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Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison at Phuket Provincial Court

European Lawmakers Welcome Phuket Verdict

Saturday, October 10, 2015
PHUKET: The European Parliament has welcomed the verdicts dismissing criminal defamation cases against Phuketwan and human rights defender Andy Hall in a resolution that calls on the military rulers to improve deteriorating human rights and return democracy to Thailand.

The European Parliament resolution, approved on Thursday, also welcomed Thailand's Gender Equality Act, ''which signals a more inclusive future for the country's treatment under the law of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.''

The praise from the European Parliament over the September 1 decision of Phuket Provincial Court in the Phuketwan case against journalists Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison comes with the Royal Thai Navy, having been granted an additional 30 days' extension by the court, still considering whether to appeal the dismissal of all charges.

The International Commission of Jurists, one of many highly-regarded organisations that monitored the three-day Phuketwan trial and the verdict six weeks later, this week posted online the first English translation of what the judges said.

Europe's Parliament, having welcomed another court's decision to dismiss a criminal defamation case against Andy Hall, called for other criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges against him to be dropped ''given that his actions as a human rights defender were aimed at exposing instances of human trafficking and improving the legal situation of migrant workers in Thailand.''

He should be free to ''carry out research and advocacy without fear of reprisals,'' the resolution said.

The Phuketwan journalists also have a long record of reporting on human trafficking in Thailand and have won regional human rights and investigative journalism awards for their work documenting what happens to the thousands of Rohingya boatpeople being forced from Burma.

The same European Parliament resolution ''urges the international community, and the EU in particular, to put all their efforts into fighting human trafficking, slave work and forced migration by advocating international collaboration on the monitoring and prevention of human rights violations relating to labor issues.''

Other initiatives are also suggested.

In reaction to passage of the resolution, Thailand has expressed its disappointment with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sek Wannamethee adding: ''Thailand respects and is committed to its international obligations on human rights and it clings onto the roadmap towards an election.''

Many international organisations called on the military rulers to intervene and end the Royal Thai Navy case against Phuketwan before it reached court.

Officials reacted by suggesting that the journalists should apologise to the Navy, even though the two reporters considered they had done nothing wrong.

The court action concerned Phuketwan's reproduction of a 41-word paragraph directly from a Reuters feature series that soon after won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize, the top US award for journalism.

The Navy and police chose to take action against the Phuketwan journalists but have so far not pursued the Reuters' authors or other online sites in Thailand that carried the same information.

Reuters did not offer assistance to the Phuketwan journalists and left them to defend the news agency's words in court.

The European parliament on Thursday adopted a non-binding resolution by 581 votes to 35, with 35 abstentions, to express its concerns at the ''deteriorating human rights situation in Thailand following the illegal coup of May 2014''.

It urged the government to lift repressive restrictions on the right to liberty and the peaceful exercise of other human rights.

It called on the authorities to overturn convictions and sentences, withdraw charges and release individuals and media operators who have been sentenced or charged for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression or assembly.

The International Commission of Jurists' English-language translation of the Phuketwan verdict can be see at:

Along with the ICJ, other observers at the trial and the verdict represented UNESCO and other UN agencies, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Australian Embassy, the International Federation of Journalists, the Southeast Asia Press Alliance, iLaw and the Human Rights Lawyers' Association of Thailand. The Reporters Without Borders observer flew from Paris for the case.

The IFC observer, a barrister, flew from Brisbane. Independent solicitor Ian Yarwood flew from Perth and retired journalist David Harrison flew from Melbourne.

Bail for Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison was provided by the Andaman Community Rights and Legal Aid Centre, based in Trang province.

Most of the legal costs of the case are being met by the London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative.

In Thailand, a group of more than 10 lawyers teamed up to provide legal counsel. They include SR Law, the Human Rights Lawyers' Association and iLaw.

They aim to now try to have the laws used against Phuketwan, Andy Hall and other human rights upholders repealed.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Actually, in this case ( started up by the thai navy), the court's ruling that the journalists were aquitted, that ruling should have been included that the thai navy had to pay all the costs of the accused party.
In many countries is that the normal way of justice.

Posted by Kurt on October 10, 2015 18:56

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