News / Asia

    Thailand Charges Journalists for Human Trafficking Report

    Reuters journalist Jason Szep is congratulated by a colleague on the phone in the Reuters Washington bureau after it was announced Szep and Reuters had won a Pulitzer prize for international reporting on the violent persecution of a Muslim minority in Burma, April 14, 2014.
    Reuters journalist Jason Szep is congratulated by a colleague on the phone in the Reuters Washington bureau after it was announced Szep and Reuters had won a Pulitzer prize for international reporting on the violent persecution of a Muslim minority in Burma, April 14, 2014.
    Ron Corben
    Two journalists in Thailand are facing criminal charges for publishing a story about Thai security forces' alleged involvement in trafficking Rohingya Muslims from Burma.  The story was originally produced by the Reuters news agency, which this week won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for its coverage of the Rohingya issue. 

    Thai reporter Chutima Sidasathian and Australian editor Alan Morison face charges brought by the Royal Thai Navy for criminal defamation and breaches of Thailand's tough Computer Crimes Act.

    The two have long reported on the plight of the Rohingya for the online Phuketwan news service.  Morison, a former newspaper editor in Melbourne, Australia, established the website more than five years ago.

    Morison said the charges are questionable and appear targeted at Chutima who had assisted Reuters journalists and other reporters on the story.

    "I have no doubt about it.  I am sure the manner in which [Chutima] has helped open up the Rohingya story to the international organizations is one of the reasons for this prosecution.  She has been the person who has, I guess, singularly opened up the Rohingya story to international media attention," he said.

    Last July, Chutima and Morison published a news story that quoted material from Reuters alleging how "some Thai naval security forces work systematically with smugglers to profit" amid the surge of Muslim Rohingya fleeing Burma.  
     
    FILE - Volunteers and police board vehicles before proceeding to Rohingya refugee camps to collect data for the census in Sittwe, March 31, 2014.FILE - Volunteers and police board vehicles before proceeding to Rohingya refugee camps to collect data for the census in Sittwe, March 31, 2014.
    x
    FILE - Volunteers and police board vehicles before proceeding to Rohingya refugee camps to collect data for the census in Sittwe, March 31, 2014.
    FILE - Volunteers and police board vehicles before proceeding to Rohingya refugee camps to collect data for the census in Sittwe, March 31, 2014.
    Outbreaks of ethnic conflict in Burma in recent years have led to thousands of Rohingya, an ethnic minority who are denied citizenship in Burma, to flee the country, often by boat.  

    This week Reuters won a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles detailing the Rohingyas’ struggle to leave Burma and find refuge abroad.

    The report alleged Thai naval forces and police cooperate with human traffickers to send Rohingya to primitive jungle camps until their families can pay a ransom.

    Morison called the case against he and his colleague "spurious" and "deeply flawed."  While praising Reuters on its award, he said the news agency had failed to provide support to Phuketwan in the case.

    The London-based Reuters has made no comment on the charges against the two journalists.  The Royal Thai Navy has not taken action against Reuters.

    Morison blames a mistranslation into Thai of the English language report published in Phuketwan, and said the Royal Thai Navy's legal action is a bid to close the website down because of its coverage of the Rohingya and human trafficking over several years.

    "It is all about one paragraph from Reuters that has been mistranslated by the Royal Thai Navy - it is a paragraph in which the Royal Thai Navy was not mentioned in the original English version, and yet in the Thai version that was presented to police, the Royal Thai Navy is mentioned three times," Morison noted.  "This is indicative of a set up I would say.  And we have no doubt that the Royal Thai Navy is out to shut down Phuketwan."

    Both reporters have received widespread support, including the International Commission of Jurists and U.N. rights groups and Thailand's own Human Rights commission.

    Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said the Royal Thai navy appears to be seeking to pressure Phuketwan.

    "This is a little bit about Thai navy payback where Phuketwan has been a thorn in the side of the Navy for many years in the handling of the Rohingya and the Navy is determined to put them through the ringer and sadly the Thai government - the prosecutor and also the political leadership appears to have washed their hands of this despite the fact that it's going to leave a very dark stain on Thailand's record for respecting media freedom," he said.

    Both Morison and Chutima face five years in prison for computer crimes charges, and two years in prison for defamation charges.

    On the 2014 Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index Thailand is ranked 130 on a list of 180 countries.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora