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Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian: getting ready to fight false charges

Thailand Must Drop Charges Against Journalists Who Exposed the Plight of Rohingya Refugees

Thursday, June 11, 2015
WERE IT NOT for journalists, the world would be mostly in the dark about the plight of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.

They have revealed packed boats being prevented from landing, human-trafficking networks and jungle camps and mass graves on the Thai-Malaysian border.

Amid claims of the involvement of officials, investigations are under way, arrest warrants issued and a Thai general suspected of involvement has turned himself in.

Events should have vindicated Phuket news website editor Alan Morison and reporter Chutima Sidasathian, who go on trial next month on charges of defamation and committing a computer crime.

The pair, who have been covering the Rohingya story for years and contributed to the South China Morning Post's award-winning reports on the refugee crisis in 2009, face seven years in jail if found guilty.

Yet they have committed no crime; they have merely been doing their jobs as journalists.

Charges were brought against them by an officer of the Thai navy after their website, Phuketwan, quoted a Reuters news agency report that received a Pulitzer prize alleging ''naval forces'' and immigration officials were involved in trafficking of members of the discriminated-against ethnic group.

At the time, caretaker premier Abhisit Vejjajiva promised his government would work with investigators, but no inquiry was ever launched.

The journalists were instead sued for besmirching the navy's name and as recent accounts have shown, little appears to have been done to help the refugees.

Government agencies have a right to defend their reputation, but they also have to be open to media scrutiny.

If an accusation is made against a military institution or one of its officers, an independent and transparent inquiry should be conducted.

Intimidating journalists by accusing them of defamation only serves to stifle freedom of the press while ignoring the issue in question.

The charges against Morison and Chutima should be dropped.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Why not say sorry? We all do it every day here in Thailand, because that's the way it works here. Nothing more annoying than another colonial trying to impose their own cultural beliefs in a foreign country. Some may call it bigotry.

Posted by gee on June 11, 2015 07:17

Editor Comment:

We are innocent of the charges. As we have said, once the Royal Thai Navy encourages Reuters to apologise for their words, we will consider whether we should apologise as well. What it's called everywhere, gee, is Injustice.

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Loved the first paragraph of this editorial! Very punchy beginning.

It is such a weird case. Phuketwan did not name or besmirch the Navy but that "tiny" detail did not stop some officers with bringing charges. Too weird for words.

I hope the Navy does a much better job of translating the editorial than it did of translating the Reuters story.

Posted by Frank on June 11, 2015 07:36

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Dear Editor

It must be comforting to see support from so many newspapers and especially from your old 'partners' at the South China Morning Post.

It is a shame that Reuters has been so conspicuously quiet though. I understand that Phuketwan gave them some necessary contacts that allowed Reuters to write their articles that won the Pulitzer Prize. They must be drafting the finishing touches to their editorial.

Your support is very well deserved.

Posted by Matt William on June 11, 2015 08:15

Editor Comment:

Thank you. We have recieved supported from virtually every stakeholder, except for Reuters. At the police station when we were being questioned, the officer at the next desk said he was passing the Reuters case on to the Ministry of Justice in Bangkok, because he believed Reuters was based overseas. We could have told him that Reuters had a staff of more than 1000 in Bangkok. We kept our mouths shut. Reuters' journalism deserves wide praise but the lack of responsibility-taking in this case is shameful, especially as Khun Chutima saved them weeks of research by taking them directly to her contacts. Shameful.

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Dear gee

Interesting question of yours. "Why not say sorry?"

One could reply: "Sorry for what?"

The paragraph that is the subject of the charges did not name the Navy. Anyone following the story on this site should realise that.

Phuketwan did not even write the paragraph but merely quoted it. With respect you should realise that too.

Phuketwan even published a reply from the Navy three days after the publication of the Reuters 17 July 2013 story. You can't get much fairer than that gee.

Phuketwan has defended the Navy in the past gee. Did you realise that gee?

Gee you should also know that the Computer Crimes Act charges can only be dropped from Bangkok. An inappropriate apology on the criminal defamation charge could trigger a conviction in the more serious charge. Many readers will have already picked that up gee.

Perhaps gee you can ask the Navy to apologise for making false charges. It is important to apologise when one is wrong.

The "way it works here" is that far too often the big guy bullies the little guy. Do you embrace that aspect of Thai culture gee? Gee, may I ask where you are from please?

I do not see that Alan Morison is trying to impose his cultural beliefs on anyone. He reports the news as accurately as he can and consistently seeks to verify facts that are presented to him. People who follow his site would understand that very quickly and I note that you followed the Pendlebury story, which is a great example of Phuketwan's accurate journalism.

