As a result, the trial of Alan Morison, the Australian editor of the news website Phuketwan, and Chutima Sidasathian, one of his Thai reporters, ended at midday today [July 16] in the southwestern province of Phuket after the defence witnesses were heard.
The court is to issue its verdict on 1 September.
The absence of the prosecutors yesterday and today, for which no explanation was given, underscored the weakness of the prosecution's case. In their absence, Morison and Chutima were questioned by the presiding judge and the eight lawyers who flanked him.
''If the prosecutors could not be bothered to come and cross-examine the main defence witnesses, their flimsy arguments were clearly no match for what was a well-argued and solid defence,'' said Benjamin Ismail, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific Bureau, who attended the trial as an observer.
''As a result of the prosecution case's weakness, some of its points were not even raised by the president judge.''
During the trial, which has had a great deal of national and international media coverage, the two defendants have received support from Human Rights Watch, the South East Asia Press Alliance and the Bangkok office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Several NGOs also released an open letter to the prime minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, calling on the Royal Thai Navy to drop the charges.
The two journalists are facing up to seven years in prison as a result of what Morison has called an ''ambush'' by the authorities.
At the end of the first day of the trial, he nonetheless said he felt ''very positive'' and praised the defence team.
On the first day, the defence cross-examined the four prosecution witnesses about their evaluation of the July 2013 Phuketwan article that prompted the charges.
The article quoted a paragraph from a Reuters special report claiming that certain members of the Thai navy were benefiting from the smuggling of Rohingya refugees from neighboring Burma to Malaysia via Thailand.
The prosecution witnesses admitted that they had no problem with the Phuketwan article aside from the quote from the Reuters report, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 and which never led to charges being brought against Reuters by the Thai authorities.
The defence, which was very professional and effective in the presentation of its arguments, demonstrated that the identity of the persons who posted the article online could not be established with certainty. Identification is a requirement for a prosecution under the Computer Crimes Act.
The defence then pointed out that the term ''naval forces'' used in the Reuters report had been wrongly translated into Thai as ''Royal Thai Navy'' by the Royal Thai Navy's translator and that, as the Royal Thai Navy had not been named, it could not be held to have been defamed.
Yesterday, Morison and Chutima answered questions by the defence and the judge about their journalistic careers, Phuketwan's launch in 2008 and their coverage of the Rohingya refugees and the Thai Navy.
They pointed out that their coverage of the navy was far from negative and that Phuketwan has published many articles praising the humanitarian and environmental activities of the Royal Thai Navy in the south of the country.
They also pointed that Phuketwan published the statement that the Royal Thai Navy issued after the article, in which it denied any involvement in human trafficking. ''We had good relations with the navy before the case (...) and we still maintain a good relationship,'' Morison told the court.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB), or Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), is a France-based international non-profit, non-governmental organisation that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press. The organisation has consultant status at the United Nations.
Reporters Without Borders has two primary spheres of activity: one is focused on Internet Censorship and the New Media, and the other on providing material, financial and psychological assistance to journalists assigned to dangerous areas.
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 SR Law, the Human Rights Lawyers' Association and iLaw.
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.
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''.