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Mediation Talks Fail to Settle Thailand Criminal Defamation Case One Year On

Mediation Talks Fail to Settle Thailand Criminal Defamation Case One Year On

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
PHUKET: Mediation talks between the Royal Thai Navy and an Australian journalist charged with defamation have failed to achieve a breakthrough, with the case likely to go to court in March next year.

Australian Alan Morison, originally from Melbourne, and Thai reporter Chutima Sidasathian face jail terms of seven years or more on charges of criminal defamation and breaches of the Thai Computer Crimes Act brought by the navy.

The charges relate to a report published in July last year in the online English language news service, Phuketwan, of which Morison is editor, that republished excerpts of a Reuters report accusing Thai naval forces of involvement in the trafficking of Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

Earlier efforts by the Thai Human Rights Commission to broker a resolution of the case had been stalled by the military coup of May 22.

Morison told AAP the more than three hours of talks, while welcome, had ended with little progress being achieved to put an end to the legal stand-off.

''My point, which is a kind of broad point, is that the issue should be settled as soon as possible for the sake of Phuketwan, for the sake of the Royal Thai Navy and for Thailand's sake,'' Morison said.

At the meeting, the navy's nine representatives included a vice admiral and a commodore, as well as the officer who last year pressed the charges against Phuketwan.

''We were impressed with the seriousness with which they took the meeting,'' Morison said.

Other Thai language news outlets that reported the Reuters story have not been charged.

Morison said much of the discussion focused on the brief Reuters' paragraph at the centre of the legal dispute and he found himself ''again defending Reuters,'' attempting to explain to the navy the reference to ''Thai naval forces'' only broadly referred to the country's maritime services.

The Reuters story earlier this year won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for international journalism.

But Morison said while the talks failed to achieve a breakthrough, they marked a key step because they allowed each side to discuss their grievances.

''It was good to air our different views and have a better understanding of each other's perspectives,'' he said.

The trial date for the case has been set for March 18, 2015.

Australian Associated Press


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