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Open Letter asks William Heinecke to save Thailand's reputation

Plea to Resorts Leader on Media Freedom

Friday, April 11, 2014
Countdown to World Media Freedom Day: Day 8


Open Letter from Phuketwan to a Leading Thai Businessman

Mr William Heinecke,
Chief Executive,
Minor International Plc

Dear Mr Heinecke,

PHUKETWAN hopes your large and growing investments in Thailand, Australia and elsewhere continue to flourish, but we feel that we have to warn you about a serious menace that is growing just as fast.

It seems to us that a man investing billions on the strength of Thailand's reputation needs to understand that Thailand's reputation is now being damaged by the Royal Thai Navy in a landmark case against two Phuketwan journalists.

The action has been heavily criticised by the UN human rights body and many other rights groups, inside and outside Thailand. There has even been one street protest in Melbourne, and there will be more.

The big danger is that if the Royal Thai Navy does not end the case, it will inevitably, in the short term and the long term, damage investment and tourism in Thailand.

Why? Because in democracies, the military does not become a bully and sue the media. If there's a problem, admirals in Australia, the US, Britain and other democracies will pick up the telephone and complain to an editor, or call a media conference.

Thailand has some bad laws covering criminal defamation and the Computer Crimes Act that don't exist in other democracies, where disputes between the military and the media are amicably settled.

The positive aspect of this misguided case, with a good organisation using bad laws, is that it will draw attention to two key issues: the need for media freedom in Thailand and the appalling treatment of thousands of Rohingya boatpeople being trafficked through Thailand.

This foolish action by one or two ill-advised people in the Royal Thai Navy is likely to contribute to two disasters: Thailand sliding down both the US Human Trafficking Watchlist and the World Press Media Freedom List.

We would hope a maturing democracy would be righting the wrongs in both issues. But democracy in Thailand is now on the nose, thanks to the Navy.

We remain surprised and shocked at this court action. Let's hope sensible commanders correct this mistake quickly.

Like you, we share an appreciation for the role the Royal Thai Navy plays in protecting and releasing turtles, sometimes at your Phuket and Andaman coast resorts.

Like you, we respect the role the Royal Thai Navy plays in rescuing tourists in trouble off the coast.

Like you, we deeply appreciate the way that the Royal Thai Navy rebuilt villages after the destruction of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.

But when you next visit Australia to check on your growing investment there, you are likely to be asked why Thailand's military does not understand the basic need for media freedom in a democracy.

You are likely to be asked why the Royal Thai Navy remains so secretive and never discloses the truth about what happens to the Rohingya boatpeople off the coast and inside Thailand.

And you are likely to be asked why, if it's easy in Thailand to be prosecuted for republishing one single paragraph from Reuters news agency, any decent-minded tourist or investor would want to go there.

We ask you to use your influence to make sure Thailand's entire business community fully understands the issue and urges the Royal Thai Navy to stop damaging Thailand's reputation, before it's too late.

William Heinecke recently announced a further investment of five billion baht on Phuket. He also visited Australia, where his hospitality investments are growing rapidly. The MINT group employs about 40,000 people in Thailand and is noted for its quality approach.

Phuketwan is taking part in a 30-day countdown to the 30th anniversary of World Media Freedom Day on May 3.

Comments

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I think that by your publishing on your site a copy of a personal appeal to this guy, you have put him in a very uncomfortable position..ie he may not care for you or about this issue tho' i'm certain that he has indeed got full knowledge of it, but now you have made it public, he really has no alternative but to respond to you.
Very unprofessional desperate approach IMO by eds who promote being professional at all times..

Posted by Andre on April 11, 2014 12:30

Editor Comment:

Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps you should keep your opinion to yourself, Andre? Unless you have some specific knowledge of Mr Heinecke, all you are doing is doomsaying and grandstanding at the same time, a balancing act you fail to achieve. As professional journalists, we are trained to not give two hoots about opinions based on guesswork and ignorance. In your case, make that one hoot. You're the desperate one.

