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a Martin Luther King quotation

Phuketwan Editor Considers the Verdict on Rohingya Abuses and Media Freedom

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
PHUKET: The editor of Phuketwan is taking his holiday from the comments section from tomorrow, a little earlier than usual this year.

Regular readers of Phuketwan will note that the 'Coming Events on Phuket 2015' in the daily PhuketWATCH column lists 'July 14-16 Trial of Phuketwan journalists at Phuket Provincial Court' and draws to an end soon after.

In practical terms, we haven't quite yet figured out how our coverage will be sustained during the trial and what might happen to Phuketwan once a verdict is given.

The future of the popular news site is clearly on the line. We believe readers interested in a more just and equitable world will miss the site if it goes.

Closure is certainly a possibility, triggered by an absurd and ill-advised criminal defamation action, conceived by one or two officers, that will inevitably heap added criticism on the Royal Thai Navy and further diminish the reputation of ''democratic'' Thailand.

Journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian have been told more than once that if they apologise, the criminal defamation action will disappear.

The Computer Crimes Act counts can only be halted by the Attorney-General but an apology would enhance the possibility of that happening, too.

The two reporters have no intention of apologising for something they haven't done.

The fuss is over a paragraph republished word for word from a Reuters news agency report. ''When Reuters apologises, we will consider an apology,'' the journalists say.

The government appears to be committed to an attempt to save face rather than prove to Thailand and the world that it can tell right from wrong.

These one or two officers made a simple error of judgement. Now the journalists, Thailand and the Royal Thai Navy are to all suffer for that needless mistake.

Given the track record of Phuketwan in exposing the Rohingya abuses in Thailand over the past seven years, there is plenty of cause to speculate why these one or two officers sought to hammer the small news outlet with Thailand's iniquitous laws rather than settle the matter in a sensible fashion, by making a telephone call to complain to Reuters or to Phuketwan.

Three days after the paragraph appeared - the 41 words do not even mention the Royal Thai Navy - Phuketwan gave equal prominence to the Navy's denial of any connection with human trafficking.

That should have been the end of it. But no . . . the officer or officers wanted more. Five months later, without any warning, police were asked to act.

Next month's trial will trigger intense interest, with the reporters facing up to seven years in jail.

The hearing not only focuses attention again on the Rohingya exodus and the Thai military's worryingly intimate relationship with Burma, but also highlights the issue of media repression in Thailand.

The case predates the military takeover but the disinclination to end it speedily and honorably will inevitably create even greater concern about whether this government can tolerate a free media - and how it plans to permanently end the extortion and torture of the Rohingya Muslims.

Essential Background


ALAN MORISON and Chutima Sidasathian remain on bail of 100,000 baht each, provided by the Andaman Community Rights and Legal Aid Centre, based in Trang province. Other groups and organisations have also offered financial help.

Most of the legal costs of the case are being met by the London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative.

In Thailand, a group of more than 10 lawyers have teamed up to provide legal counsel. They include the Human Rights Lawyers' Association, iLaw and SR Law.

WATCH Journey into Hell, by Four Corners
From Burma through Thailand, an award-winning current affairs team traces official complicity in the brutal treatment of the Rohingya and Phuketwan's part in its exposure.
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/06/22/4257490.htm

WATCH How Trafficking Works
Phuketwan Investigative reporter Chutima Sidasathian, still being sued for criminal defamation over a Reuters paragraph: ''It's worse and worse, day by day. Nobody cares''.
http://journeyman.tv/67116/short-films/rohingya-hd.html

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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It's great you have a huge support from Lawyers on your side. Let's hope that the Judicial system will be honest and fair.

All eyes are on Thailand.

Posted by Tbs on June 30, 2015 11:48

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When journalists apologize to the thai Navy, the thai Navy will drop the case?
Just for apologize?
That shows it is in fact not a serious case if only a apologize is wanted.It makes the caser a shallow water case.
A storm in a water glass.
I am sure the Court/judge(s)will read that as well with very much interest.

Posted by Kurt on June 30, 2015 12:20

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As unjust as it may be TIT.

'A foreigner will never understand Thai culture.'

Thais' apologise every day to 'superiors and patrons' that's Thai culture. And possibly Khun Chutima may have already done so had you not been involved.

Some people may consider your own refusal to do so as a cultural mistake. No doubt you will appeal any conviction and prolong the stress and consumption of scarse resources when a simple apology will suffice.

It would be an injustice to do so, yet Phuket prison has thousands incarcerated in unjust conditions.

If my comment is wrong, rude or offensive, I truly apologise and wish you all the best.

Posted by gee on June 30, 2015 12:34

Editor Comment:

Thailand is, like the rest of the world, emerging into the 21st century and making decisions based on right or wrong these days. It's a modern trend, gee. Khun Chutima understands and can tell the difference between right and wrong. She knows what is good about Thai culture and what parts Thailand needs to leave behind. Plainly, you are conjuring up a part of the past that needs to be discarded, gee. Thank you for your kind thoughts. Perhaps one of these days, you too may come to learn the difference between right and wrong.

