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Detail from a cartoon in 'The Nation'

You Will Have to Kill Us, Editor Tells Navy

Saturday, August 23, 2014
PHUKET: Two journalists from Phuketwan were turned away at the entrance to the Royal Thai Navy base on Phuket today and deprived of the chance to inform their readers about the Army-led changes that are taking place on Phuket.

The reporters planned to attend a media conference by Lieutenant General Walit Rojjanapakdee, who heads the Army's region that covers Phuket.

Phuketwan journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian are being sued by the Royal Thai Navy, using Thailand's criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act laws.

The suit is over a paragraph from the Reuters news agency that was republished word-for-word in Phuketwan.

No charges have been laid against Reuters or any of the other organisations around the world that reproduced the same Reuters paragraph, among them Thaipost, T-News, kapook.com, manager.co.th and Sanook.com.

''We were shocked at being turned away at the Royal Thai Navy base today,'' said Morison, the editor of Phuketwan. ''This means that the Navy wants to stop Phuketwan doing its job of reporting all events of significance.''

The Royal Thai Navy's pursuit of Phuketwan was noted in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report earlier this year. The report downgraded Thailand to Tier 3, the lowest level.

After Phuketwan was sued by the Royal Thai Navy, a series of reports by Reuters on the Rohingya boatpeople - including the controversial paragraph - won the Pulitzer prize, one of journalism's highest honors.

The Reuters reports were also quoted in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report.

''What's happened is sad for Thailand, sad for Phuketwan and sad for the Royal Thai Navy,'' Morison said today, after being turned away.

''The Navy could have made one telephone call to Reuters or Phuketwan back in July last year and prevented this disaster.

''Instead, a few people within the Navy are choosing to try to shut down Phuketwan using Thailand's draconian laws.

''In doing so, they are bringing the military government of Thailand into disrepute.''

Morison and Khun Chutima have won international awards for covering the issue of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority who are forced to put to sea from neighboring Burma in large numbers because of ethnic cleansing by their Burmese neighbors in Rakhine state.

How thousands of them reappear in secret jungle camps run by human traffickers in southern Thailand, where they are abused and where deaths are common, has yet to be explained.

''We have the greatest respect for the Royal Thai Navy,'' Morison said today. ''However, we also have no intention of ending our coverage of the Rohingya issue.

''If the one or two people inside the Navy with a grievance against us wish to silence us, they will have to kill us.''

The Navy case against Phuketwan began to proceed in December, long before the military takeover of Thailand on May 22. The case resumes in Phuket Provincial Court on March 18 next year.

Because the case has not been stopped by the military government, it could be referred to again in next year's Trafficking in Persons report for 2014.

Morison, an Australian, has had his passport confiscated and cannot leave Thailand.

Phuketwan is likely to be forced to close in February, before the trial of the two journalists resumes, because Morison will be unable to renew his work permit.

Latest from Phuketwan for CNN

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/07/travel/phuket-beaches-opinion/index.html?iref=allsearch

Full Cartoon from The Nation:
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/nationphoto/show.php?id=30&pid=16667/

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Maybe you should contact the head of the NCPO and see what the top level officials of Thailand think of what the Navy is doing and the disrepute it is bringing to the country, which the NCPO doesn't want to happen.

Alas it is the "saving face" that's get Thailand into trouble again and again.

Posted by Tbs on August 23, 2014 14:07

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Alan & Chutima you 2 have my utmost respect and sympathy for the treatment you have had to endure over this outrageous charge. I can only hope and pray that "someone" up there in the Thai Military upper echelons come to their senses and not only drop the charges but give you guys apologies for having disrupted your lives over the past few months.
If PW goes it will be a huge loss for all of Phuket and indeed Thailand.
Good luck and God bless.

Tom

Posted by Tom on August 23, 2014 14:45

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The new Prime Minister said last night: 'I've always said that we want to create a reconciliation atmosphere so that the reform can be carried out quickly'.
Patience, dear Editor, Patience.

Posted by Pete on August 23, 2014 15:03

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Wow Alan and Chutima, what massive commitment you have to journalists world wide. Like my friend James Foley, I am with Tbs, Tom and Pete with their sentiments. May somebody very high up please stop this madness and let these two reporters get off with an international apology. Save Thailand now. Reason and reconciliation would be a very kind gesture. This case has damaged Thailand internationally. So enough is enough.Thank you.

Posted by Graham on August 23, 2014 15:55

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This whole thing is outrageous and the navy is just making themselves look worse and worse. I really hope you guys don't have to shut down in Feb.

Phuketwan is by far the best news source on the island and the only one with the guts to do some real reporting on issues that really matter.

You have my full support and I wish you the best of luck.

Posted by BigP on August 23, 2014 16:27

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Although outrage, of course,here is for a very reason, "this is Thailand", and the issue can be dealt with a success probably only taking in consideration a Thai way subjective way of dealing with things vs. objective Western way, that would mean if not making friends with NCPO in Bangkok, then at least establishing a working contact. Then they will see you are positive and decent people , and probably transmiss the message downward along hierarchy.

Posted by Sue on August 23, 2014 18:07

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Why don't Phuket resident Phuketwan readers start a petition to send to the PM in the spirit of his "reconciliation atmosphere" pledge?

