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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid