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Detail from a cartoon in 'The Nation'

Royal Thai Navy Case 'Can Be Settled'

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
PHUKET: Two Phuket journalists being sued by the Royal Thai Navy have suggested that a quick resolution to the case would be in the best interests of Thailand.

The Navy's pursuit of the Phuketwan reporters has brought strong criticism from international groups including the UN's human rights body, the International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and other organisations.

Australian Alan Morison and his colleague Chutima Sidasathian maintain they are innocent and that the Royal Thai Navy's use of criminal defamation and the Computer Crimes Act against them cannot be justified in any democratic nation.

In a message delivered a few days ago to a US delegation now visiting Thailand, the journalists propose a possible solution that would quickly resolve the case and clear their names.

The Phuketwan pair have won international acclaim for their coverage of the exodus from Burma of the stateless Rohingya boatpeople.

Last year's US State Department Trafficking in Persons report mentioned the case unfavorably in downgrading Thailand to Tier 3, the lowest level.

The case is likely to be mentioned in this year's TIP report again unless it can be ended, which is the express wish of the Phuketwan pair and senior officials at the highest level of Thailand's Government.

Morison and Khun Chutima will be speaking to journalists about the case this week and next week in Australia.

In March they plan to attend the International Press Institute's annual general meeting in Burma, to explain the unprecedented military versus media action to journalists from 120 countries.

A speaking tour of Europe in being scheduled for April.

Last week, Khun Chutima visited the office of the Prime Minister of Thailand with human rights lawyers to present a letter asking for the case to be brought to an end.

On Monday, human rights lawyers presented another letter to US officials visiting Bangkok to review Thailand's Trafficking in Persons status.

Evidence in the trial is due to be delievered on Phuket in mid-July.

Letter Given by Human Rights Lawyers in Thailand to US Officials

THE TWO reporters involved in the Royal Thai Navy versus Phuketwan criminal defamation case believe that the best interests of Thailand and of all parties concerned would be served by bringing the trial forward.

If the prosecutor at Phuket Provincial Court could then be persuaded to offer a nolle prosequi submission, the trial could come to an end immediately. [Nolle prosequi is Latin for ''We shall no longer prosecute.'']

Journalists Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian believe this would be a just and fair outcome to a misguided action that continues to damage the reputations of the Royal Thai Navy, Phuketwan and Thailand.

The charges under criminal defamation laws and the Computer Crimes Act were laid without justification by the Navy, Morison and Khun Chutima believe.

The pair say that they were merely doing their jobs by publishing a news article extracted from a longer Reuters news agency feature that included a paragraph to which at least one officer in the Navy took exception.

The paragraph was republished word for word from the Reuters report, with quotation marks around it.

Although Reuters originated the paragraph, the agency journalists who were its authors have not been charged, nor has the agency.

Others news outlets in Thailand that published the same information have not been charged.

The reporters say that the proper course of action by any officer offended by publication would have been to contact Reuters or Phuketwan or both directly to seek a clarification or publication of an alternative viewpoint.

All large organisations also have the option of holding a media conference to clarify the facts.

By prosecuting Phuketwan and only Phuketwan, the Royal Thai Navy is being perceived as undertaking a vendetta based on the online site's seven-year award-winning coverage of the exodus of the Rohingya boatpeople from Burma.

The original paragraph in English referred to ''naval forces'' but the translation into the Thai language provided to police and the Phuket prosecutor mentioned ''the Royal Thai Navy'' three times.

Morison and Khun Chutima say they have always had the greatest respect for the Royal Thai Navy. At no stage have there ever been political or personal reasons for them to report about the Navy in a less than positive way.

The journalists point out that in the case, they have been the victims.

As a direct result of the charges, Phuketwan has lost a large amount of advertising revenue. The site may not survive.

The pair have been shunned by Navy supporters on Phuket. For several months they were banned from the Navy base, with Khun Chutima's photograph displayed for all visitors to see at the entry guardhouse.

Stress has been intense, particularly as the reporters chose to continue to report what was happening to the boatpeople, bringing them into contact with authorities who were aware of the Navy's action.

The two have spend five hours in cells beneath Phuket Provincial Court, awaiting a decision on bail.

Morison's passport remains in the hands of court officials and he has expended large amounts of time and energy regaining the document temporarily to visit his ailing 91-year-old father in Australia.

The pair have had to meet the cost of frequent trips to Bangkok.

Despite the difficulties, the journalists bear no grudges. However, they do continue to believe that their exoneration is the only just way of settling the case.

They maintain that they have done nothing wrong and have no cause to apologise because they have done nothing wrong.

Morison and Khun Chutima believe it would be fair and reasonable for the Royal Thai Navy to accept that a mistake was made by one or two officers, acting on bad advice.

It is still the reporters' belief that the military versus media prosecution was misguided and out of character for the Royal Thai Navy. Such a mistake merely shows that the military is human.

If the action comes to a quick and just end, the reporters believe it is unlikely to have a detrimental effect on the excellent reputation of the service.

The journalists do not believe in using bad laws to seek redress and would welcome settlement of the matter and a return to a normal relationship with the Royal Thai Navy as soon as possible.

Full Cartoon from The Nation

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/specials/nationphoto/show.php?id=30&pid=16667

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Dear Editor

This is a very good summary of what has transpired so far.

There are many good people hoping that this unfortunate episode will come to a favourable conclusion for you and Khun Chutima very soon.

Until then you will continue to receive plenty of international support.

Ian Yarwood
Perth, Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on January 28, 2015 13:42

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At this point giving a 'get out' option seems like the best course of action for all parties involved. It's just a shame that Reuters' Pulitzer Prize winning article didn't bring about any arrests or visible change to the situation in Burma or this horrendous trafficking system.

Posted by James on January 28, 2015 16:34

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Now that both Andy, Hall and Drummond from had gone from Thailand, I very much hope that you stay and receive.

I would very much miss PW with its mix of gossip, politics and cautious criticism.

And the forum is unique!

Posted by Georg The Viking on January 28, 2015 17:32

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You play with fire, you get burned, why -as a foreigner- fcuk with Thai authorities? Did you expect another outcome, or did you think you were teflon coated by virtue of your holier than thou nationality?

Posted by Marc on January 28, 2015 18:42

Editor Comment:

I am not the slightest bit interested in nationalities - mine or any other person's nationality - but I do have a special interest in those who are stateless and deprived of the benefits that nationality brings. The principles of human rights are universal and most thoughtful men in uniform in Thailand understand them. A bit more research by you would open your eyes, Marc, to the real world.

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As long as marine 5 Office has more power than NCPO, as long the thai navy is not visible in control of Phuket beaches, as long as Phuket councils can do just what they want. That long the PhuketWan case will go on. perhaps in September, when the PM has to show up in UN New York, than out of the blue the whole case evaporates. But before that time, PhuketWan has to file matters in New York.

Posted by Kurt on January 28, 2015 19:18

Editor Comment:

It's a long bow to draw to connect Marine Office 5 and the Prime Miinister, Kurt. We certainly hope the PW issue is gone by September, along with human trafficking.

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kind of late in the game to be called quickly

Posted by mike on January 28, 2015 23:42

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Interesting article in BP this morning, 15 police officers and a RTN officer charged with people trafficking.

Someone is finally linking the dots!

Posted by Manowar on January 31, 2015 03:18


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