Thailand Tries to Stifle Reporting on Rohingya
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
CHARGES of criminal defamation and computer crimes facing the news website Phuketwan.com
are a brazen attempt to stifle investigative reporting into human rights abuses against ethnic Rohingya migrants in Thailand, PEN American Center said in a statement today.
On July 14, Phuketwan
editor Alan Morison and journalist Chituma Sidasathian will go to trial on charges filed in December 2013 by a Thai navy official under criminal defamation statutes and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.
The charges stem from a 2013 story on the small independent news site that excerpted from a Reuters special report incriminating several Thai naval officers in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma for the Phuket coast.
The Thai Royal Navy denies the accusations.
''This gagging of independent voices has become widespread in Thailand, where free expression violations are on the rise as the military junta tightens its grip on civil society and the media,'' said Karin Karlekar, director of PEN's Free Expression Programs.
''Phuketwan is one of the only news sources in Thailand committed to pursuing the story of the Rohingya, whose plight has become a matter of urgent international concern.
''The government of Thailand should refocus its energies on curbing collusion in human rights abuses by members of its own navy, rather than frivolous attempts to camouflage them by shackling the press.''
The case against Morison and Sidasathian was filed under the previous civilian government, but has been kept active by the military administration that came to power following a May 2014 coup resulting in a broad crackdown on civil society and individual expressions of dissent.
If convicted, the Phuketwan
journalists face up to seven years in prison and fines of $3010 USD each.
''The case predates the military takeover,'' editor Alan Morison said in a statement this week, ''but the disinclination to end it speedily and honorably will inevitably create even greater concern about whether this government can tolerate a free media - and how it plans to permanently end the extortion and torture of the Rohingya Muslims.''
About Pen America Centre
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4000 US writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide.
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From Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people....All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Many of these rights, in various forms, are today part of the constitutional laws of democratic nations. Thailand disregards such important matters, and in the eyes of the world is sinking in the mud.
July 1, 2015 08:32
ED.Why not take a leaf out of world politics and diplomacy 101?
Offer empty insincere apologies..The world will understand - get your life back and we get to keep Phuketwan?
July 1, 2015 09:49
Apologising for doing something we did not do would be a lie. The truth is quite different, and as journalists our affinity is always with the truth.
Isn't the case based on a transliteration?
Thai naval force to Royal Thai Navy.
Just a result of the translators proficiency in the English language. Wouldn't a certified translator/ British embassy official be able to clear this matter within minutes?
July 1, 2015 11:23
If the Navy had taken the trouble to telephone Reuters or Phuketwan immediately after the article appeared on July 17, 2013, it would have been settled within minutes. Unfortunately, the Navy chose to wait until December, then sue Phuketwan for Reuters' words. A simple error, compounded quite deliberately. We still wonder why this course of action was chosen over such a simple mistranslation, and why an easily-fixed misunderstanding was used for such serious charges.
There has already been a great deal written on this site about the merits and problems with offering empty apologies.
Insincere apologies in Thailand protect the powerful and condemn the powerless. Alan and Khun Chutima could not really call themselves journalists if they offered insincere apologies when they have done nothing wrong.
In addition david, it is only the Attorney General's office that can drop the more serious Computer Crimes Act charges. If the journalists "apologise" now then they could condemn themselves to 5 years jail each on the Computer Crimes Act charges.
They cannot cut a deal with the Royal Thai Navy even if the parties wanted to.
The Navy has painted itself into a corner.
David, have you asked the Attorney General's office why it has not dropped the Computer Crimes Act charges? That is a much better question.
July 1, 2015 12:41
getting sick of PW plastering the paper with your own opinions of your own case...pleading with the minimal readership about this great injustice and the threat to free speech. This is Thailand... apologize and get over it.
July 1, 2015 14:05
@ Richard Vickers
Spend a year or two as a victim of human trafficking then see if your view changes.
No one makes you read anything on this site Richard.
Richard, you have freedoms that other people do not have. The Navy wants to crush a free press.
You on the other had can even express views that have negligible merit. Please use your freedom to express views that are worth something.
July 1, 2015 14:29
"The charges stem from a 2013 story on the small independent news site that excerpted from a Reuters special report incriminating several Thai naval officers in the trafficking of Rohingya migrants fleeing ethnic cleansing in Burma for the Phuket coast."
