW is the only outlet that allows readers the freedom to bite the hand that delivers their preferred reading material. Nobody else - there, I've used the nobody word again - puts up with them. Sad, eh?

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your Highness

I completely agree with you.

Paul
David
Phonus
Amazed

Your posts are full of insults and pure hate.

I really wonder what happened in your previous life to be such angry and bad-tempered persons.

No one is forcing you to agree with the editor.

No one is forcing you to read Phuketwan.

And even less someone forces you to even post here.

Posted by Georg The Viking on September 16, 2014 07:19

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(moderated)
"PLAY OF THE DAY ... WHEN the big stories break, the whole world turns to PhuketWAN. Click on PhuketWATCH, the thorough wrap of happenings from around Phuket and the planet. It's your first and final choice for updating news all day, every day."
(moderated)

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on September 16, 2014 07:29

Editor Comment:

We've followed PW moderating policy and only published the section of your comment that adds value, AiT.

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@Ed

Yes, getting Thais to support the cause is not an easy task, for the reasons you described , and as well as lack of understanding of universal nature of human rights, but it is definitely not hopeless and is worth to try, as , say, a realistic target of 1000 signatures under Thai text, would significant with current sentiment of society :
there were some Thai readers here, who told us about successful promotion of online petition, assuredly, among Thais, on social media,
so may be you can ask some of your friends to draft and post one petition addressing the Administration - only in one language - Thai,
and another one in English for Canberra,
then you give us links,
and let's what happens, there well may be some unexpected good numbers - although it could take a time to develop a moment.

In respect of Thai petition, it is worth to note , that it concerns both of you - not only one "arrogant foreigner with super sized ego who came to our land to mentor us how to live"(texts that we can hear on occasions ...), so it is worth trying.

To put a petition on avaaz, change.org or alike, is a matter of minutes.

Posted by Sue on September 16, 2014 07:32

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@Helen - Im not sure what you are smoking today but my comments were in support of the Editor and PW.

The editor knows why he moderated some of my comment but their was certainly nothing bad or unsupporting to him in it.

Posted by phuket Saviour on September 16, 2014 10:20

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@ Helen

I ride a 110, what was the bet for please?

Posted by stevenl on September 16, 2014 13:50


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