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The Phuket journalists at Royal Thai Navy headquarters yesterday

Thailand Should Pursue Traffickers Not Reporters, Say Phuket Pair

Tuesday, May 12, 2015
PHUKET: Two journalists being sued for criminal defamation by the Royal Thai Navy say that the case should be dropped so human traffickers can be pursued, not reporters.

Australian Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian of Phuketwan yesterday delivered letters to the office of Thailand's Prime Minister and the Commander in Chief of the Navy, expressing ''deep regret'' about what had transpired.

The letters suggested that the case against them should be settled to enable Thailand to fully concentrate on the real issue: human trafficking.

''Republishing a Reuters news agency paragraph is not a crime,'' Morison said today. ''Human trafficking is the crime.''

The contentious 41-word Reuters paragraph - from a series that later won a Pulitzer Prize - was republished word for word by Phuketwan in July, 2013.

Poor translation into the Thai language led to charges under the Computer Crimes Act and criminal defamation being laid against Morison and Khun Chutima yet Reuters and other news outlets that published the same paragraph have not been charged.

''We believe the government of Thailand is now as concerned as we are about achieving truth and justice, not misplaced revenge,'' Morison said today.

''The charges against Phuketwan date back to a different era. We believe this government has moved Thailand on since it took charge and can now see clearly what the real issues are.''

Morison said he and Khun Chutima did not wish the case against them to complicate or confuse a potential solution to ending the suffering and brutality of human trafficking throughout the region.

''Phuketwan has been reporting since 2008 about the Rohingya,'' Morison said. ''Now the rest of the world can see what's been happening.

''A good relationship between the military and the media is essential to any future democracy.''

The journalists are hoping to hear that the case has been dropped before June 1. Their trial, with a maximum penalty of seven years in jail, is scheduled to begin hearing witnesses from July 14.

Most legal costs for the journalists are being met by the London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative. A group of more than 10 lawyers have teamed up in Thailand to provide legal counsel. They include the Human Rights Lawyers' Association, iLaw and SR Law. The Andaman Community Rights and Legal Aid Centre is funding bail.

Comments

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Dear Ed and Khun Chutima

The errors of the translator should not be visited upon the journalists.

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 12, 2015 14:36

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The journalists are 'hoping'. The journalists should demand! The journalists did do their job. Now the whole world sees that what is unfolding, is shame on all thai influential and thai government officials involved in this slavery and concentration camps matter. Smal fishes are catched, but the real high level influential people in this crime episode are not arrested yet.. Why not?

Posted by Kurt on May 12, 2015 14:38

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Nice to see so much support for your cause.

Posted by M Loder on May 12, 2015 16:25

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Make that three journalists

Posted by Anonymous on May 12, 2015 18:29

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Having watched Gen Prayut address the media on quite a few occasions I think it's fair to say that nurturing good relationship between the military and the media is not a priority to him.

International condemnation and outcry is more likely to be the trigger for the RTN to drop the charges.

It will be very difficult for the RTN to claim with a square face they are serious about cracking down on human trafficking when at the same time they are dragging journalists to the courts who try to expose the wrongdoings.

Posted by Herbert on May 12, 2015 19:57

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Like the despots of old, shoot the messenger seems the Thai solution these journalists make unfavorable subjects commonly known they must be punished this whole matter should end in no case to answer.

Posted by slickmelb on May 12, 2015 20:37

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traffickers have big money behind them, reporters do not.

Posted by mike on May 12, 2015 21:59

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Traffickers have big FISH behind them, reporters generally do not.

Except Reuters, who I have lost all respect for. They're just another greedy, multi-headed corporation looking after their own best interests, not the Rohingya per se.

Right Chutima? You know well..

Posted by farang888 on May 12, 2015 23:26

Editor Comment:

The Reuters journalists have done an excellent job and the brand managers at the time of the Pulitzer award noted their courage. The brand managers, however, only know how to protect the brand. Principles don't matter.

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I appreciate your hard work, I get phuket news sitting comfortable at home in Bangalore via Phuketwan, I am going to Pray that the case be dropped!

Posted by Deepak on May 13, 2015 02:39

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the header is so telling!

Posted by Sue on May 13, 2015 02:43

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The headline says it all. They know where you are - soft easy target. Get off their backsides & go look for traffickers - not so easy.

Best of all, go & tackle the root problem, their near neighbor, Myanmar - that is not going to happen when 20 percent of Thailand's electricity generating capacity is Myanmar gas piped directly overland (Yetagun & Yadana - Petronas Carigali & TOTAL).

Posted by Logic on May 13, 2015 08:00

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Dear Ed

Do any of your readers know a Thai language term for "public relations disaster" ?

Given that the object of these charges is to have two investigative journalists receive lengthy jail terms, has anyone in the Navy thought about how this outcome could seriously damage the reputations of the Navy and the country? Has anyone in the Navy thought about the potential damage to an already struggling economy? Does anyone in the Navy appreciate that with a weak economy the ability to raise taxes to fund the Navy is also undermined?

I wonder if anyone in the Navy sought legal advice before taking its dubious course of action? Maybe someone did seek legal advice but they did not like what they heard. Maybe they ignored the advice (if any).

Could you imagine what the advice would have been?

Lawyer: " So you want to go after Phuketwan but not Reuters? Even though Reuters journalists were the author of the paragraph that was widely published throughout the globe? Even though Reuters wrote a whole series of articles and specifically named the Royal Thai Navy in an article in early December 2013? Even though Phuketwan never named the Navy in the paragraph of which you complain? Even though Phuketwan never named any Navy officers or other personnel? Well captain, with the greatest respect, I think your chances are not weak - they are very weak! Firstly, it would be a groundbreaking case because I don't know of any other cases where a branch of the military has even attempted to claim that its "reputation" has been damaged nor do I know if any similar charges brought under the Computer Crimes Act. Secondly, the Navy was not even named in the paragraph. I doubt the court would accept your very poor translation of that paragraph. Thirdly, it will be open for the judges to suspect that you are not genuine in protecting your "reputation" if you are only picking on Phuketwan but leaving Reuters alone. I also suspect that if you charge the Phuketwan reporters you might just attract a tremendous amount of adverse publicity and attention. Now, I strongly suggest you do not proceed and please do not waste any more of my time or yours with these questions. Why don't you devote your resources to catching human traffickers instead? "

Ian Yarwood
Solicitor - Perth, Western Australia

Posted by Ian Yarwood on May 13, 2015 11:06

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Dear Ed

(moderated)

Posted by paulsmith on May 13, 2015 11:51

Editor Comment:

There are some online haters who are lacking in human characteristics, paul. They're the modern-day equivalent of cockroaches. Fortunately their warped views have no value and almost never see daylight.

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If our voices were heard and taken necessary action in times by the concerned authorities there would be no humanitarian heartbreaking crisis that we're witnessing today.The traffickers have done double discrimination on Rohingyas victims after gaining influential guys' full support.PW Editors have been facing unnecessary trouble due to pointing of deadly trafficking. At the end innocent forced migrants die around the clocks .Who will come forwards to save these vulnerable floating Rohingyas in the seas ? It depends on WILL TO DO .

Posted by Maung Kyawnu,BRAT. on May 14, 2015 00:36


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