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Chutima Sidasathian seeks free speech at Phuket's Heroines Monument

Phuketwan Likely Casualty of Libel Laws

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
PHUKET: The future of online news sites being run by journalists Andrew Drummond and the Phuketwan team looks bleak because of the misguided or mischievous use of Thailand's draconian criminal libel and computer laws.

Phuketwan will probably close in February when the editor, Alan Morison, with his passport impounded and obliged to now use a ''criminal visa,'' will no longer be able to qualify for a work permit in Thailand.

Earlier this week, Andrew Drummond announced on his eponymous site that he hoped to head back to Britain next year - if he can escape the multiplying law suits applied to protect several of Pattaya's leading expat fraudsters.

''Foreign crooks have caught on to the Thai laws,'' he wrote this week. ''They know they can cheat and steal other people's life savings and defy their victims to get their cash back.''

Drummond has become enmeshed in court actions filed repeatedly by the expat rogues he has exposed. Their intention is to slow him down and consume his cash.

A professional journalist with a background of exposing criminals of all kinds, including some of Southeast Asia's most odious expat pedophiles, Drummond's enforced departure next year would be a major victory for evil in Thailand.

An important part of his work in Thailand has been in exposing the circumstances behind the murders of British tourists. He says this is the most rewarding part of his role, helping the families of innocent victims to try to achieve factual accounts, justice and closure.

Yet his own predicament is ''not strong enough to make the newspapers in Britain or elsewhere.''

Morison and his Thai colleague, Chutima Sidasathian, who exposed the ''pushbacks'' of Rohingya boatpeople from Thailand in 2009, have been charged by the Royal Thai Navy over a paragraph republished word for word from a Reuters special report in July last year.

The news agency later won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage, including that paragraph.

Thailand's Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation are also being used to silence migrant worker activist Andy Hall, who faces a series of law suits and a bid for compensation of $10 million brought by Thai pineapple processor Natural Fruit.

Workers' advocate Hall was, like the journalists, merely doing his job when he reported the findings of a Finnwatch team that examined the treatment of migrant workers at Thai factories.

Yet as a resident of Thailand, he alone was singled out by the company for prosecution.

Drummond has been forced to use the same iniquitous laws to countersue the rogues and fraudsters. But like Hall and Morison, he believes the criminal libel and computer laws in Thailand are flawed and ''inbuilt to support the crooks.''

''It's just so appalling,'' he said, encouraged by the supporters who have given to his cause but disappointed that the issue is given so little coverage by news organisations in Britain especially.

Hall, on the other hand, has recently gained considerable support from international unions because his case emphasies the way in which migrant workers are poorly treated in Thailand to serve Western markets.

By daring to defend principles and to expose wrongdoers, Morison and Drummond have also been targetted by those who don't like what they write.

Next year, as all English-language newspapers in Thailand deal with the retreat from print which is now reducing the capacity for serious journalism everywhere, online outlets andrew-drummond.com and Phuketwan may become the first casualties in Thailand.

Hall, Drummond and Morison are now watching each others' cases closely - and hoping that the rest of the world is, too.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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The spineless, do-nothing approach taken by the British Embassy is particularly annoying in Drummond's case. He has done great investigative journalism for years and his work has led to a number of cases being prosecuted fairly when it looked like the bad guys were going to win.

If the people in his cases get away with what they are doing, we all might as well pack up and leave like Andrew.

Posted by Arun Muruga on October 8, 2014 20:28

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Readers should offer CONCRETE financial support if they appreciate what these selfless individuals are doing to help Thailand.
- Before they all go away disillusioned

Posted by farang888 on October 8, 2014 21:48

Editor Comment:

Thanks for the thought. Andrew Drummond has already attracted some financial backers and deserves more. We have no wish to compete.

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I agree, I'm frankly amazed that the embassies of various countries just look on when their citizens are being persecuted and discriminated against in Thailand.

Posted by christian on October 8, 2014 22:05

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I agree, Andrew has put his neck on the line many times to expose some of these dangerous criminals and outright fraudsters. Its a shame they may actually beat him by their use of these draconian liable and computer crime laws in Thailand

Posted by Josh on October 8, 2014 22:38

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It Phuketwan and Andrew Drummond disappear, it will be a huge blow to not only foreigners but also Thais who want more than just passive reporting.

And I agree with Arun that the British embassy could have done so much more in Drummund's case. And maybe the Australian in Phuketwan's?

I am out of here by year end, and so it seems many others are. I hope Thailand will be worth visiting in the future if only as a tourist.

Posted by Michael on October 8, 2014 23:37

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It would be terrible to see these important news outlets close :(

Posted by j on October 9, 2014 07:07

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Have you applied to the Australian Embassy for a duplicate passport?

Posted by matt on October 9, 2014 18:04

Editor Comment:

No. We're not interested in dodging the law. Andy Hall has his passport back, thanks to the British embassy. The Australian embassy seems reluctant to ask.

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''inbuilt to support the crooks.''

Or more accurately "in built to support the upper class."

Posted by Nomadjoe on October 10, 2014 13:26

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If the Australian EMbassy issues you a replacement passport, in what sense would you be "dodging the law?"

Posted by matt on October 10, 2014 14:22

Editor Comment:

What point would there be in having two passports issued in my name, one held by the Thai court, one held by me, and my name on a departure blacklist?

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Matt, you can only be issued with a replacement passport if it has been lost or stolen but not due to confiscation in a foreign country.A declaration to that effect has to be made before a replacement will be issued and obtaining any passport by false declaration can potentially give you 10 years gaol.

Posted by Manowar on October 10, 2014 16:34

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Editor: The point of course would be to renew your work permit (duh).

Manowar:Thank you for your clear and concise answer. The reason I posed the question is that for American citizens, it is under some circumstances possible to obtain a second copy of your passport, for use when your other copy is not available for some bureaucratic reason. Perhaps Australia does not provide this option.

It seems clear the that editor is much more interested in portraying himself as victim, and in maligning the Australian Embassy, than he is in finding a way to renew his work permit.

It's a shame, really.

Posted by matt on October 10, 2014 17:52

Editor Comment:

My aim is to have these false and misguided charges withdrawn. The problem with the work permit is a byproduct of these false and misguided charges.
Readers are not the victims here.

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Matt, the confiscation of Alan's passport is just to intimidate and annoy the same being for the constant delays in the case proceeding.
This is really about an abuse of the Thailand legal system to control the media and avoid negetative reporting of the truth. It is about using laws for a purpose for which they were not intended.
A smart person may just say I've had enough, get the case ove, move out or on. Hard to do if you see you future where you now are.
Sometimes in life you have to fight for what you believe in, knowing full well, that even if you win, you probably lose overall. In doing so, at least you don't look back, wishing or wondering how different things may have been.

Better still, if they are going to this trouble, at least you know you are annoying the sh&t out of them also!

Posted by Manowar on October 10, 2014 20:14

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To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize. - Voltaire.

Posted by Duncan B on October 11, 2014 01:13

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I would be ready to pay , say, 300THB monthly subscription for PW app in the Newstand on iOS,MAS for me it is a most convenient channel for such things.
I don't know what is an investment needed to design such app.
But it need not be fully functional as web site:

I pay 16EUR monthly for the Guardian&Observer subscription via the app, but actually it merely "support fee", than "subscription fee", as whole content fully is available on the website without any subscription.

Just consider such channel of distribution and generating revenue.

Posted by Sue on October 11, 2014 02:49


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