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Royal Thai Navy officers at a turtle release on Phuket

Thailand Military v Media Case: UN Criticises, But Australia Says Nothing

Saturday, December 28, 2013
PHUKET: Phuketwan is being asked why the United Nations Human Rights chief has issued a statement criticising the criminal defamation action by the Royal Thai Navy yet nothing has been said by Australia's Government.

Our answer: We don't know.

As advocates of transparency, the key correspondence between Phuketwan editor Alan Morison, the Australian Ambassador James Wise and other embassy officials is published below:

December 27

email from Phuketwan to Australian Ambassador and embassy staff

Hello Fellow Australians,

I find it surprising that an international organisation can sort right from wrong and issue a statement while my own country says nothing.

When will I feel proud to be an Australian again?

Alan M.

December 27

email from Australian Ambassador James Wise

Hello Alan

Thanks for your message. Normally, we take up issues like yours with our host government only after the person affected asks us to do so (especially when the case already has a high profile and we can be confident that the host government is aware of it). We would not want to cut across your own plans for managing the way you want to respond to the allegations against you - because, ultimately, how you manage your affairs is your business, not ours.

I will now make sure that the relevant area of the Foreign Ministry is aware of our concerns about your case.

I understand you sent me an earlier message thanking me for the consular support xxxxx has been providing you. For some reason it did not reach me. If it is still on your system, would you please re-send it.

Happy New Year

James [Wise]

December 27

Hello James,

To save too much re-reading I'll cut and paste my first two emails to the Embassy about this issue below. Perhaps I spent too much time beating about the bush. But the second email on December 17 includes the following:

As the case has ramifications for journalists in all branches of the media, but especially the BBC, ABC, Reuters, AFP and Aljazeera, as well as Australian, British and American newspapers, I wonder at what point the Minister may need to familiarise herself with the case? Does Australia always accept unconditionally the application of all laws in all countries, right or wrong? I wonder whether the US embassy and the British embassy share that approach? I see little difference between a US war veteran being held in North Korea and an Australian citizen prevented from leaving Thailand until a particularly specious and unreasonable case is resolved. I actually think a question or two directed at the Thai Foreign Ministry would be an appropriate response. It may be that they know nothing about this case - and would ask some critical questions of the Royal Thai Navy. Is that possible, please?

I am not sure how much more pointed I needed to make the request for some kind of outcry. Perhaps I was too gentle. Sorry. The calls to check how things are going are appreciated.

Cheers,
Alan.

December 16

Hello [senior embassy staffer] (and Mr Ambassador),

My colleague Chutima Sidasathian and I received an interesting visit at the Phuket office today from a police officer. He brought with him a claim for criminal defamation and the two of us are obliged to attend Vichit Police Station or face arrest at noon on Wednesday. I am told we will have to bring documentation regarding Phuketwan.com and my passport and work permit, etc, and that the possibility exists that we may have to pay a large sum in bail to avoid going to jail.

I am particularly concerned that the action, from what I hear, may oblige me to stay in Thailand until it is resolved. With an ailing 90-year-old father and a bouncing two year old grandson in Australia, such a restriction could be more than unfair.

Just why this particular captain is bringing this action on behalf of the Thai Navy may become clearer at noon on Wednesday. As you know, the Navy is more likely to react with stoic silence rather than applying a bad law.

The case clearly impinges on media freedoms, and the vast majority of the article in question [link removed] consists of material provided to newspapers across Australia and around the world by the Reuters news agency.

Why Phuketwan should be singled out for persecution remains unclear for now. As you may recall, we've won international awards for investigative reporting and for human rights reporting for our coverage of the Rohingya. We think it's a precedent-setting action.

I would welcome any official observer that the Australian Embassy may consider appropriate, or advice on how to proceed on Wednesday. Feel free to pass on the news of this action to visiting senators etc or others concerned with civil liberties and actions apparently designed to restrict reporting by Australian journalists abroad.

We probably won't be reporting on the matter ourselves or encouraging other media to report until we have spoken to police on Wednesday.

Regards,

Alan Morison


December 17

Hello [senior staff member],

Thanks for the information. Your interest and the support of the embassy is much appreciated. We intend to present ourselves without a lawyer tomorrow because to go with a lawyer would imply acceptance of what is a bad law. We believe this is an unprecedented case - a person purporting to act for an arm of the Thai military suing two mainstream journalists - and as such we believe a deal of international media attention will come with the case as soon as it becomes public knowledge. I am not convinced that Australia should allow Thai law to be applied to Australian citizens (or any country's citizens for that matter) where the law is so obviously a bad law. As the case has ramifications for journalists in all branches of the media, but especially the BBC, ABC, Reuters, AFP and Aljazeera, as well as Australian, British and American newspapers, I wonder at what point the Minister may need to familiarise herself with the case? Does Australia always accept unconditionally the application of all laws in all countries, right or wrong? I wonder whether the US embassy and the British embassy share that approach? I see little difference between a US war veteran being held in North Korea and an Australian citizen prevented from leaving Thailand until a particularly specious and unreasonable case is resolved. I actually think a question or two directed at the Thai Foreign Ministry would be an appropriate response. It may be that they know nothing about this case - and would ask some critical questions of the Royal Thai Navy. Is that possible, please?

cheers,
Alan M.

Reporters Prepared for Prison:
http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/387125/reporters-prepared-for-prison-in-navy-defamation-lawsuit/

Phuketwan has also received the following email from the West Timor Care Foundation:

West Timor Care Foundation leader Ferdi Tanoni ask for the Australian press to immediately act to defend an Australian journalist, Alan Morison who was under the threat of punishment in Thailand.