Call me picky but this paragraph is somewhat misleading.
The charges stem from one paragraph only. Thai Naval officers were not referred to. The Royal Thai Navy was not referred to. The subject of the paragraph was the vague: "Thai naval forces."
"The Thai Royal Navy denies the accusations." There is no such thing. The correct name is the Royal Thai Navy.
With all due respect to PEN American Center, precise words are exceptionally important especially when discussing criminal defamation charges.
While I am being picky, I see that your readers, Richard Vickers exhibits little understanding of the charges even though he expresses some very critical opinions and even though he complains that there is too much coverage of this story.
With respect to Richard, it is clear that he has read little of the coverage or has simply failed to understand much of it.
Phuketwan provides a free online news service. Why should any reader complain?
Solicitor - Perth, Western Australia
July 1, 2015 15:21
"ED.Why not take a leaf out of world politics and diplomacy 101?
Offer empty insincere apologies..The world will understand - get your life back and we get to keep Phuketwan?"
Ed is not a diplomat! Just ask any of his readers.
He is a journalist. They are completely different creatures.
Diplomats are essential for the roles they perform. If all journalists were turned into diplomats though, the world would descend into chaos as important information would all be classified "For your eyes only."
The public would be given the mushroom treatment - kept in the dark and fed on manure.
July 1, 2015 16:22
Why are the Rohingya Minorities being Persecuted? What are other world leaders doing about this? Please watch to know! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF63ysPL2fs
Share to create awareness!
July 1, 2015 17:17
A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the journey.
July 1, 2015 17:25
"A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the journey."
In this journey only the destination matters - guilty or innocent.
The verdict will indicate if corruption is on the rise - or on the wane.
May we live in interesting times indeed..
July 2, 2015 02:54
I dont understand this anti buddhist propaganda, rohingya are joining taliban, thailand shud help rohingya leave for indonesia and saudi arab, instead of settling and creating problem in buddhist country
July 2, 2015 05:34
You have not identified what you mean by anti Buddhist propaganda. If you wish to learn about the situation that the Rohingya are in then perhaps start by viewing the documentary that Sara has provided a link for. See above.
There is a huge amount of other material on Youtube for you to view if you wish to understand more. There is a huge amount of material on the internet to read if you are serious about wishing to understand what is happening.
You can learn how radical Buddhist monks in Burma have been inciting hatred towards the Rohingya.
July 2, 2015 07:35
ED et al.Fair enough..An apology would be a lie But:
One still wonders what happened to the witnesses of the shootings of Rohingya in Pang Nga.
Why are the police interviewing witnesses 'pre trial' re the trafficking of Rohingya by 'officialdom' saying it may take up to 5 years?
Surely as good Buddhists they are not lying??
July 2, 2015 14:52
The Navy conducted its own investigation and found no cause for alarm.
Pukhetwan has been writing lies against Myanmar for a while. Probably Thai authorities had enough of lies. First of all there is no 'Rohingya' minority in Myanmar. Second, so called Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh pretending to be Myanmar nationals. Any one who distort truth and tell lies (like Joseph Goebbels) is bound get in trouble with law of the land.
July 2, 2015 15:18
Will you please come along to Phuket Provincial Court on July 14? We need to show how Thailand's commitment to help Burma ''dispose'' of its Rohingya citizens has warped the morals of people in both countries. You would be a perfect example.
Your comment is entirely consistent with the views expressed by the radical Buddhist monks of Burma who have been actively inciting hatred against the Rohingya.
Indeed sir, you should be congratulated in the way you even copied their poor English grammar and poor spelling.
Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that your real name is a Burman name. It must be quite an experience to be brainwashed and oblivious to the fact. You can look up the word "oblivious" in your English/Burmese dictionary Daw "Andrew."
July 2, 2015 15:51
kind of like being stuck in a tar pit with you enemy, the more you both fight the deeper you sink.
July 2, 2015 22:25
I would tell you to go to hell! - but you're already there.
Up to you. You reap what you sow. How is it working for you so far Andrew?
July 2, 2015 22:28
A Mother's Anguished Choice to leave Myanmar and Leave One Child Behind
New York Times 5 July 2015
July 6, 2015 19:48