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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    Diplomats Hope to Revive Cradle of Civilization After Defeat of IS

    Diplomats from around globe gather at US State Department, discuss how to rebuild minority communities shattered by Islamic State group

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100% Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora