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Thailand Orders Expulsion of 2 Foreign Journalists - 2002-02-25

The Thai government has ordered two foreign journalists to leave the country. The action has alarmed journalists in Bangkok.

Shawn Crispin and Rodney Tasker are appealing a police order to leave Thailand. The two correspondents work for the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine, which is based in Hong Kong. U.S. news company Dow Jones owns the magazine.

The Thai government says the expulsion order is a matter of national security, but the letters sent to the men did not say what they had done wrong.

Many journalists think the action is tied to a January 10 article in the Far Eastern Economic Review. The article covered a December speech by Thailand's king that was considered very critical of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The government banned that issue from sale in Thailand.

Thailand normally is seen as having a free press. This expulsion order is the harshest action the government has taken against journalists in well more than a decade. Prime Minister Thaksin, however, has been criticized at home for actions some journalists say are intended to restrain the news media.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand is appealing to the government to reconsider the expulsion order. Jeanne Hallacy, the club's second vice-president, said the action raises concerns about how journalists will be able to work in Thailand. "We are strongly urging them to try to put a halt to this action for their deportation, in the name of freedom of press, both for Thai media as well as for foreign correspondents based here," she said.

Mr. Crispin is an American, and Mr. Tasker, who has lived in Thailand for almost 20 years, is British. The Thai government reportedly also has banned the editor and the publisher of the Far Eastern Economic Review, who both live in Hong Kong, from entering Thailand. Dow Jones issued a written statement saying it is appealing the expulsion order.