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Navy Pressured to End Phuket Case

Navy Pressured to End Phuket Case

Saturday, June 6, 2015
PHUKET: Support around the world is mounting for Phuket journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian who still face a farcical prosecution for criminal defamation from the Royal Thai Navy.

Senior officers have so far resisted calls to kill the ill-conceived case despite the finding of bodies in jungle camps and boatpeople on the seas proving that everything the pair have been writing since 2008 has a strong factual basis.

Coming up soon in June will be the US State Department's latest Trafficking in Persons report, which featured the nonsensical case against the journalists last year as a provocation for downgrading Thailand to Tier 3.

More intense scrutiny is likely to come from the media in Thailand and overseas in the next few weeks.

Here's what a popular Australian weekend newspaper had to say:

AUSTRALIAN journalist Peter Greste is free to enjoy prawns, and sand between his toes, but another Australian reporter has done a little jail time, and only Uncle Sam's intervention may save him from a lot more.

The Abbott government is powerless to stop the prosecution of Alan (Moro) Morison, who edits a news website on Phuket Island and has inflamed the deskbound admirals of the Royal Thai Navy.

It took just a single paragraph from a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters report on the violent persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority to land Morison in the clink for five hours, sharing a little cell with 90 others, including a confessed wife-killer.

Backers cobbled together $3000 bail to get him out, but he's charged with criminal defamation and computer crimes that call for a maximum of seven years' porridge, or in this case, rice with weevils.

Somehow the US State Department paid attention to the reporting on the Phuketwan website, which put Thailand among the worst of the people-trafficking nations.

When Moro and Thai colleague Chutima Sidasathian go back to court for a three-day hearing in mid-July, they hope US influence or attention from some arms of the touchy Thai government may kill the case.

Morison, 67, slipped away from jobs at sheets such as 'The Age' to work around Asia for 15 years, the last seven on his Phuket site.

At one stage Thai hearts melted sufficiently to allow him back to Melbourne briefly to visit his ailing 91-year-old father.

While he was here he attended a Fitzroy bar fundraiser for his defence, organised by Age-old hacks David Harrison and Mark Baker for the Melbourne Press Club.

As Moro tells it, drug smugglers switched to people trafficking because it's better paid and the law doesn't touch them.

Up to 100,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh sail away in the October to April fleeing season, most hoping to get to Malaysia.

Many end up on the Thai side of the border with Burma (Myanmar), where they are beaten up, their cries transmitted by phone to relatives back home who must cough up, or else.

Republished with no permission from
thesaturdaypaper.com.au

Declaration of Interest

Phuketwan journalists Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison are being sued by the Royal Thai Navy for criminal defamation and a Computer Crimes Act count over a 41-word paragraph republished from a Reuters series on Burma's Rohingya boatpeople.

The series won a Pulitzer Prize. The paragraph did not actually mention the Royal Thai Navy.

The service's precedent-setting military-versus-media action predates last May's Army takeover in Thailand. A trial resumes in July. Maximum penalty for the pair is seven years' jail.

Morison and Khun Chutima 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 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

LISTEN The Rohingya Solution
A tragedy almost beyond words has been unfolding in Thailand, where a human smuggling network is thriving with the full knowledge of some corrupt law enforcement officers. Alan Morison of Phuketwan talks to Australia's AM program.
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2015/s4231108.htm

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Dear Alan and Khun Chutima

Your widespread support is matched only by the foolishness of the decision to charge you.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on June 6, 2015 11:08

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I can't imagine that they would follow this through, and throw the reporters in jail for speaking the truth. Nor do I understand why the Thai government just doesn't drop the case. This issue is already becoming an embarrasing hot potato I'm sure for Thailand. The country can ill-afford to pursue this, as the consequences will be very grave indeed. There are no winners, just losers in this scenario.

Posted by reader on June 6, 2015 13:37

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In addition, they should issue a statement thanking PW for bringing the trafficking issues to their attention and apologise to the Thai people for the damage to reputation due to the crimes that have occurred, for many years, under the nose of the authorities having the responsibility to protect Thailand's borders. But I won't be holding my breath.

Posted by Manowar on June 6, 2015 15:02

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The Thai Navy has no business running off to court on such a misguided adventure.

Its role is service at sea.

Posted by Frank on June 6, 2015 15:30

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@ reader

This is your typical Thai "Losing Face" situation. No amount of logic or common sense can explain it.

Gen Prayuth even rewarded some journalists for having revealed the human trafficking atrocities just a few days ago.

For a high-ranking Thai official to publicly admit having been wrong, above all when it concerns a foreigner, it will take an incredible amount of pressure before they will cave in.

Having said that, I do hope Alan and Chutima do not give in and apologize for having done their jobs. With flying colors, may I add. A job for which they have received praise around the world.

Expect this to drag on until such time a face-saving way out is available for the RTN. If none appear, I fully expect this to run it's course through the courts, all the way to the inevitable "Not Guilty" verdict.

The interesting thing about defamation claims is if you can't prove your case, the defendants have a strong case of defamation against you.

Posted by Herbert on June 6, 2015 16:33

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It's time the Thai Navy & all related parties concerned devoted their time to resolving serious issues & not to quashing truths written without bias.

I have long believed this case will die a natural death as it makes no sense.

Posted by Logic on June 6, 2015 21:17

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It is not that the Australian government can do nothing rather the government has decided to abandon one of its citizens and do nothing.
The current Australian government has enough troubles of its own what with mandatory detention for asylum seekers, sending mentally scarred girls back to camps they were assaulted in and refusing treatment for injured children in detention centres. Add to that there decision to charge for all consular services and there disgraceful abandonment of international obligations regarding asylu seekers and, sorry Alan, but a little matter like freedom of the press does even appear on there radar.

Posted by Arthur on June 7, 2015 07:58

Editor Comment:

We are both getting what would be termed in Canberra ''appropriate consular support,'' Arthur, and the ambassador has raised the issue with the Prime Minister. But it's certainly true that other nations appear to have a greater ability to sort right from wrong and to make public declarations.


Sunday November 28, 2021
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