A hastily-called ''Freedom of the Media'' seminar in Bangkok on Thursday is likely to win the pair more support from journalists, academics and human rights advocates throughout Thailand.
The use of criminal defamation coupled with the Computer Crimes Act is believed to be the first time the military in Thailand has sued the media. It's a step that would bring widespread criticism in most democracies.
Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian of the Phuketwan online news site allegedly damaged the reputation of the Royal Thai Navy in publishing a paragraph from a special report on the Rohingya boatpeople by the Reuters news agency on July 17.
The same day, a representative from the Royal Thai Navy lodged a complaint at Vichit Police Station on Phuket that led to the criminal defamation suit. The action by the navy has brought international condemnation from the world's leading media rights and human rights groups.
Morison and Khun Chutima, now facing a maximum of five years' jail and/or a 100,000 baht fine, were interviewed for three hours today at the same police station.
The case against them is being handled by one Vichit policeman while an officer at the next desk is processing a similar action against the two news agency authors and Reuters over their special report.
''We were told today that our case is likely to reach court early in January,'' Morison said. ''We may have to decide at that point whether to apply for bail or to go straight to jail.''
If the pair went straight to jail, Phuketwan - a daily source of news for about 10,000 mostly expat readers in Thailand and around the world - would be forced to close.
Morison and Khun Chutima believe that Phuketwan and Reuters are being sued by the Navy because of their work in exposing the inhumane treatment of Rohingya boatpeople in secret jungle transit camps and at the hands of human traffickers in Thailand.
Escapers from the camps have recently told of deaths almost every day because of the appalling conditions, rapes of Rohingya women and torture to extort money in telephone calls to relatives.
''It's impossible for this nightmare to be happening without the knowledge and help of Thai officials and some officers in uniform,'' Morison said. ''Somebody wants to shut us up.''
Britain's Channel 4, the Bangkok Post, the BBC, the Japanese television service NHK, Agence France Press, Associated Press and Australia's ABC have also been active in exposing the shameful treatment of the Rohingya.
Thursday's two-hour seminar from 10am at the Thai Journalists' Association offices in Bangkok is likely to bring together journalists, human rights activists, academics and media rights advocates.
Discussion is bound to focus on first-hand reports of the action against Phuketwan, concerns of further use of the onerous laws against the media, and the plight of the Rohingya.
Morison said today that the Royal Thai Navy's action appeared to be based on one paragraph from the Reuters report that had been poorly translated to make the navy seem to be more of a victim.
Morison says Phuketwan journalists have always admired the Navy on Phuket. All that officers had to do if they had a grievance was to telephone, issue a media release or hold a press conference ''in the normal way,'' he said.
For information about the ''Freedom of the Media'' seminar, e: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 085 0440234.
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