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Chutima Sidasathian's award-winning photo of Rohingya from 2012

Thailand PM's Office Seeks Rohingya Solution Ideas from Accused Phuket Reporter

Sunday, May 31, 2015
PHUKET: Phuketwan journalist Chutima Sidasathian disclosed today that she has been asked by the Prime Minister's office to suggest a solution to the Rohingya issue - at the same time as she is still being sued for criminal defamation by the Royal Thai Navy.

''It's an interesting conflict, isn't it?'' she said. ''I have been a long-time reporter on the issue and I am also doing a PhD on the Rohingya, so my views are considered worthwhile by some.

''Yet I am still being sued by a couple of misguided officers in the Navy over other reporters' words.''

Khun Chutima and her colleague, Australian journalist Alan Morison, have also recently had to deal with hate campaigners on Phuket who used social media and Facebook to try to discredit Phuketwan.

''Apparently it's a serious problem to tell the truth on Phuket, or to suggest that some things need to change,'' Morison said. ''I have also been attacked for 'not understanding Thai culture.'

''If this means not appreciating corruption and cover-ups, then I am definitely guilty.''

Morison said he understood that George Washington's ''I cannot tell a lie'' cherry tree chopping comment was part of American culture in that it encouraged people to tell the truth.

''I am now wondering whether there is a parable in Thai culture that urges people to lie and to apologise to save face,'' Morison said. ''But I believe Buddhist culture is all about telling the truth and being honest, too.''

Khun Chutima said the disclosures during May of graves in the Thailand-Malaysia border jungle camps and of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis trapped on traffickers' boats had been a confirmation that ''everything Phuketwan has been writing about for years is true.''

''We were thoroughly delighted to see the talking begin at last in Bangkok on Friday, and we sincerely hope it's the beginning of change for the Rohingya, and for Asean.''

The Royal Thai Navy charges against the journalists were clearly mistaken and remain a barrier to future good relations between the military and the media in Thailand, Morison said.

''Given what's happened in the past few weeks, Thailand's reputation could be shredded if these charges proceed.''

Phuketwan's relationship with the Royal Thai Navy has returned to normal and is now quite cordial, Khun Chutima said.

''It was the Navy who pointed out the 'hate' site on Facebook,'' she said. The site, full of factual errors, was quickly pulled down.

The two journalists each face seven years' jail under criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges due to be heard on July 14-16 on Phuket.

However, the words at the centre of the case were written by Reuters journalists who have not been charged and instead won a Pulitzer Prize. The paragraph does not actually mention the Royal Thai Navy.

Letters have been delivered to the Prime Minister and the Commander in Chief of the Navy suggesting that withdrawing the charges would be in the best interests of Thailand.

''We remain prepared to discuss these matters with our social media critics on Phuket or anyone at any time,'' Morison said.

Comments

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Dear Editor and Khun Chutima

Fact is indeed much stranger than fiction!

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 31, 2015 21:07

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There is one fairytale about a lion or tiger king and his three advisors. The king had very bad breath and asked his first advisor if his breath was bad. The first said truthfully yes, very bad. The king got upset and eat that one. Then he asked the second, who thought better lie. And he sad to the king no, your breath is excellent. The king got angry because if this lie and also eat him. The last advisor- I think a fox but not sure - was asked by the king, and he thought a little then said, sorry king I have a bad cold, I cannot smell right know. The king was amused and let him live.
A telling tale from a Thai kids book.

Posted by Lena on May 31, 2015 21:43

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I believe most readers of Phuket Wan will have a smile on their face today!

I know I do.

Well done, Khun Chutima, but please take it easy on those "misguided officers".

Posted by Smithy on May 31, 2015 21:56

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Khun Chutima, now is the time to hit the PM's office with getting all your charges dropped once and for all. You and Alan don't need any charges, you offer only solutions and accurate reporting. Help open the PM and his governments eyes. PW has the solutions to help. Good fortune both of you.

