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A captain is pursuing the case on behalf of the Royal Thai Navy

Phuket Journalists Could Face Jail This Week

Saturday, February 8, 2014
PHUKET: Two Phuket journalists charged with criminal defamation could be in jail as early as next week depending on the attitude of the prosecutor involved in the case.

The investigating police officer, Colonel Sanit Nookong, said today that the journalists were likely to be given a day's notice next week of a requirement to appear at Phuket Provincial Court.

Phuketwan editor Alan Morison and reporter Chutima Sidasathian have been charged with criminal defamation and a second count under Thailand's contentious Computer Crimes Act. They face a maximum penalty of seven years in jail plus a fine of 100,000 baht.

Captain Panlob Komtonlok, who says he is acting on behalf of the Royal Thai Navy, lodged complaints at Phuket's Vichit Police Station on July 17 last year against the Phuketwan journalists and two journalists who work for the international news agency, Reuters.

His claims concerned a single paragraph from a special report about Rohingya boatpeople published earlier that day by Reuters and republished word-for-word in Phuketwan. The paragraph does not mention Captain Panlob or the Royal Thai Navy.

It's believed to be the first time that the military has used Thailand's harsh defamation laws to sue the media. The action has provoked criticism from the UN human rights spokesperson and media rights advocates around the world.

Morison said it was shameful that the Royal Thai Navy was pursuing a criminal prosecution when in any real democracy, a military officer who felt aggrieved would simply telephone the journalists involved or organise a media conference to explain the issue.

''This is an abuse of military power and it is aimed directly at the freedom of the media in Thailand,'' Morison said today. ''If the prosecutor requests that we must provide bail next week, we intend to go straight to jail in protest.

''Laws like these shouldn't be a part of modern democracy. When a good organisation like the Royal Thai Navy makes use of bad laws, you know that the true values of democracy are not understood or being properly applied.''

Phuketwan is a small Phuket-based news outlet that has won international praise and awards for its coverage of the Rohingya exodus from Burma. If Morison and Khun Chutima go to jail, Phuketwan will be forced to cease publication.

''I feel sorry for the Navy because this court action will inevitably trigger universal condemnation,'' Morison said. ''I expect there will be protests in Thailand especially.''

The case against Morison and Khun Chutima (complaint No. 489/2556) is being pursued but the Bangkok street uprising has delayed the processing of the case against Reuters and the two journalists who wrote the paragraph (complaint No. 490/2556).

Thomson Reuters describes itself as world's largest international multimedia news agency. A former bureau chief says it employs more than 1000 staff in Thailand.

Comments

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Good Luck

Posted by Michael on February 8, 2014 19:34

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Good Riddance

Posted by Mark on February 9, 2014 08:27

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Enjoy AC while you can. It's a luxury you'll sorely miss.

Posted by Glen on February 9, 2014 11:41

Editor Comment:

We don't have air-conditioning, or any other energy-consuming luxuries. No point in making assumptions about other people.You clearly make too many.

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If luck is needed - good luck. If money helps your cause - I will be happy to contribute.

Posted by gee on February 9, 2014 12:59

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Best of luck, freedom of the press is the only way to insure accountability.

Posted by Anonymous on February 9, 2014 14:03

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"We don't have air-conditioning, or any other energy-consuming luxuries. No point in making assumptions about other people.You clearly make too many."

I would call a computer an energy consuming luxury. Maybe if you got rid of this luxury, you might not have got yourself into this trouble in the first place.

Posted by Glen on February 9, 2014 18:00

Editor Comment:

Those of us who live in the real world wouldn't call a computer ''an energy consuming luxury.'' But you're free to live where you choose, Glen. We didn't ''get ourselves into this trouble in the first place.'' We simply reported what was being said. Where we live, in a democracy, that's called a free media.

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You will face not jail but fame and glory. Making a stand for freedom of speech and against ridiculous use of law under personal sacrifice.

That thing could become big. And a big mistake on part of the Thai Navy. Getting juicy for other news agencies. Most likely it will be a long and dire drag through the court proceedings. Sucking your energy and time and money. You should meditate over counter suing the captain and his superiors in the US.

Posted by Lena on February 9, 2014 19:39

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Those of us who live in the real world wouldn't call a computer ''an energy consuming luxury.''

Those who live in the real world would disagree with you.
Only the last 30 years has the computer become relevant and a majority of the people in this nation you choose to reside operate without one.
As a senior citizen, you were around before mobile devices and even television so should be able to understand my point.

Enjoy your fan cooled office.

Posted by glen on February 10, 2014 06:57

Editor Comment:

You were the one who said: ''I would call a computer an energy consuming luxury. Maybe if you got rid of this luxury, you might not have got yourself into this trouble in the first place.''

Thailand has more telephones capable of computer functions than people. Smart phones no longer qualify as energy consuming luxuries but as everyday necessities for most. You're caught in your own time lapse, Glen. The world is changing. Turn off your AC. Get real.

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good luck . people such as yourselves are desperatley needed in society but also desperatley in short supply. all the best

Posted by anthony on February 10, 2014 07:59

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allan my wife and i wish you success in your fight ....we are opening a pub shortly in phuket nai harn area and hope to have a beer with you to toast your victory ! as for this character glen....
there is one born every minute.. nuff said
graham

Posted by graham on February 10, 2014 16:47

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@graham, how patronizing can you get? That was pathetic.

Posted by It's too late on February 10, 2014 18:10

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@graham, how patronizing can you get? That was pathetic.

You are spot on sir..vomit material at best...

Posted by Andre on February 10, 2014 19:59

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God bless you both and peace and blessings to all concerned.

Posted by SilverSurfer on February 11, 2014 12:50

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Good luck both of you and I pray we can still read your news online at the end of the week?
.

Posted by Robin on February 11, 2014 14:43


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