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Freedom of speech vs kowtow

The armed services are services for Thailand. And to be checked by sometimes unnerving journalists to keep em healthy. The officers trying to silence Phuketwan do the future armed services of Thailand a dinnaer gift. Laying the seed for decay in moral and mind.
The Royal Navy should lead by example for a strong and healthy Thailand. Instead of produce wrong translations and only go after the little guy who reprint. I mean, everyone see it as a factual joke and a great example how badly the law can be misused to bring harm in the process to people you don't like.

Posted by Lena on June 30, 2015 13:52

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And as an afterthought. Did Reuters apologize? Did they kowtow? Anyway, they just suck.

#ReutersPulitzerFail

Posted by Lena on June 30, 2015 13:55

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Dear Ed

I often suspect that I am witnessing some cultural brainwashing whenever I read comments such as gee's.

I do not wish to sound disrespectful to gee. I do not wish to appear to disrespect any foreigner who is striving to fit in with Thai culture.

There are aspects of Thai culture that are wonderful. However, some aspects of Thai culture are plainly morally wrong and should be banished to the history books.

The concept that: so-called "superiors" are always right especially when they are wrong; perpetuates serious injustice and human rights abuses.

It is just wrong. The Royal Thai Navy is wrong.

The problem is not that foreigners misunderstand Thai culture. The problem is that too many Thais have a moral compass that is fixed in the past. They think it is acceptable to exploit the weak and disadvantaged. They have not yet truly entered the 21st century.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on June 30, 2015 14:07

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Stay strong. The Thai Navy should be apologizing to you both, not the other way around. It's time to stand for what is right. I've never understood all this cow-towing and "respect" for people in authority. They are not special, they are just people like you and I.

Posted by Scudman on June 30, 2015 14:20

Editor Comment:

As an honrable organisation, the Royal Thai Navy should admit its officers acted in error, based on poor translation and even worse legal advice, and move on.

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Hi Alan and K Chutima. It will be a very sad day if we loose PW. PW is the only free and up to the minute news source on Phuket, in fact, for the region. As for the other news outlets, we have to endure stale news, news that is days old or even noteworthy events that we should know about, get censored. Praying for both of you and PW return to former glory. I would like to see the score of PW 5 - 0 RTN and Thailand.

Posted by Robin S on June 30, 2015 15:20

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Ed, I can understand the use of the word "honourable" but I would expect an "honourable" organisation would have dropped these ridiculous charges.

Posted by Laurie Howells on June 30, 2015 16:47

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AM, you attack your reader's comments so many times for no reason as you know they cannot punish you. The Thai navy can!

Posted by What? on June 30, 2015 17:46

Editor Comment:

Readers who attack me inevitably get as good as they give, 'What?' As yet another time-consuming troll, I'm sure you understand. Where did 'How?' go and why do you bother? I'm impervious to idiots.

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May I offer my best wishes to you both.
Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of all 'advanced' cultures and is essential for progress.
Not everyone always agrees with you ED but that is a basic human right to disagree and argue your own point, litigation because someone doesn't like your article is at best childish.
I fear this is more about Navy 'face' than who is right or wrong, I hope I am incorrect and the judicial system is more balanced.

Posted by stu on June 30, 2015 17:51

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Thai authorities are continually camping down on freedom of speech, and contraversial journalistic articles which may be perceived as undermining their authority. Unfortunately they seem to have more pressing issues to deal with, and so the modern policies of the 21st century must wait until they have caught up with the rest of the world. This will take time of course. How long, is anyones guess.

Posted by reader on June 30, 2015 18:19

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Hi Lena, I liked what you wrote very much, and took the liberty to edit and add a little - with all due respect, your ideas are excellent.

The Royal Thai Navy is one of the essential services for Thai citizens, and for Thailand. Sometimes these services are checked by journalists to keep them healthy. The officer (or officers) trying to silence Phuketwan do media transparency and the armed services of Thailand no favors, laying the seeds of moral decay.
The Royal Thai Navy now has a great chance to lead by example, to facilitate a morally healthy Kingdom; instead of going after the little guy, who reprints a portion of a Reuters article that won them a Pulitzer Prize, identifying right from wrong should be the mantra of the Royal Thai Navy.
The Royal Thai Navy versus Phuketwan is a great example (bogus libel charges against Investigative Journalist Andrew Drummond is another) how badly current Thai laws can be corrupted and misused to attempt to bring harm to people that irritate someone - because two quality journalists made someone gaze at their reflection in the in the mirror, consequently making them losing face. But it's okay to lose face, "man up" and change your behavior for the better. Suck it up, get through it once and you'll never look back - or be the same. It's called being the best you can be. The Royal Thai Navy deserves nothing less.

Posted by farang888 on June 30, 2015 23:15

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"I'm impervious to idiots."

Don't you mean "almost" impervious?

Never mind, it's almost over.

Guaranteed.

Posted by farang888 on June 30, 2015 23:35

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Like to show my support for the two of you this Tuesday. What would be the best time to be there?

Posted by peter rawai on July 10, 2015 05:46

Editor Comment:

The court building usually opens at 9am, peter. See you there.

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Dear Ed, I'd like to support the two of you this Tuesday in town - what time would be best?

Posted by peter rawai on July 11, 2015 16:43

Editor Comment:

Court doors open at 9am, peter. Look forward to seeing you there.


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