Posted by Alan on August 23, 2014 19:21

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I really hope that the Military will drop this case.
It would be very GOOD for Thailand's Image and future.
Good Luck Alan and Chutima

Posted by MJ on August 23, 2014 20:55

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The editor may have "the greatest respect for the Thai Navy", but the love is not being reciprocated, all in the name of saving face, as Tbs wisely mentions. Saving face gets a lot of people killed in LOS. The Navy would likely cut off its nose to save its face, but there's no free lunch, we all nose that. The Editor and Chutima are being forced into uncharted waters, waters the Rohingya already find dangerous in the extreme.
We know the Editor and Chutima are Brave individuals, and they should ultimately prevail and win this case, by a nose.

Posted by farang888 on August 23, 2014 22:06

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I wonder if the few Phuketwan readers that garner personal pleasure dissing the Editor would be willing to die for their cause, as Alan would?
Signed,
Rats usually jump off a sinking ship

Posted by farang888 on August 23, 2014 22:11

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I have the highest respect for what General Prayuth and the NCPO are doing, but, as you say, there seem to be some bad apples in the local Navy who should be reported to the NCPO in Bangkok. A petition may be the very vehicle to use. What these Navy elements are doing is bringing into disrepute what the Army is doing

Posted by Guenter Bellach on August 23, 2014 23:16

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How convenient; "Morison, an Australian, has had his passport confiscated and cannot leave Thailand.
Phuketwan is likely to be forced to close in February, before the trial of the two journalists resumes, because Morison will be unable to renew his work permit." A simple and easy method in which to remove what is perceived to be a thorn in the side of some. It will be interesting to see if the Thai journalist association, other Thai groups who claim to have an interest in preserving fundamental rights and liberties and Thailand's foreign government friends will speak out on what appears to be the quashing of an unbiased and reputable information source. The pursuit of this case has the potential to cause far greater damage to the international standing of Thailand than the abuses of the Rohingya than were initially reported on. If readers are truly concerned about the issue, they should express their views to the various Thai groups who will suffer from this continuing saga, and they should ask their respective government foreign offices to speak out on the issue. Silence is the same as tacit support of the ongoing prosecution.

Posted by Ryan on August 24, 2014 01:11

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alan and oi while your still standing and throwing punches you might not win BUT you will never be knocked out good luck

Posted by bondi on August 24, 2014 02:48

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I have read the entire story. It looks like the Thai Authorities want to send a clear message to everyone : "Some stories are better left untold". In other words : "If you are a foreign journalist and if you come to Thailand, don't mess up with our internal matters".

Posted by Lux in Tenebris on August 24, 2014 06:10

Editor Comment:

Thank you for your attempt to help. It's certainly true that the Royal Thai Navy has never explained how thousands of Rohingya leave Burma by sea then mysteriously turn up as prisoners of human traffickers in southern Thailand. Perhaps the Navy does not know. But a Thai journalist has been charged along with a foreign journalist, so there's no discrimination there. And it's clearly an international issue involving refugees, not ''an internal matter.''

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Pure stupidity. Perhaps somebody from the military with some brains and understanding of the modern world would like to step in now ? Tomorrow ? At any point ? (You would have saved yourselves a lot of negative press and political pressure if you had done that months ago.)

So instead of allowing PW to enter the media conference after which they would most probably have written a positive article about the positive changes that have been occurring (after all PW seems to be one of the biggest supporters of the military junta among foreign media outlets - I judge this as a reader), you deny them entry (which shows that they're scared in my opinion) and the outcome is another negative article about the Navy which lots of people will read and be angered by. Does anybody in the military realise the damage being done to Thailand's reputation by these few Navy officers?

PW has a massive support base and if it's forced to close due to the mistaken belief that these officers are saving the image of Thailand it will be another black spot on Thailand's face.

Sometimes I wonder if Thailand is using the same PR agency as Russia, Iran and North Korea ...

BTW ... This isn't just about PW. We're still waiting for answers about how the Rohingya are trafficked through - or simply into - Thailand. The world hasn't forgotten that question. Do we have to wait for next years TIP report ? You can't hide the truth, so maybe it's better to come clean ?

Posted by James on August 24, 2014 10:54

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(moderated)

Posted by PJ on August 24, 2014 13:00

Editor Comment:

We don't publish liars, PJ. I suggest you do some genuine research instead of making up fairy tales.

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The BRAT members are distrubed of the case against international prize winner journalis of Phuketwan. We do hope that NCPO will do the best infavor of both journalists though they are completelly innocent . Due to the disturbance to Phuketwan ,the traffickers are freely running their works . We receive heartbreaking news around the clock from Rohingya victims from trafficker's concentration camps .We wish the best for Phuketwan and its journalists.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President of Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on August 27, 2014 15:27

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After years of antagonising the Navy, army and police of this country what did you expect to happen? Get a bunch of roses as thanks? The question was never one of whether it would come to pass, but rather when, and so it has.....

Posted by Jan on August 29, 2014 08:22

Editor Comment:

Our relations with everyone, including the Royal Thai Navy, are good. A few people inside the Navy have simply acted on bad advice and caused unnecessary problems for Thailand. Your jaundiced attitude to life is, fortunately, your own problem: Evil be to he who evil thinks.


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