Posted by Duncan on May 31, 2015 22:01

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It is a great honor, that Khun Chutima has been invited to consult on the issue, this acknowledging her competence on the issue - along with the whole PW team. I hope she will make a good input on the subject, and will maintain this channel to bring to the high authority unbiased report of facts as well as reasonable possible solutions.

My personal opinion is that the best what can be done under current circumstances , is international donor program, with bdg ca.10kUSD per overs on, for relocation of Rohingya to other country(-ies), that should cover construction of basic dwelling, educating of necessary skill to earn living in new place and covering immediate needs. I think the UK, as the former colonial power that brought majority of Rohungya to Myanmar territory in the middle of 19th century, is perfectly placed to lead such efforts as it will require a lot of political weight to get such arrangement workable and to get other countries to the table for brainstorming. There is zero hope that in foreseeable future communal violence and genocide in Myanmar toward Rohungya will stop. Beware India partition in 1947/48 when Pakistan was created as a Muslim country and India as mostly Hindu, non-Muslim country, that created in the process the largest migration of population in the modern age, or probably even ever, so no need to be shy of such solutions.


And, of course, I hope, that such arrange to with the high authority - PM office , will eventually really both accused of criminal charges.

Posted by Sue on May 31, 2015 22:10

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How a Nation (Thailand) can device itself and how long before the Someone Sky-high in the Navy or in Bangkok (!) apologise itself for their weird and inconsistent behavior. Especially regarding Freedom of Press. Thailand the country of the Free!

Posted by phuketgreed on May 31, 2015 22:44

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just be careful how you word your suggestions.

Posted by mike on May 31, 2015 23:45

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For what it is worth, you have my full support. You have done a very brave, outstanding and noble job on behalf of of truth and justice. No reward except satisfaction is sufficient. I pray you enjoy it.

Posted by markthalang on June 1, 2015 01:02

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Tactically brilliant.
Tell us how to solve the problem, so that when we don't follow your advice, we will have someone to blame for the failure.
Welcome to the twilight zone!

Posted by MoW on June 1, 2015 03:10

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Who says the Thai Generals aren't pragmatic?

Signed,

Shifting with the Wind

Posted by farang888 on June 1, 2015 03:16

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"Fact is indeed much stranger than fiction!"

Oh my Goodness, it's "Irony of Ironies" all over again..

Posted by farang888 on June 1, 2015 03:28

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Hi Lena

Such a great little story. It helps explain why some people take such pride in being economical with the truth. Most falangs get completely baffled and frustrated with that type of behaviour.

Here is a vaguely similar quote from Winston Churchill: "Tact is the ability to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip."

Churchill tended to be very blunt. He tended to tell people things they did not want to hear, especially if they did not want to hear.

In the Thai kids' story I suppose the lion's breath stank for the rest of its precious life.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on June 1, 2015 09:55

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@Lena
I get it. Thai kids are taught at an early age that their leaders shoot the messenger, surround themselves with sneaky advisors and fail to solve any problems.

Posted by Frank on June 1, 2015 10:19

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Well done Khun Chutima and Moro; it will be a real test to come up with good suggestions, ones that recalcitrant regional govts might listen to. It gets ever harder to see how the charges can be maintained.

Thanks in large part to you two the Rohingya tragedy is now playing out in media around the world; it's even been covered here in Spain (El Pais). I wonder when Reuters will be offering you two a piece of their Pulitzer?

There's a saying the Thai Navy, oops ROYAL Thai Navy, might learn: When you're in a hole, stop digging!

Posted by Rod Usher on June 1, 2015 18:16

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Awesome. Literally. My mouth is agape (and smiling Smithy !). You couldn't make this stuff up !

Well done ... again. I hope you and the PM's office can find some viable solutions to help these poor people. Much respect !

Posted by James on June 2, 2015 17:33

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Wow, this is good news, indeed! I'm not one to comment on many things but really appreciate the work you at Phuketwan do. Even living in Bangkok, I still follow your site. Congratulations, Alan and Chutima - a good feeling with this development.

Posted by JKurt on June 2, 2015 18:05


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