''The defense of, among others, to urge the Australian Federal Government to undertake criminal charges against the Thailand State Own Oil Company, PTTEP Australasia that has committed crimes against humanity following the covered up 2009 Montara oil spill tragedy in the Timor Sea,'' said Tanoni in Kupang on Thursday.

Tanoni citing WTCF network reported, from Sydney, Australia mentions a former associate editor of The Age Melbourne was facing a penalty of up to five years in prison after being convicted on Christmas Eve over a report that assessed has destroyed the reputation of the Thai Navy into disrepute.

Alan Morison media on line, Phuketwan five months ago published an article quoting a paragraph from an article that reported by Reuters that explores the Thai government's handling of the Rohingya asylum seekers from Myanmar.

The Australian journalist with his colleague Chutima Sidasathian faces up to five years in prison and a fine of 3500 dollars for allegedly violating the country's Computer Crimes Controversial Act and bringing Thai Navy reputation into disrepute.

Alan Morison and his colleague from Thailand expected to undergo a trial in Thailand in January 2014.

Alan Morison in his writings said Thai Navy has an excellent reputation in the effort to rescue tourists and generally keeping the border of Thailand is quite good, but questioned whether the Rohingya boat people are being handled as it should be.

On that basis, Tanoni a former immigration agent to the Australian Embassy, asks the Australian press to defend their colleague by urging the Federal Government of Australia to criminally prosecute the oil company from Thailand, PTTEP Australasia polluting the Timor Sea.

Pollution of most of the Timor Sea, as a result of the explosion of the Montara oil well, West Atlas Block operated by PTTEP Australiasia in the Timor Sea on August 21, 2009,which to date there has been no any attempt being made compensate the people and to restore the environment.

Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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Before our government gets involved Alan they would first have to grow a pair and considering how both sides of politics in Australia have so shamefully treated asylum seekers including Rohingya, I hold out little hope of any meaningful support.
I do not say this because I oppose the current Australian Government but because both sides have shown a lack of caring in regards to human rights issues.

Posted by Arthur on December 28, 2013 15:34

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That just read like Mr. Bean is in charge of communication at your embassy. Beat around the bush... Hahaha

Serious, the ambassador should better kick some people out, the ones who let him down, letting him write that message. So embarrassing.

Posted by Lena on December 28, 2013 16:42

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It's a perfect bureaucrats' respond.
They speak almost copy-paste language in all tongues, whether all parts of Europe, North America, most corrupted states, and, yes, as we can see, from the homebase of kangaroo too.

Posted by Sue on December 29, 2013 00:15

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hi alan, i am disturbed this has gone so far already, as for the Australian Govt helping dont hold your breath, u may remember i sent u multiple emails regarding my own situation and the lack of interest from the Embassy/ Fed Police. I hope its resolved soon and your New Year is a good one, keep up the good work !!

Cheers Chris

Posted by chris on December 29, 2013 06:58

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In what ever reason,the Australian Federal Government should say to Thai Government to stop the military blind action to Alan Morison....Alan Morison case has got nothing to do with POLITICS and DIPLOMATICS between Australia and Thailand....

Posted by Leo on December 29, 2013 09:43

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Is this the same Australian Government that you've spoken so highly of over the years, that you're now asking for their help?

Posted by It's too late on December 29, 2013 13:20

Editor Comment:

If you are talking to me, 'It's too late,' one of the important points about democracies is being treated properly as a citizen regardless of whether you support the policies of the government or not. I guess some people will never understand what 'democracy' means. I do hope you are not funded by tax payers.

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Alan, your reply to "It's too late" is 100% correct, but unfortunately the bureaucrats that control government depts. are a very different animal and treating citizens "properly" is not always on their agenda.

Posted by Laurie Howells on December 29, 2013 14:16

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I'm not quite sure exactly what you want the Australian Government to do for you. Has your colleagues own Government voiced their concern for her in this matter?
Not all democracies are the same in this world. I'm sure you are aware of this already Ed
Goodluck to the Rohingya. Hopefully oneday all will be sorted in their country and they can return to their homeland.

Posted by It's too late on December 30, 2013 03:22

Editor Comment:

The emails answer your question, 'It's too late.' It would have been appropriate for the embassy to contact the Foreign Ministry as this wrong-headed application of the law began.

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If the rights of journalists are not defended ,how the the ordinary people's Human Rights will be respected . Australia's constitution is very beautiful but in practices it is different and violating Human Rights of boat people refugees as well as her own Australians. Especially ,the Australian civil society should speak out about it.

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand (BRAT) on December 30, 2013 15:00

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Stop complaining about human rights issues in Australia.

Many people are lucky they arent getting killed or jailed for attempting to cross boarders in Australia....

Posted by jaded on December 30, 2013 21:00

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The sad thing is sir, it seems your people are legitimate refugees, where as the so called 'boat people' trying to get to Australia are clearly not refugees.
Arriving by boat is just one means of travel. It's a very lucrative business for Indonesian authorities and people traffickers. Assylum is also sort by airport arrivals whether they're on tourist visas or student visas. The gutless Australian Government has been held to ransom by these bogus refugees at the detriment of genuine people whom need real help.

Posted by It's too late on December 31, 2013 03:15

Editor Comment:

There is probably little hope for agreement between Phuketwan and the Australian Government on the issue of refugees - we have written saying as much. But the hope was that Australia's government might acknowledge the importance of free speech in every democracy.


Sunday December 17, 2017
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