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One vital rule for any foreigner in Thailand. Don't pick a fight with a Thai.

Posted by Gee on April 11, 2014 13:55

Editor Comment:

The rule is actually not to pick fights with anyone, Gee. Perhaps you move in different circles. It's also worth noting that the biggest physical danger to foreigners comes from other foreigners. ''Picking fights'' is an imported problem.

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Whilst I can sympathize with your situation, I personally think approaching investors to try and join your cause will not work, after all they are here as capitalists not sympathizers to freedom of speech. Naturally if they do get involved, or even suggest to support your campaign, it could have an impact on their investment. The main problem is that the international arena is already seasoned by Thailand's appauling record on human rights, and of course the public view on journalists (especially foreigners) in general,
Other than sanctions, or greater international exposure on the subject, there is little one can do to appease those that are hell-bent in abusing the laws to prevent journalists from expressing their opinion. Freedom of speech of course must prevail, but it seems that Thailand is not yet ready to embrace this ideology.

Posted by reader on April 11, 2014 14:21

Editor Comment:

Bill Heinecke is a Thai and our appeal is being made to the Thai business community.

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They are gonna crucify you next week. Happy Easter. Happy Songkran.

Posted by Somsak Public Relations on April 11, 2014 17:54

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Go for it Bill! The cause and reasoning is true... nobody wants to see this countries reputation go down a hole...

Posted by Jake on April 11, 2014 21:05

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Next week can't come soon enough well said Andre,Gee,Somsak PR

Posted by Scunner on April 12, 2014 00:04

Editor Comment:

This was the most publishable comment of your last 24 comments, scunner. And look at the company you are in.

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Re; my last reply to you ...You never publish when it shows you are in the wrong...gutless to the end you pair...
And you really wonder why the majority of readers don't support you and comment against you?
You made more mistakes, but as usual choose to attack your readers instead of admitting to it. Thats the only reason you [as i suggested you would] wouldn't publish my last comment..but will no doubt publish this one instead...man up for a change..[both of you]

Posted by Andre on April 12, 2014 08:36

Editor Comment:

You're a total fool, Andre. William Heineke is a Thai and proud to call himself one. Your comments are ridiculous. Go away, please.

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(moderated)

Posted by Laurie Howells on April 12, 2014 17:15

Editor Comment:

I have no interest in your opinion of me or the way this site is moderated. Stick to the issues raised in the article or waste the time of others elsewhere.

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Having known and worked with Bill Heinecke and Minor for around 20 years I can certainly understand your appealing to him. He is someone who has in the past taken a strong stand for what he believes in and is well respected throughout the Kingdom and internationally.

I can't say whether he will support you but I have passed along a note endorsing your cause. Bill has never been one to step into the limelight or champion a cause in an overt way but his subtle work can be quite effective. I hope he does choose to side with you and wish PW success in your upcoming case. It is important for all of us that you prevail whether some readers recognize their rights being trampled on or not.

The risks that you have taken in exposing human trafficking, social problems on the island, corrupt officials, etc. are recognized by most of us. Obviously only a cretin would call you gutless given the current situation you are in. I realise you don't need to hear this but perhaps some of your readers need the obvious pointed out.

Phuket's future seems far gloomier without PW and its readers being able to express ideas, opinions and shared experiences openly.

To those who wish you ill I can only hope that whatever has made them vicious and spiteful is relieved by their comments. I feel fortunate that I am not so full of hatred that I feel the need to spread it around.

Posted by Martin on April 13, 2014 03:52

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PW journalists have been excellently working for the oppressed people like plights of Rohingyas who are know as world more persecuted ethnics . They deserve ever conscious people recognition and appreciation . Their job is holy to us . We wish success of false defamation case plotting against them. Human trafficking becomes a bit collapse due to the PW's bravely exposing .

Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT. on April 14, 2014 14:44


Tuesday September 23, 2014
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