Alan Morison has not tried to impose his cultural beliefs on anyone although he obviously does not embrace slavery, trafficking, corruption or the death penalty. He is not a bigot although I note that you merely said "Some may call it bigotry".

I hope this reply to your question is adequate gee. Should you wish to say "sorry" in a new comment for any suggestions in your last comment I would be delighted to read it. Saying sorry is the way things work in Thailand gee.

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor - Perth, Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on June 11, 2015 08:58

Editor Comment:

As for bigotry, gee may not realise that two people have been charged: a Thai and a non-Thai. Just how our common reaction can be construed as bigotry, only he would know.

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@gee

I am sure you don't think your post is strange but I find it really odd.

If the Rohingya boat people were begging for bread I would not ask why they don't eat cake. Such a question indicates that I simply don't understand what is happening to them.

Sometimes there can be nothing more annoying than criticisms from someone who has taken no time to understand the situation. Phuketwan has done nothing wrong so no apology is in order.

Posted by Frank on June 11, 2015 09:21

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no doubt you two guys are innocent but the battle is not so important as long as you win the war. it is thailand

Posted by bondi on June 11, 2015 10:31

Editor Comment:

Thailand manages to avoid wars, which is great. As you know, we don't advocate violence in any form, but the words may be flying in court unless peace breaks out soon. Those who started the fight really need to end it.

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Injustice is part of life. Four Western tourists may apologize for causing an earthquake. Doesn't mean they have done something wrong does it?

Posted by gee on June 11, 2015 12:08

Editor Comment:

What does that have to do with this article, gee? Confused?

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@gee,
You must be pretty sore and bruised up today, having been taken to back of the woodshed and succumbing to a royal sh-t kicking, LOL, (metaphorically-speaking that is) from a certain lawyer who is light years ahead of you intellectually, ethically and morally, at least as we speak.

I suspect your rather poor choices in Thailand have rendered you a bitter person.

You may want to consider making positive changes in your life, and you may begin to see the good, instead of only the bad.

In the LOS, many farang choose the wrong Thai women and farang friends, like it seems may be the case with you sir.

It's never too late to change for the better. We are all waiting with bated breath..

Best

Posted by farang888 on June 12, 2015 00:12

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Bigotry "....intolerant of ideas, opinions, or beliefs that differ from their own."

Posted by gee on June 12, 2015 08:01

Editor Comment:

Troublemaker: someone who tries to create conflicts where none exist.

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Dear gee

I think I can agree as much as 10% with your implied assertion that Alan Morison is a bigot. He is certainly intolerant of opinions to the effect that slavery is ok or that human-trafficking is ok. He is intolerant of people who hold the belief that it is ok for them to engage in criminal conduct that destroys the lives of thousands of other human beings. So, in a very, very limited context there is a tiny bit of merit in what you say.

To be fair on Ed though it is pretty clear that you have not taken much time or effort to educate yourself about the Navy case. Sir, you have jumped to some criticisms that simply cannot be justified.

Phuketwan does publish a wide variety of opinions so anyone can have their say on this site so long as their comments are not overly vulgar or rude.

Ed can give some terse replies at times but he displays great compassion for victims of crime and for criminals who have reformed themselves. He is actually much more compassionate than most of us.

Kind regards

Posted by Ian Yarwood on June 12, 2015 09:35

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3 days ago on PW.

"The Phuket journalists have been asked to ''apologise'' but will only consider saying they are sorry once the Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters authors have apologised.

Gee. (Visiting professor. Cambridge England.)

Posted by Gee on June 12, 2015 11:49

Editor Comment:

Sorry, Gee, we and readers will wait for you to make some kind of point. Most of us believe telling right from wrong is the issue here. You seem to see the need for bullies to triumph. Please explain your perverted thinking, or cease your prattle. There is nothing in buddhism that supports the notion that rumor, paranoia and ego must triumph.

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Gee,
Which professor were you visiting?

Posted by Manowar on June 12, 2015 14:05

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gee Gee

Call me skeptical but I doubt you are a visiting professor from anywhere.

A professor from "University of Cambridge" will give his/her name and faculty and will be careful to only express considered opinions. There might be some professors from the town of Cambridge but who work in a different university.

You have not even read the articles or comments properly "professor gee."

Posted by Frank on June 12, 2015 15:05

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"Gee, which professor were you visiting?"

The question says it all!! (: Nice one Manowar.

Posted by Matt William on June 12, 2015 16:20


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